The biggest (and most dangerous) shopping day of the year, known as “Black Friday”, is turning into “Black Thursday” these days. With more and more retail stores trying to “one up” each other on how early they will open their doors, we wouldn’t be surprised if Thanksgiving “dinners” turned into Thanksgiving “breakfasts” so people can be out the door to shop ‘til they drop. Black Friday is single handedly taking over Thanksgiving and many stores litter the airwaves trying to get our attention with their door-buster savings. However, there are a select few of these retailers who are taking the opposite approach and cutting through the clutter of those ads with the decision to NOT open on Black Friday. AT ALL. GASP! You heard us right. These stores believe Thanksgiving is a time to relish in the delight of family, friends and pumpkin pie with extra whipped cream—leave the shopping for another day. And what this stance is doing for their brand perception is proving to create quite the buzz. 

Recreational Equipment Inc. (known as REI to most of us) is an outdoor retail co-op that has decided to completely pull the plug on Black Friday this year. Yep. That’s right. REI’s 143 stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving. They have started using the hashtag #OptOutside to encourage people to drop the shopping plans and spend the day outdoors, asking them to share their adventures via social media. 

We fully appreciate what REI is doing, but it is important to note that big retailers depend on Black Friday sales to meet their aggressive sales goals for the year. REI is a private company and may be able to afford to opt out, whereas retailers who are publicly traded companies that have financial pressures from their investors, maybe not. 

That is not saying that REI hasn’t benefited from the shopping day from hell. (Or heaven! You may get thrills and chills from hunting down the bargains! No judgment here! You do you.) In fact, REI ended 2014 with $2.2 billion in sales with Black Friday consistently as a top 10 sales day throughout the years. Their CEO Jerry Stritzke understands this is a huge risk for the business, but his main concern is the message his company sends to consumers.

“We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles.” –CEO Jerry Stritzke

With brand loyalty at its topmost concerns, 90% of REI’s sales come from their co-op members. It matters what they think. REI’s #OptOutside campaign keeps consistency with their brand and culture…the very thing these members bought into in the first place.  When you think REI, you think outdoors and that is exactly what they are encouraging their consumers to do. Go on an adventure this holiday and save the purchasing for the rest of the year.

Here is a list of other stores jumping on the “Let’s at least wait for Thanksgiving to be over” train. 

  • Costco
  • Nordstrom
  • TJ Maxx
  • H&M
  • Staples
  • GameStop
  • Lowe’s
  • Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
  • Petco
  • Sam’s Club
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Cabela’s

Although most of these retailers open in the wee hours of the morning Friday, it’s a nice sentiment that some stores see Thanksgiving Day for what it used to be. A time to be with the ones we love and give thanks for all we have. However, you won’t find any retailers who have fully relinquished the Black Friday opening alongside REI…not yet at least! 

So whether you identify yourself as a “Black Friday shopper” or not, brand perceptions are made about certain retailers based on their decisions of when and what time to open Thanksgiving weekend. So we leave you with these questions. Is it worth cutting one of the biggest shopping days of the year to maintain a brand image? Does showing your company values and keeping your doors closed on Thanksgiving Day increase purchasing the rest of the year because of a positive brand perception? I guess we’ll see!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us here at Revel!

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