We Americans have been trampling each other to death on Black Friday for decades. We're constantly reminded that stores will open One hour earlier this year! A growing number of retailers are even extending that mantra to Thanksgiving, an annual holiday intended to bring families and friends together to celebrate gratitude.
But as online sales continue to trump Black Friday door-busters -- and Americans grow even more hungry for companies with a conscience -- the trend of hunting for discounts on Thanksgiving week may be in decline.
Picking up on this shift, forward-thinking companies are taking a stand against the overconsumption surrounding Thanksgiving. Read on for their stories.
Outdoor gear co-op REI made waves last year with its plans to close stores, headquarters and distribution centers on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Instead the company paid its 12,000 employees to do what they love to do most — be outdoors.
REI invited the nation to join team members outside -- and they responded in a big way. Users quickly began to use the #OptOutside hashtag on social media and share ways to ditch the mall and get outdoors.
This year, REI's #OptOutside movement is even bigger. More than 475 organizations are already involved in promoting the campaign, ranging from local nonprofits to the U.S. Parks Service. State parks across the country plan to waive entry fees. And even the U.S. Department of Interior tweeted with the hashtag and offered a resource guide on ways to #OptOutside.
REI is planning its own twist on #OptOutside for 2016. In partnership with Subaru, the outdoor gear giant is encouraging dog owners to head outside with their best friends to benefit charity. Simply share a photo of you and your pup using the hashtags #OptOutside and #MakeADogsDay, and Subaru will make a donation to the ASPCA.
The company will also link up with Google to support nonprofits in Austin and Seattle, among several other partnerships aimed at boosting outdoor enthusiasm. Check out the company's resource page for ways to #OptOutside.
Many say it was Patagonia that first started the anti-overconsumption trend surrounding Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In 2011, it shocked shoppers by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times with the message “Don’t Buy This Jacket” emblazoned over its best-selling coat. The brazen ad asked shoppers to "buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.”
Patagonia will close on Thanksgiving and stay open on Black Friday. But this year the outdoor gear favorite plans to up the sustainability ante: It will give 100 percent of global sales on Nov. 25 to grassroots environmental organizations. That includes all retail locations, as well as Patagonia.com. The company will also promote these groups in stores and online to help customers learn more and get involved.
Every day Patagonia gives back to the planet by donating 1 percent of global sales to environmental grassroots groups, totaling $74 million to date. "But during this difficult and divisive time, it is important that we come together and #LoveOurPlanet," Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia, said in a press statement this week.
"This we know: If we don’t act boldly, severe changes in climate, water and air pollution, extinction of species, and erosion of topsoil are certain outcomes," Marcario said. "The threats facing our planet affect people of every political stripe, of every demographic, in every part of the country. We all stand to benefit from a healthy environment — and our children and grandchildren do, too."
Fellow outdoor apparel company Outdoor Research took a particular shine to REI's #OptOutside campaign and decided to jump on board. The company, along with other forward-thinking outdoor companies like Burton and prAna, are taking things a step further this year by officially partnering REI to promote outdoor recreation on Black Friday.
Outdoor Research will use its social media network to promote #OptOutside and also plans to leverage those shares into funds for the adaptive sports nonprofit Paradox Sports. For every outdoor photo shared on Instagram with the hashtags #OptOutside and #OutdoorResearch, the company will donate $10 to Paradox Sports — up to $5,000. Paradox Sports provides outdoor adventure experiences for people with physical disabilities. You can make an additional donation here.
BJ's Wholesale Club will close its 214 stores this Thanksgiving for the 10th year in a row. "We want our team members and members to enjoy time with family and friends on Thanksgiving," Chris Baldwin, president and CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club, said in a press statement. All locations will be open on Black Friday.
It doesn't make a huge deal about it, but discount shoe retailer DSW traditionally keeps its stores closed on Thanksgiving. Last year it gave nod to the practice with a heartwarming post on Facebook:
This year's announcement is a bit more straightforward, but the end message is the same:
Video games are always high on Americans' holiday shopping lists. But popular gaming retailer GameStop first closed up shop on Thanksgiving back in 2014. It was also shuttered last year, and plans to keep the tradition going.
All of its nearly 4,000 U.S. retail locations, headquarters, refurbishment center and two distribution centers will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. In a news release sent out in October, the company encouraged other retailers to do the same.
"We love retail and serving our customers, but we are even more passionate about one of our core values: Protecting the Family," Mike Buskey, executive vice president and president of U.S. stores for GameStop, said in a statement. "We believe strongly that our associates are the heart of our company and they and our customers should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends, and not worrying where to find the best shopping deals.
"This year, we are encouraging those retailers who plan to be open on Thanksgiving Day, to join GameStop and the other retailers who have announced they will be closed on this family holiday."
Appliances, electronics and furniture retailer hhgregg plans to shutter its 220 stores on Thanksgiving. And last week, the company announced it would do its staff one better by giving a free turkey to each employee in partnership with Butterball and Andretti Autosport.
Bob Riesbeck, president and CEO of hhgregg, said picking up the tab for employees' Thanksgiving dinners simply seemed like the right thing to do when considering the company's core values.
"Providing our employees and customers the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families was a great start, but I thought we could, and should, do more for our employees," Riesbeck said in a press statement. "In keeping with our family-first culture, we wanted to make an additional contribution to our employees' holiday dinners to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication each and every day."
In 2014, Costco told ThinkProgress why it remains closed on Thanksgiving. A spokesperson for the shopping club told the outlet its employees "work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families." Nice. The company plans to continue the tradition this year.
Grocery chain Publix first announced plans to stay closed on Thanksgiving in a 2011 Facebook post:
The company plans to remain closed this year, too.
TJX, the company behind discount retailers T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, plans to shutter its nearly 2,700 stores on Thanksgiving again this year. In a statement to 24/7 Wall St., a company spokesperson said the company will stay closed to allow employees to spend time with family and friends.
In a further sign that Black Friday may be on the decline, California is hoping a new tradition will catch on. The Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks and the California State Parks Foundation are teaming up to provide first-come, first-serve free passes to 116 state parks for a "#GreenFriday" event, Mashable reported last week.
Several other states are also opening parks for free on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, although without the hashtag. (Yeah, California, you're that guy.)
Colorado will offer free entry to all 42 of its state parks on Black Friday. Michigan will do the same, and it specifically cited the "nationwide #OptOutside movement started by camping cooperative REI" as the catalyst, the Detroit Free Press reported last week. New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, Deleware and Kansas, among others, also plan to open their parks for free on Black Friday.
“More than 1.8 million people are planning to #OptOutside with us on Black Friday. It’s amazing to see so many park systems join in the movement to give Americans even more ways to connect with our country’s inspiring outdoor places. We are grateful for the park stewards and professionals who make the outdoor American experience so vibrant,” Jerry Stritzke, REI’s CEO and president, said in a statement.
Check out this resource page from REI to find out if your state parks are offering free entry this Friday.
Image credits: 1) REI 2) hhgregg via PRNewswire (press use only)
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.