For all the outdoor junkies and gearheads getting their fix from REI, you’ll have to look elsewhere to find your Christmas deals this fall. The company’s twitter feed has been abuzz with news features and a video announcing that they have decided to close all 143 stores this Black Friday (the day after American Thanksgiving), giving most of their employees the day off.

Why? To pursue the types of activities that brought them to REI in the first place and they’re encouraging their customers to do the same. This is an unprecedented move considering that Black Friday is typically the most important and profitable day of the year for American retailers.

To understand the move and why it makes sense, a brief background on the company is important. REI stands for Recreational Equipment Incorporated. The company was formed in 1938 as a cooperative of outdoors enthusiasts who came together to make it easier to acquire the gear they needed to pursue their backcountry climbing adventures.

Since then, the membership has expanded beyond hard-core mountaineers to a broader range of outdoor enthusiasts. Through it all, they’ve remained focused on helping members acquire the equipment they need to explore their world. Several of those Canadian members started Canada’s similar Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in 1971.

While the audience has grown, REI’s brand and business model has consistently been about facilitating outdoor experiences for their members—not adding to the bottom line. On the other hand, Black Friday and the culture surrounding it is about adding to the bottom line by providing products; a completely different paradigm. By not participating in the sales, closing their stores and encouraging members and staff to #optoutside, they are demonstrating the values that set them apart from the crowd and inviting the like-minded to do the same with them: talk about an authentic and powerful stand!

How powerful? A little number crunching reveals that if REI derives the average US annual percent of sales from Black Friday events (1.6) it is forgoing 35.2 million dollars in revenue based on their 2014 sales data. 35.2 million? REI clearly knows what their brand stands for and are willing to put their money where their mouth is!

If you’re looking for help identifying what your brand stands for or aligning what you stand for with your business practices, we’re here to help.



by Margriet Aasman

Shows that standing behind your brand values is sometimes a huge risk… here to the bottomline and maybe even customer loyalty. Those who are planning on the Black Friday deals, could react by spending those dollars with the competition. Maybe those customers are not the target audience! Those who truly, authentically, love the outdoors and share the same values that REI demonstrates with this choice, will applaud them, talk about them, share this with others… and we’ll see if this builds brand loyalty!


by Eleanor

Hey boss – actually, all bosses – what would it take to close YOUR doors during your busiest time? This question would make for a good branding exercise!


by Eleanor

On the flipside, Amazon has just launched a Black Friday website three weeks ahead of the day:


by Margriet Aasman

Interesting question Eleanor… if we closed our doors during the busiest time (say for a day like REI) the work will all be there the next day and we would just have to work overtime to get it done. Not your real question. What principal or value would cause us to turn away lucrative work… now that is a good one to answer. Guys?


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