No other shopping day of the year can outperform Black Friday. While the shopping phenomenon may be a crucial sales day for U.S. retailers, outdoor retailer, Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) is choosing to shut all 143 of its store doors, on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The U.S. outdoor gear and sports retailer announced it would pay its entire staff — 12,000 employees — to head outdoors on November 27.
“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,” REI’s chief executive and president, Jerry Stritzke wrote on the firm’s site.
On top of asking its employees to “opt outside”, REI is asking its customers to venture outdoors rather than in stores, Stritzke added, “We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”
Meanwhile top retailers like Macy’s and Sears are again opening their doors on Thanksgiving at 6 pm, this year just as they did in 2014, suggesting we may be at the end of the “Thanksgiving Creep,” which in recent years has seen store opening hours move from the morning of Black Friday to the evening of Turkey Day as retailers try to get whatever piece they can of the slow growing retail pie.
Opening on Thanksgiving has not really given stores the sales boost they were hoping for. In fact, all it seems to have done is spread sales out throughout the long weekend. Fortune reported, last year, sales on Thanksgiving/Black Friday fell 11% primarily because retailers started their sales in early November, diluting the weekend’s impact (for the season as a whole, stores did fine). The number of shoppers over the holiday weekend fell by 5%. Longer store hours translated to a dent in profits without the benefit of a sales increase.
According to the National Retail Federation’s holiday survey, the number of shoppers who visited brick and mortar stores and online websites over the entire Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday to Sunday) in 2014 was 134 million spending $50.9 billion with the average shopper spending $381, a slight decrease from 2013 which saw consumers spend $57.4 billion and the average shopper spent $407.
Expectations for 2015 predict that shoppers just aren’t going to hit the mall after turkey and stuffing. A survey published by the International Council of Shopping Centers shows about 41% of holiday shoppers plan to head to stores on Black Friday—the most of any holiday shopping days. Only 12% of them plan to do the same on Thanksgiving Day. Overall, about 78% plan to shop on Thanksgiving weekend this year. About 58% of the 18-24 year-olds plan to shop the day after Turkey Day —the largest share among all the age groups. It progressively falls from there, with shoppers age 65+ having the smallest share of those shopping that day (24%).
More than 300,000 so far have pledged to “Opt Outside” with REI and leave the shopping for deal seekers on Black Friday.