- In what has become a tradition for REI, the outdoors retailer is closing its stores, activity centers, distribution centers, call centers and headquarters on Black Friday for the seventh year in a row, the company announced on Tuesday. The company will also close on Thanksgiving.
- The retailer is continuing the effort as part of its #OptOutside initiative, which encourages people to spend time outdoors rather than shopping on Black Friday. REI will pay its over 15,000 employees to #OptOutside this year.
- The retailer recently launched the REI Cooperative Action Fund, a charity that provides financial support to a network of organizations promoting "justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors." The company will feature the fund's inaugural grant recipients as part of #OptOutside, per the announcement.
For some retailers, the days of crowded stores on Black Friday are gone.
Thanksgiving has faced an even steeper decline as a shopping day. In addition to REI closing on Thanksgiving, Walmart and Target announced similar decisions this shopping season. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic created in-store shopping concerns, stores such as Ikea, Marshalls and Patagonia opted to close their doors on Thanksgiving in recent years.
As the pandemic continues to disrupt in-store shopping, it's unclear what foot traffic will look like this year. A November 2020 report from Sensormatic Solutions found that consumers who shopped in brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday declined by 52.1% from 2019. However, 58% of respondents in a recent NPD Group survey said they're okay with shopping in stores now that vaccines are available.
The #OptOutside campaign is part of REI's ongoing effort to encourage consumers to enjoy outdoor experiences. The retailer has integrated travel and outdoor events throughout its business model.
"As the last year and a half has continued to challenge us all, #OptOutside is a reminder of the importance of community and time outside," REI CEO Eric Artz said in a statement. "What started as a special moment for employees has become a movement for the co-op community to come together and prioritize action on the things that matter most."