With the start of the holiday season and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, so are the impending Black Friday sales. As one of the most profitable days of business year, Black Friday forces many stores to stay open and sometimes even commence shopping before the break of dawn. However, REI, popular outdoor equipment and fitness retailer, is opposing this profitable business tradition by deciding to close all of its 143 stores across the country on Nov. 27. This action was motivated by its surfacing trend called “#OptOutside,” which encourages its active members to spend the day after Thanksgiving outside, exploring the natural world around them instead of spending great amounts of money after appreciating all the things and people they are grateful for. This means that all REI retailers, including the online shopping site at www.REI.com, will be closed and employees will get a paid day off.
While this move might be a humanly ethical play on REI’s part, it does not mean the same for its profits. “Black Friday historically is the most important retail day of the year,” said Ron Friedman, the head of the consumer goods group at Marcum LLP. “It’s like a national holiday.” For most retailers, the sales provided on Black Friday usually turn the day into one of the top ten sales days of the year, as 86.9 million people indulge in the “holiday,” according to the National Retail Federation. This makes REI’s decision to close on Black Friday one of the boldest moves in the business world. However, REI justifies this by upholding its set of values of enforcing a healthy, outdoor life over profit.
While many customers agree with and even demanded for this decision, whether this tradition will disseminate is uncertain as REI is in a great economic situation to pursue this option. Other companies and retailers, however, are not, and greatly rely on Black Friday sales to stay afloat and grow. This causes a conflict for businesses that have to choose to stick by their values or to gain more money. This decision does not only affect businesses but also customers. Many people, especially those in not-preferable economic situations, rely on the booming Black Friday sales to shop for the holidays. REI’s move of “opting outdoors” is definitely the ethically preferable choice, but will this new attempt at redefining American traditions spread or remain at a standstill?