Opposing the increasingly ugly scenes of frenzied consumerism caused by Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when major discounts kick off festive trading – Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) has launched an anti-Black Friday campaign.
Dubbed #OptOutside, the American activewear label is encouraging shoppers to step back and spend more time outdoors. Displaying abject commitment, the brand is closing all of its 143 US stores, its headquarters and two distribution centres for this year's Black Friday (November 27) and giving all 12,000 employees a paid day off.
REI's e-commerce page will remain active, however orders won't be processed until the following day. The homepage will feature a 'cover screen' outlining the details of the project while encouraging consumers to share their plans for Black Friday by uploading images of outdoor activities to an online gallery via the hashtag #OptOutside. Consumers can also browse nearest US locations recommended for skiing, hiking, biking and paddling.
"As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money," said REI's chief executive officer Jerry Stritzke. "We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand, and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles."
REI's campaign follows last year's anti-consumerist initiative by US clothing brand Patagonia, which urged shoppers to repair their existing Patagonia items, rather than buy more. See Patagonia's Anti-Back Friday Campaign for full details.
Counterintuitive as a non-selling promotion may seem, there is evidence to confirm the brand is actually attuning to revised consumer attitudes. According to the US National Retail Federation, Black Friday sales are warning: in 2014, total spending was $50.9bn – an 11% decline from an estimated $57.4bn in 2013, with individual shoppers spending on average 6.4% less than the year before.
For more on ethics-fuelled retail and conscientious consumption, see Eco-Ethical-Sustainable and International Retail Design Conference, 2015: Ethics & Local-Centricity. Also look out for our upcoming report, Retail: The Eco-Ethical Upsell, publishing in January 2016. For more on REI's retail strategy, see Seizing the Outdoor Sports Boom.