REI will shutter the doors of its 151 stores on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday for the third straight year of the #OptOutside campaign, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
In addition to closing all of its storefronts, the outdoor retailer will process no online sales during the shopping day and will pay all of its employees to take the day off and spend time with family and friends, according to the release.
This year, REI is also launching a #OptOutside search engine, which takes user-generated content from Instagram (tagged with #OptOutside) and compiles it into a search engine for REI’s outdoors-focused community to browse through.
In a continuation of last year’s #OptOutside campaign, REI is pushing its customers to step away from the shopping malls on Black Friday and hit the trails instead.
The company has taken the movement a step further this year by introducing a search engine of user-generated content, by which users can find an ideal location or trailhead for their own #OptOutside plans. "For example, users who click on an image of a hiker can see the name of the specific trail featured, the trail’s difficulty rating, directions to the trailhead, recent user reviews of the experience and related expert advice from REI," according to the press release.
In addition to giving its customers (and other avid outdoorsmen) a place to find inspiration for their next outdoors activity, REI also plans to use the #OptOutside images as content for 20 films to be released between Oct. 30 and Black Friday itself to "connect people through their shared #OptOutside experiences." And Instagram can be a powerful platform: 70% of brands use Instagram influencers to push their brand image and nearly 75% of Instagram users are influenced to make purchases based on something they see on the social platform.
"We are doing this again to unite people, and to find common ground in the outdoors," REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said in a statement. "Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves and come together. More than 700 organizations and nearly 8 million people have joined #OptOutside over the past two years. We could not be more thankful. But last year we stepped back and said we can do more. We asked how we could offer new practical tools and inspiration. So we have captured the experiences of the outdoor community and organized them in a way that no one has done before."
The decision to close on Black Friday — and therefore miss out on all the expected sales both online and in stores — is just one of several unique marketing moves by the outdoors retailer that has sought to secure the brand loyalty of outdoors fanatics. And it’s working, too. Not only are more retailers following suit by shutting down, especially on Thanksgiving, but REI also ranked as one of the most human businesses in a study by C Space — right next to fellow outdoor retailer L.L. Bean.
Indeed, outdoor retailers have been at the forefront of more daring marketing moves, especially around the big shopping day. Patagonia, for example, chose to donate 100% of its profits to grassroots environmentalist causes on Black Friday last year, along with shuttering all of its stores for Election Day to encourage customers to vote. The company also reserved its first TV ad campaign for a call-to-action against the Trump administration, urging viewers to fight for the protection of public lands.
REI’s investment in the #OptOutside campaign, especially this year’s search engine component, promises a continued effort on the part of the retailer to engage customers through branded content and could be the beginning of more social-focused efforts, like the April Force of Nature campaign.