We love a good PR stunt as much as the next person. So when REI, the
company that sells camping gear and other outdoorsy wares, told us it was
closing all of it’s 143 U.S. stories on Black Friday, our ears pricked up.
For those of you that don’t know (and this is an international blog so don’t judge)
Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the
fourth Thursday of November). Since the early 2000s, it has been regarded as
the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S., and most major
retailers open very early (and more recently during overnight hours) and offer
promotional sales. In 2014, 133 million U.S. consumers shopped, spending $50.9
billion during the 4-day Black Friday weekend.
Why isn’t REI closing and how will this affect their sales?
REI is one of the most powerful forces in outdoor retailing, with over $2 billion in
sales in 2014. But it’s also a member-owned cooperative (REI’s more than 5
million members pay a one-time fee and contribute some 80% of its sales).
Authentic? REI’s CEO Stritzke said, “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”. This sounds authentic (even through the PR lens) and as
such should resonate well with customers – deepening their relationship with the
Will that deepening customer relationship (and the story behind it) be able to
overshadow the loss of convenience to shoppers?
Oh, and is it a coincidence that this announcement came the same week that
Amazon.com announced it’s latest financial earnings, making it the largest retail
store in the world (click or mortar) overtaking Wal-Mart for the first time in history.
Of course, following Black Friday, we get Cyber Monday, when there are
(allegedly) great online sales to be snapped up by the most finger nimble online
Is REI pushing their cyber sales – it certainly has a robust and deep online sales
offering? We have to assume that REI’s online store will be open on Black
Is this just a PR stunt?
Will it really happen?
Is the announcement an authentic declaration to its dedicated fans to spend
more time with nature?
What do you think?
Would you advice a client or boss to close the retail doors on one of the busiest
shopping days of the year?