Once again, on this Black Friday, REI will shutter all of its stores, refrain from processing any online payments and will pay all 13,000 employees to once again #OptOutside with their friends and family. But this year, the outdoor clothing and gear retail says it is going several steps further: the company is asking all of those same employees and the 18 million members who belong to the co-op to fight to preserve the outdoors.
This weekend, REI is urging citizens to “opt to act.” The company is asking for a nationwide clean-up effort, with the goal to leave the outdoors better off than when people arrive at their favorite national or state park, or for that matter, any outdoors space. According to the company, employees have already been opting to act when it comes to clean-up, collecting tons of garbage.
Included in this effort to “fight for life outdoors” – is the long-term revamping its linear business model to a more circular one in which returned and used items are bought and sold; taking on waste; and eliminating unnecessary packaging used to store and ship its products.
“As a single company, our impact is limited, but as a community, we can drive change that powers meaningful action beyond our walls,” REI’s CEO Eric Artz said in a public statement. “As a co-op, we know that many people taking many small steps together can add up to big changes. Collective intention will drive collective impact.”
REI’s refusal to join in the Black Friday madness sets it far apart from other retailers - some open their doors on Black Friday as early as 5:00 a.m., and of course there are the culprits who open their doors on Thanksgiving day. True, to their credit, many leading retailers say they will not be open on Thanksgiving day at all. That list includes Costco, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, Staples and TJ Maxx. Patagonia, which in recent years has been a Black Friday outlier, will also close its doors on Thanksgiving – its brick-and-mortar stores will be open on Friday, but according to a chat bot on the company’s website, the company isn’t offering any deals or special sales.
Nevertheless, REI stands out for taking a stand against crass consumerism and overworking retail workers to the point of exhaustion.
On the flip side, the struggling retail sector can find hope – surveys suggest that Gen Z and millennial shoppers will fill up stores’ aisles over the holiday weekend.
Image credit: REI
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.