Shortly before Halloween REI made a shocking announcement saying that they would be closing all their stores on Black Friday.
As someone who studied marketing in college I was immediately interested to hear the specifics of REI’s plan to boycott the busiest day in all of retail. Although they’re take a huge risk, REI did 2 things to marketing perfection:
1. They made a bold move
Retailers like Costco and Nordstrom have taken what many thought were bold stands in the past and have refused to open on Thanksgiving day, but never has a major store gone as far as to completely close on Black Friday. When REI announced their plan to close, it was all over every news channel. Their move was so bold that simply announcing it got them press.
2. They used that bold move to start a movement
They could have just closed their doors and said they thought all the Black Friday hoopla was excessive and they didn’t want to take part in it, but they took it a step farther. They created a hashtag (#OptOutside) and have dedicated an entire website to the cause complete with resources on local hiking trails.
REI’s message is that getting outside and exploring is a better way to spend our time instead of shopping. Because REI is an outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer, this is a message that aligns perfectly with the message that their customers already respond to. Their customers already value the outdoors and fitness, and the #OptOutside movement only re-affirms to their customers how important the lifestyle they serve is.
REI is making a well calculated move that will sting them at first (Black Friday is notoriously the best day of the year for retail), but has the ability to reward them 1,000 times over, with new or more loyal shoppers who like what they stand for as a company, and therefore want to give them more business.
As an REI shopper and as someone with some marketing knowledge I love their move and am eager to see the response to it this Black Friday.