REI is permanently ditching Black Friday

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REI is closing its doors and shuttering all its operations on Black Friday—permanently. 

“For this Black Friday, and every Black Friday in the future, the co-op will forgo profits and sales at all locations, and instead pay its more than 16,000 employees to enjoy time outside,” the retailer said in a statement this week.

That means all stores, distribution centers, activity centers, call centers, and headquarters will close every Black Friday.  

What might be a drag for customers—though they’ll still be able to place orders online and processing and fulfillment will go through the next day—is a win for REI’s employees. They’ll get paid to do whatever they want with their Friday after Thanksgiving, although the company did suggest spending the time outside. It’s a step away from the insanity—lines wrapping around stores, fights breaking out (sometimes before sunrise)—that Black Friday has become over the years.

REI has closed its doors on Black Friday since 2015 in what it called the “Opt Outside” movement, but this time it’s become a permanent policy affecting all its divisions.

“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,” said CEO Eric Artz. “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.”

He added, “making Opt Outside an annual observance will serve as a yearly reminder of this commitment to doing the right thing for the co-op community.”

When the company initially announced it’d be closing its stores on Black Friday, its former CEO Jerry Stritzke said that Black Friday had “gotten out of hand” and that bringing in passionate members was more important than holiday discount hunters. 

Although more people are shopping online and increasingly taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals, most retailers haven’t given up on Black Friday. It’s still, and likely will always be, the biggest shopping day of the year. 

But as the likelihood of a recession in the U.S. becomes more imminent and inflation remains stubbornly high—combined with supply chain pressures stemming from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine—there’s a chance that this year’s Black Friday won’t live up to its previous rage. 

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