REI’s Black Friday opt-out invitation is a hit, with its #OptOutside hashtag already racking up almost a million endorsements on social media, prompting REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke to call it a "movement" Monday.
The retailer says that more than 150 other organizations, including nonprofits that support state and national parks but also other retailers and private companies, have joined in to encourage people to take a hike or otherwise enjoy nature rather than hit stores.
The Seattle-based company says it plans to acknowledge those endorsements and celebrate anyone forgoing the Black Friday shopping rush in favor of recreational pursuits.
REI says it is challenging everyone to think about reserving the entire Thanksgiving weekend for family time and hikes in the woods, rather than for shopping. A smaller outdoor gear retailer, Outdoor Research, was among the first to follow suit, and others have now joined in.
Parks are doing their part, too, by providing free passes to hikers and others who go outside to recreate on Black Friday rather than shop.
The move taps into the bleak sentiment that surrounds Black Friday; a great majority (79%) of holiday shoppers don't enjoy Black Friday shopping and 63% don’t even believe that day offers the deepest discounts, according to a holiday shopping survey from Black Friday deal site BestBlackFriday.com. Shoppers find the day stressful and even dangerous, according to the site.
REI employees will be paid on Black Friday, and the retailer has established a dedicated website to the idea of #OptOutside, with a zip code-based search feature to find nearby activities like hiking and cycling opportunities, and a gallery of images to attach to social media shout-outs to the idea. Many have responded.
"The idea has struck a chord – far more than we expected," Stritzke said in a statement. "We did this to share our passion for reconnecting with the people we love, in the outdoor places we love. But honestly we are surprised by – and very grateful for – the number of groups joining in. Clearly people are looking to do something a bit different with their time. The folks at REI just want to get out to the trails, slopes and parks with our members. If you haven't yet shared your #OptOutside plans, let's get the number north of a million!”
The move is particularly insightful for an outdoor retailer, whose target consumer is already primed to pull on hiking boots and partake in outside wonders no matter the weather.
The campaign indeed seems to be a winner for REI, despite Stritzke's troubles contending with disgruntled employees, former employees, and shoppers during a sometimes contentious “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit earlier this month.