How REI & #OptOutside is Getting it Right

REI Closes Stores on Black Friday OptOutside

In October REI shocked the retail world by announcing that it would be closing all its stores on Black Friday (one of the most lucrative shopping days of the year) so that employees could opt instead to go outside.

Not only is it closing all its stores on the busiest shopping day of the year but it is paying all its employees to go play.

REI Closes for Black Friday

And they are encouraging other retailers to take a stand against the madness that has become Black Friday.

Make no mistake about it.  This is a costly move. Closing 143 stores on such a high volume day and paying all its employees.

But to me? It is music to my ears and balm to my heart.

To me Black Friday is an iconic day that singularly represents so much of what causes the most pain, dissatisfaction, and suffering in our lives. The rush to consume, get “more”, and keep up with what we think others are doing.  So the fact that a major retailer is taking such a strong stand against the material and for the beauty of experience in nature does the world a bit of good.

While REI is a member run co-op and does not have the same pressures of public companies mired in the short-term reward and perception game of the financial markets, that doesn’t make it immune to the need to be profitable.

Here’s why this move will ultimately work for not against REI in the long run and what you can learn from them to apply to your own business.

Reinforces Their Brand

This isn’t just a random move. It would be odd if Victoria Secret ran an #OptOutside campaign for instance.  But for REI it is a natural extension of its brand.

REI's bold move with #OptOutside reinforces its brand. How can you be boldly authentic?Click To Tweet

Demonstrates Commitment to Values and Authenticity

For its ideal customers (like me) it screams authenticity and demonstrates that the company values its values more than its naysayers. More and more customers want to align their purchases with their values so this bold move will pay dividends with customers who care.

Willing to Do What is Right vs. Popular

This is a bold move.  We all admire people and companies that have the courage to be true and stand strong in the face of opposition. It makes me tingle just knowing that from the top down they are choosing to do what they want rather than bend to the tide of popular opinion.  Remember, a strong tide sweeps even the reluctant into it.  REI is saying, “We won’t do that.” I encourage you to look within your heart and ask “Where in my life and business can I take a stand for what I want and believe in vs what everyone else says I should want?”

Creates Community and Builds Online Visibility

The hashtag #OptOutside started buzzing with the announcement and is likely to explode on Friday and the weekend.  As people share their outside adventures in photos, REI will be sharing and collecting them on their site. This is like nature porn and I know I will be contributing my photos and viewing others as I dream about visiting faraway destinations one day.

Food for Thought…

So how does this apply to your business?  You might think “that’s nice” that REI can make a choice while feeling like you never could.  You would be wrong.  Let’s scale this for thinking about the principles in your business.

While you are outside on Friday (I sure hope you do!)…reflect on:

  • What inspires you about this move by REI?
  • Where are you yearning to make a move in your business that is boldly authentic and maybe a bit controversial?
  • Do you fear what others might say if you make this move and if so, why?
  • How can you bask in the certainty of what IS rather than worrying about what might happen?

I would love to hear your thoughts on REI’s move, this article, and your adventurous plans in the comments. You don’t have to scale a mountain peak to enjoy the outdoors… so share your photos as well!

I know I will be outside hiking and maybe even paddling or cycling as well this weekend.

Update 11/30/2015: We had a BLAST both on Friday and then on Saturday (even in the cold rain) – here are a few shots from our adventures.

optoutside1 optoutside2 optoutside3








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