Outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI has decided to close its 143 retail stores on Black Friday.
While other retailers are taking a stand by closing on Thanksgiving Day, REI is taking it a step further by also closing on the day after Thanksgiving, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
All REI employees will be getting a paid day off, including online staff and those at the distributing warehouses. The company is encouraging people to spend time outside instead.
Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, about the decision to close the store on Black Friday.
Interview Highlights: Jerry Stritzke
On why REI won’t be open on Black Friday
“We started thinking about Black Friday – it’s a top 10 day for us – and what do we do? What’s authentic? What we kind of landed on was at the end of the day, the most authentic thing as an outdoor retailer that we could do is encourage people to get outside. So we’re actually paying our employees to go outside and spend time on Black Friday with their families.”
On REI employees
“Our employees – they’re incredibly committed to the outdoors, they’re very passionate about it, so any time we get a chance for them to be outside, they love it, and also we’re a co-op. So we actually have 5.5 million members and you’ll find that we’re passionate about the outdoors across our member base as well.”
What are you hearing back from your employees and customers?
“The employees have just been kind of overjoyed. It’s been kind of humbling how much response we’ve gotten from our members and others that applaud the decision. Part of that, I’m sure, is taking a stand and choosing to focus on something else.”
Take a stand against what?
“Well, I think Black Friday has become a day that tends to be very oriented on consumerism. We think it’s a pretty amazing time to really stand up and send a different message and one as an outdoor retailer we’re obviously passionate about and that is the idea of opting outside.”
Is it easier for a co-op to do that rather than a publicly held company?
“I think it is. The truth is – what a lot of people probably don’t realize – we give between 70 and 80 percent of our profits back in the way of dividends. We also spend about $7 million working with nonprofits to improve trails across the United States. So we define success very differently. It’s not just about the money for us. It’s also about the role that we play in advocating for the outdoors and in fact getting people in the outdoors.”
What about your online workers?
“We are actually putting a dark screen over our website with a message on it encouraging them to opt outside as well. We will go to the same kind of skeleton staff that we use on Thanksgiving Day, and our distribution centers will have the paid day off as well.”
- Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI.
This segment aired on October 27, 2015.