REI Announces Black Friday Closure. Brilliant PR is the Result.

By Emily Scher
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

How many retailers can tell their customers to take a hike — literally — and end up with rave reviews, happy customers and outstanding PR?

To answer the question, not many.

As many retailers try to one-up each other by offering more and more extravagant deals and opening their doors earlier and earlier, REI made a bold move and announced that it would be closed on Black Friday this year — a day most retailers hope will be their biggest sales day of the year.

Instead, the company is giving employees the day off and encouraging customers to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and spend time with family, instead of being cooped up and dodging crowds inside a shopping center.

If you’re wondering why the company took such liberties, here is the short message from REI CEO Jerry Stritzke and relative newcomer to the company:

So, what made this such a brilliant PR move?

1. It’s Risky

For starters, it grabbed our attention because it seemed treacherous and off the conventional path. REI personally brings to our attention that it is a top sales day for the company and that it will without a doubt lose money by closing all of its stores and distribution centers, AND making the day a paid holiday for employees.

While we often see every retailer out there upping their game with increased deals and earlier hours, REI stuck to its values and took a complete 180-degree approach.

2.It’s On Brand

With this announcement, REI is making it clear that it understands its own core values, and those of its customers.

“Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea,” Stritzke told USA Today, who admits that he was apprehensive about closing at first. “As a co-op … we define success a little differently. It’s much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?”

If you scroll through the company’s “About Us” page, it becomes clear that REI is dedicated to environmental conservation, connecting people to the outdoors and offering employees an excellent work environment.

REI took it one step further by building out a truly authentic #OptOutside campaign. It includes a dedicated website full of local outdoor resources, as well as a #OptOutside hashtag, tying in all of its ideals to the visual experiences and social platforms of its customers.

3. It’s Smart

REI didn’t just throw out an announcement to accompany its policy change; instead the retailer created a skillful, well thought-out, call to action hashtag — #OptOutside. With this hashtag, the campaign remains truly authentic by tying in all of its ideals to the visual experiences, social platforms and values of its customers.

All in all, REI is a true pioneer on the Black Friday front. And while many wonder if other retailers will be tempted to follow suit, the ultimate question for us PR professionals is, will other retailers be able to garner the same glowing PR results that REI did?


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