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Covering the Black Friday backlash

October 28, 2015

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Recreational Equipment Inc. members got a surprising email this week. The outdoor outfitters collective, known as REI, has decided not to be open on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It wants the employees at its 143 stores to get outdoors on Nov. 27, instead, and is urging customers to do the same in a campaign it calls #OptOutside.

The employees will get paid. And, already, 291,000 people have signed up with REI to back the idea, according to CNBC.

Says REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke:

“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.”

“Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”

REI is not the only store that is pulling back from Thanksgiving holiday sales. Already, a series of stores have announced they won’t be open on the holiday, bucking the retail trend of starting sales on Thanksgiving night.

According to Forbes’ Clare O’Connor, Gamestop has announced it would remain shut on the holiday, opening instead at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday. This move came a week after office supplies giant Staples made the same decision, after two years of opening on the Thursday.

Other large companies that have taken a stance against Thanksgiving shopping include Costco, Publix, and Nordstrom. (More retailers boycotting ‘Black Thursday’ can be found here.)

The move may be motivated by money.

Although Black Friday traditionally is the biggest single shopping day of the year, the National Retailers Federation says last year’s Black Friday weekend wasn’t as successful as in previous years, with sales dropping 11 percent from 2013, even though data shows the economy has picked up.

Perhaps the economic anxiety measured by public radio’s Marketplace had an impact — and it may this year, as well. There also have been high profile campaigns against spoiling the family focused holiday with retailing.

It isn’t too early to start planning your Thanksgiving retail coverage. Check with locally based retailers to see whether they’ll be open on Thanksgiving and how they plan to handle Black Friday.

Talk to employees (if the stores will let you) about working on Thanksgiving. Would they rather have the day off?

Are any communities planning activities on Black Friday for people who would rather not be shopping? Some places kick off their holiday season celebrations that day, and others have festivities for people home from various parts of the country.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

    View all posts

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