One Retailer Won’t Let You In Its Stores On Black Friday And Others Are Following Suit

“I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath ... and come together.”

As some of us sleep off our post-Thanksgiving lethargy, thousands of workers will head to stores to meet the deal-hungry crowds that make Black Friday the biggest shopping day of the year. REI's 12,000-plus employees, however, get the day off. For the third straight year, the outdoors retailer will stay closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, encouraging its customers and employees to #OptOutside and spend time in nature with friends and family.



"We are doing this again to unite people and to find common ground in the outdoors," CEO Jerry Stritzke said in a press release, adding that more than 700 organizations and nearly 8 million people opted outside in 2015 and 2016. "Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves, and come together."

Stritzke also criticized the "rampant consumerism" of companies such as Walmart and Macy's that open their doors not just on Black Friday but on Thanksgiving itself.

Meanwhile, BestBlackFriday.com maintains a running list of retailers that will stay closed on Thanksgiving and risk a loss in revenue — companies including Ace Hardware, Costco, H&M, Home Depot, IKEA, Lowe's, Staples, and TJ Maxx

The same website also surveyed 523 American adults in September and found that only 16 percent of respondents favor stores being open on Thanksgiving. Commenters on the post sympathize with retail employees such as Venanzi Luna, a Walmart department manager who misses out on family time because of her job.

"Some people volunteer to work, some people are forced to work. It's our job," Luna told The  Guardian in 2014. "We take care of the customers, but at the same time, I'd wish to have Thanksgiving with my family. I haven't had Thanksgiving with them in seven years. Or a Christmas."

Indeed, REI's #OptOutside philosophy is particularly impactful for workers who've never had the chance to spend Black Friday with their loved ones.

"When we first announced this at the co-op internally, there were people who worked retail, with us and elsewhere, who had never had that day off," REI Chief Creative Office Ben Steele told Fast Company. "The emotional power it had for them to know that on Thanksgiving they're focused on their family and doing something awesome with the people [they] love the next day, versus having to go into work? That power hasn't faded."

REI has even inspired other companies to #OptOutside, with Google and Subaru joining the cause as partners.

"What started as a moment has kind of become a movement," Steele added. "It's about behavior change and giving people tools to do something different with their time."

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