REI Makes Headlines with #OptOutside

TempOutdoor and sports equipment retailer REI is closing its 143 stores for Black Friday, instead encouraging people to #OptOutside. A CEO message on the company's website says employees will be paid not to work: 

REI is closing on Black Friday.

You read that correctly. On November 27, we'll be closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.

Here's why we're doing it.

For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.

We're a different kind of company-and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we'll be spending our day a little differently. We're choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.

Jerry Stritzke, President, CEO

An NBC article questions whether the strategy will pay off. The move responds to criticism of increasing consumerism and from employees who want the day off, and it's a "gesture" against bigger box retailers who couldn't afford to lose the day's sales. Still, the company suffered some backlash with employees on Reddit complaining about low wages, poor benefits, and pressure to sell memberships. 

Overall, its seems like a good move. After all, REI is an outdoor company-and the weather in New York at least is uncharacteristically warm for this time of year.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of REI's decision? How would the company decide whether the positive publicity is worth the lost sales?  
  • How could the CEO have handled the Ask Me Anything (AMA) questions on Reddit? Some say he didn't respond to important employee complaints, such as the pressure to sell memberships.