On Black Friday this year, outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI is putting its money where its motto is.
The store that touts its dedication to "inspiring, educating, and outfitting" its customers and community to explore nature is staying closed on one of the nation's busiest shopping days and will pay its employees to spend the day outdoors instead.
In an email sent to members on Monday, the company, which operates as a co-op, announced that it's closing all 143 of its stores on Black Friday. "Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our employees to do what we love most—be outside," the email says. (Stores will stay closed on Thanksgiving too, according to REI's website.) The company reassured its members that they will still get deals during the holiday season. On Black Friday last year, REI offered 50% off select items like hiking socks and lower discounts on wearables, clothing, and backpacks.
REI has a reputation for treating its workers well. It's one of 12 companies to be named one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For every year since the list's inception in 1998. It landed at No. 58 this year.
In its email Monday, the Seattle-based retailer said it wants its employees and the wider public to use Black Friday as an opportunity to discover nature's restorative power. "While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors."
REI is not alone in eliminating holiday hours. Earlier this month, Staples announced that it would not open on Thanksgiving. Like REI, the company touted the move as an effort to let "associates enjoy Thanksgiving their own way." But there's also a lingering question of whether it makes sense for some stores to open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday—how many people have office supplies on their wish lists?—especially when there's so much goodwill to gain by staying closed.
The so-called holiday shopping creep has advanced well into Thanksgiving in recent years, even as customers and retail workers have criticized the increasing commercialization of the day reserved for showing gratitude.
And sales figures haven't exactly indicated that more Thanksgiving and Black Friday hours are worth inciting such ill will. According to the National Retail Federation, last year retail sales fell 11% over the key four-day Thanksgiving-Black Friday shopping weekend, in part, because stores had offered deals even earlier in November.