REI Is Making Black Friday a Bit Brighter
There is no single day that better represents the scourge of compulsive, compulsory consumption than Black Friday–historically the biggest shopping day of the year. The day compels many to camp out in front of stores in frigid temperatures to nab limited time offers on retail goods; it sends workers to work extra long hours that would otherwise be spent partaking in post-thanksgiving revelry; and it brings out some pretty nasty human behavior: in the last decade, seven people have died and 98 have been injured in Black Friday related shopping incidents. These are not people shopping for life-saving serums–these are people pursuing deals on flatscreen TVs and remote control cars for their kids. Well, outdoor retailer REI is taking a stand against this insanity. Its #Optoutside campaign will close all 143 REI stores on this most lucrative shopping day.
Not only will REI stores be closed, but the company will give its employees a paid day off to spend outside. REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke says this about the campaign:
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.
The cynic in me wants to say it’s just a big PR stunt to get them attention (I’m writing about it, aren’t I?), but the other part of me thinks it’s pretty cool. While the prevailing retail culture is still very much set up to encourage consumption at all cost, there are signs of a new culture emerging. Whether it’s Patagonia, Outlier, Zady or REI, we are starting to see companies that consider their social and environmental impacts. They are creating a new way to buy the stuff we actually need. This new way might require a little bigger initial investment and it might not be as convenient (you’ll have to wait until November 28th to shop at REI…or shop online), but it might make us a bit more conscious and careful of how and why we consume.
HT Sarah L