For the third year in a row, REI is shutting down its stores — and its website — on Black Friday.
The outdoor goods chain says it is doubling down on efforts to back away from the commercial frenzy by giving people “a moment to take a breath.” Instead of hitting the malls, the company says shoppers should go for a hike.
“We really want this to be a day when people are outdoors, spending time with their families,” Jerry Stritzke, REI’s chief executive, said in an interview.
The announcement comes as a number of shopping malls and big-name retailers, including Home Depot, Nordstrom and Costco, say they will remain closed this Thanksgiving. At Target, executives say they will confront”Christmas creep” by waiting until after Thanksgiving to put up holiday signs at store entrances.
“What we were hearing is, ‘Hey Target, we celebrate Thanksgiving and we want you to celebrate Thanksgiving, too,’ ” a Target spokeswoman said. “Now when people walk into our stores, they won’t see a huge splash of Christmas until after Thanksgiving.
In recent years, the holiday shopping frenzy has crept further and further into Americans’ turkey meals, with some stores opening as early as 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. This year, industry analysts say they’re seeing a backlash as consumers realize they can often get the same discounts days or weeks later, without having to rush out on a holiday.
“Black Friday has lost its significance,” Steven J. Barr, consumer markets leader for PwC, told The Washington Post this month. “Retailers have conditioned the consumer to believe everything’s on sale every day, which means the deals on Black Friday are not significantly different from any other time.”
Roughly 35 percent of consumers who plan to shop during Thanksgiving week this year say they will do so on Black Friday, down from 51 percent last year and 59 percent the year before, according to consumer markets research from PwC. But that doesn’t mean Americans won’t find other opportunities to spend: Holiday shopping is projected to bring in $680 billion this year, marking a 3.6 percent to 4 percent increase from last year’s $655.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
“Black Friday has gotten weaker and weaker,” said Stritzke of REI. “It’s becoming less important.”
But that wasn’t so clear three years ago, he says. When REI announced in 2015 that it would remain closed on Black Friday, it was regarded as a radical move in an industry that relies heavily on holiday shopping. And messing with Black Friday, which is historically the most lucrative day of the year for many retailers, seemed risky.
“Would it be the most stupid retail decision ever? We weren’t sure,” Stritzke said. “It was a poke in the eye to tradition.”
It turned out to be not that big of a deal. Consumers continued to shop at REI, and both sales and profit rose year-over-year. (And, Stritzke added, the company’s 12,000 employees were happy, too, because they received an extra day off with pay.)
This year, the retailer is continuing its “Opt Outside” campaign by creating an online search engine where people can find nearby opportunities for activities such as hiking, rowing and rock climbing. Its competitors, however, will continue to open for holiday shoppers. Bass Pro Shops, for instance, plans to open at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving and at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
“Many customers,” a company spokeswoman said, “come in to stock up on outdoor gear before planning to spend the weekend outside.”
Cabela’s, meanwhile, says on its website that Black Friday will be “the biggest sale event of the year.”
And, it suggests, hopeful shoppers might want to pick up some gear — tents, water, camouflage clothing and a stove — ahead of time to beat the Black Friday rush. “There’s no telling how long you’ll be in line,” the company’s website says. “Bring along some Thanksgiving leftovers and a stove to stave off starvation.”