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REI To Close 143 Stores As Retailer Goes Rogue On Black Friday

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(Shep Hyken)   Black Friday has become a tradition to kick off the holiday shopping season. And, it’s all about the money. It’s about customers saving money and retail stores offering great deals to increase their sales. It’s a tradition to kick off the holiday shopping season.

With so many people having the Friday after Thanksgiving off of work, it seems natural to have amazing sales to lure people away from their homes and into the malls. Yet, just a few years ago some of the more aggressive retailers decided that people might want to shop on Thursday as well. After all, other than a few hours spent with family over a meal, what else are they going to do all day?

The aggressive move to be open on Thanksgiving Day did not come without controversy. Who would work? Was it fair to ask employees to work on a holiday? What’s next? Shopping on Christmas Day? All of these questions, and more, stirred up many heated discussions.

Well, amid all of this discussion about Black Friday being the biggest and most important retail shopping day of the year, a major retailer has stepped up and disruptedthe status quo. REI, the specialty outdoor retailer, has decided to close all 143 of their stores, their distribution centers and headquarters. And, in an even bolder move, they are going to pay all 12,000 employees to take the day off.

REI has always done things a little differently. They don’t have a typical business model. First, REI is actually a co-op with members, rather than customers. They have 5.5 million members who enjoy buying their outdoor apparel and recreational gear and equipment (camping, biking, fishing, etc.). In addition to reasonable pricing for good quality merchandise, their members get a “dividend” check at the end of each year to be put toward future purchases.

A letter from Jerry Stritzke, President and CEO of REI, says it all:

“As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”

Kudos to REI. They are zigging when everyone else is zagging. They are showing their members, their employees, and the rest of the retail world that success isn’t just about money. It’s about what you stand for. They are inviting the nation to join in by using #OptOutside to signify they are choosing to reconnect with nature this holiday season.

I see many benefits to this. First, I’m going to go with the REI prediction that there won’t be much of a hit in sales. REI has cultivated its customer, or should I say member, to understand that they are different. You get good prices, and at the end of the year get a rebate check, just as any co-op business model would do. But, they also promote a lifestyle. They have more than a group of customers or members. They have a community with shared interests and values. Most of their members will applaud their decision and more than likely, this will create a stronger sense of loyalty.

Another big payoff, if not even bigger, is the response that REI will get from its employees. It’s not the day-off with pay, although that doesn’t hurt. It’s that REI is standing for something bigger than just retail sales, and their employees love that. The team of employees at REI loves what they do and what they sell. The company culture is evident, and these fine people buy into it. As a result of the REI decision, not unlike the reaction from their members, they will have a stronger sense of loyalty to their employer. They will be even more engaged because they know what their company is all about. What does this ultimately mean? A better experience for the member.

REI has figured it out. They will win, because everyone involved wins.

The article is over, however here are some interesting stats for the holiday weekend:

  • More than half (55 percent) of Americans plan to shop on Thanksgiving. In fact, more people plan to shop on Thanksgiving than Black Friday or Cyber Monday. (Ebates)
  • Forty eight percent of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday and 42 percent of Americans plan on shopping on Cyber Monday. (Ebates)
  • When asked why they plan to shop on Black Friday, 81 percent of those polled said it was because they want to get the best prices on holiday gifts and 43 percent say it is a family tradition. (Ebates)
  • Last year the National Retail Federation found that only 55 percent of holiday shoppers bought anything on Thanksgiving weekend (Cnet)
  • More than two-thirds of consumers are willing to spend more for better customer service, with 16 percent of consumers willing to spend 20 percent more. (1to1media)
  • In 2014, retailers only saw 0.5% more shoppers all of Black Friday than in just a 6 hour period on Thanksgiving Day (ninthdecimal)
  • Million people shopped during 2014 Black Friday weekend (fundivo)