REI to close again for Black Friday

Markets Associated Press

Sporting goods retailer REI will keep its stores closed on the day after Thanksgiving for the second straight year, even though it's one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It will also again pay employees for the day off in a campaign that encourages people to spend time outdoors.

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Online shoppers can put items in their cart, though no orders will be processed that day.

CEO Jerry Stritzke told The Associated Press that the company's move last year, which it dubbed #OptOutside, gained momentum on social media from various outdoor groups. He said he saw more than 20,000 social media posts from REI's 12,000 employees. Many had their first Black Friday off in more than 20 years, he said.

REI, which has 149 stories, is now working with more than 200 organizations from the nonprofit, private and public sectors, including the National Parks Service, to push the idea.

The Thanksgiving weekend has been fiercely competitive, as many stores that were opening earlier and earlier on Friday are now open on Thanksgiving itself. That has hurt business on Black Friday, which had been the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season. But there's also been a backlash, as employees have complained that stores are putting profits over workers celebrating the holiday.

Some stores such as Office Depot and hhgregg that have opened on Thanksgiving in the past are not doing so this year, saying workers should have family time. But many retailers also say being open on Thanksgiving doesn't make good business sense. Still, the tide hasn't quite turned. Macy's says it will open an hour earlier than last year on Thanksgiving. Many mall anchors like Kohl's and J.C. Penney have not announced their plans yet.

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But REI's decision to close on Black Friday sets itself apart, and it's something Stritzke hopes to make a tradition. Stritzke said that in previous years, it was one of the company's top five busiest days of the year.

"We recognized the opportunity we had as a co-op to lead with our values, and do the right thing for our 12,000 employees," he said in an email to The AP. "We got to send an important message that we'd rather invite people to go outside with us rather than be fighting it out in the aisles."

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