REI has quit Black Friday, forever.
For the past seven years, the retailer has closed its doors on the day after Thanksgiving to give its employees a day off. The Seattle-based seller of outdoor clothing and gear said October 4 that starting this year, every part of its business — all 178 stores, its distribution locations, call centers and headquarters — will close every year on Black Friday.
The company said it would instead pay its 16,000 employees to spend time outside doing absolutely anything besides shopping that day. Although shoppers can still place an order on the company’s website on Black Friday, order processing and shipping won’t begin until the following day.
REI first announced in 2015 that it would be bucking the Black Friday craze and keep its stores closed on one of the retail industry’s busiest shopping days, but until now it was a decision made year to year and not a permanent policy.
At the time, though, it was an unprecedented move. Historically, Black Friday has marked the start of the annual holiday gift-buying marathon. It’s a day on which retailers have battled each other for shopper traffic by offering consumers the biggest and best “doorbuster” deals.
But in recent years, the tide has shifted against Black Friday and it’s been losing relevance, especially among younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers who may not feel compelled to wake up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving to stand outside of stores hoping to grab a blender or flatscreen TV at 60% off.
In addition, retailers aren’t necessarily saving their best holiday deals for that one day anymore, but rather are offering them even earlier. Walmart (WMT), for example, is getting the ball rolling on its year-end holiday shopping season even before Halloween.
Still, REI’s move to permanently dump Black Friday, as part of its “Opt Outside” movement to mark the day, is noteworthy because most retailers are continuing to keep their stores open.
“Opt Outside has always been about prioritizing the experience of our employees, choosing the benefits of time outside over a day of consumption and sales,” REI CEO Eric Artz said in a statement. “When we first introduced this movement, it was considered revolutionary for a retail brand, but we felt it was the right thing to do for our members and employees.”