One retailer is closing its doors so that customers can enjoy the great outdoors on the biggest shopping day of the year.
Yes, Black Friday is just a month away as retailers are not-so-subtlety letting us know with sneak peeks into sales, door busters, and giveaways along with must-have lists.
Thanksgiving and the five days following it now comprise the annual shopping bonanza that make up 20-40 percent of retail sales each year.
Small retailers vie to see who can open earlier. However, one retailer is saying enough is enough.
National outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) will be closed on the Day After Thanksgiving and is encouraging customers to spend some time on that day enjoying the great outdoors through its #OptOutisde campaign. The company announced that it will close all 143 locations and give all 12,000 staff a paid day off to head outdoors. So far, more than 290,000 people have signed up with the campaign.
The head of REI explains they made this decision nine months ago when the company challenged employees to brainstorm ways it could do something authentic during one of the busiest shopping days of the year:
"I think it's important for brands to always be true to who they are, and for us, encouraging people to get outside particularly on a holiday like Thanksgiving, we do believe that is an important message," REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."
"I have to admit it was a bit shocking, but the more we thought about it, the more excited we got about it as an idea," Stritzke said. "One, that our associates would love, but two, as a co-op, we have five million members that love the outdoors. We just really believe they would get into it as well."
Some analysts have other explanations that in part have to do with the over-saturation of the holiday shopping weekend that has been stretched out so much that the sales are no longer generating the foot traffic and activity it once did. Black Friday may be becoming less relevant. The LA Times explains:
Last year, Black Friday weekend sales fell 11% and shopper traffic was down 5.2%, a result attributed to promotions on Thanksgiving and sales that started in early November.
Plus, taking a stand on an otherwise hectic holiday shopping weekend could help REI stand out from the pack, said Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research.
"REI is not a big deal-driven retailer, so losing out on Black Friday is less of a risk for them than, say, a Target or Wal-Mart," she said. "For most of their shoppers, it’s a nice touch in an otherwise crazy holiday weekend."
When we think about market innovation we think of better service and more choice. In this case, REI is not pushing for a new product or service but simply promoting outdoor recreation and starting with its own employees before asking consumers to do the same. That’s innovation and a disruption of the status quo.
REI made the decision to pay their workers despite the closure which is exemplary. However, as a private employer they have the freedom to negotiate wages and provide such incentives and bonuses. It was not forced upon a struggling company by government mandates that aim to regulate arrangements between employers and employees.
We often report on the unintended consequences of workplace regulations that sound egalitarian and are great when prompted by employers – not forced by lawmakers. One-size-fits-all regulations often remove that freedom and flexibility that employers enjoy with their employees. Employers should be free to reward hard work, innovative ideas, and good employees to retain top talent when they can afford to and not because they have to even when such mandates break the bank.
So the next time you hear that fairness requires all employers to do this, pay for that, or give every worker the other, be wary and think about what incentives and opportunities are lost as a result.