More than two weeks before Thanksgiving, one national retailer is already dominating Black Friday chatter on social media — and, in shopping season saturated with door-buster sales and slashed prices, the company is gaining attention for an unusual reason.
Earlier this month outdoor, REI, which sells clothing and equipment for outdoor recreation, announced that it will not open stores on Black Friday this year. Instead, the company is encouraging its employees to head outside. (Employees will be compensated for the day and — lest you think the company is willing to lose all of the day’s sales to competitors such as Patagonia — the website will be up and running all day as usual.)
“We believe that being outside makes our lives better,” reads a statement from Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO. “And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. 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.”
The company, which posted the announcement to its website, incorporated a hashtag, #OptOutside, encouraging other employers and individuals to follow suit. The appeal seems to be working: As of last week, Salesforce, which tracks online interactions, reported that “REI had 10 times more Black Friday-related social media conversations than any other brand.”
REI isn’t the only store opting out of at least part of the shopping bonanza that leads up to Christmas. A growing number of national retailers are deciding to keep stores closed on Thanksgiving — and telling customers about their decision, and how it aligns with their brand.
[REI’s decision] could be among the smartest marketing moves we see among retailers this holiday season,” she explained in a column at Forbes.com. “Driving attention to their stores and rallying customers to bring attention to their #OptOutside message may just be the right combination for REI to gain holiday sales success – despite their closed stores on Black Friday.”
In fact, thanks in large part to the viral nature of social media, a number of companies’ holiday decisions already have made headlines this year, and generated plenty of clicks and shares.
While REI’s campaign has been lauded overall, Starbucks made waves this week — and gained the irritated attention of GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump — when it unveiled new cups for the holiday season. Rather than the Christmas or wintery designs of years past (snow flakes, reindeers, etc.), the 2015 cups are simply red, causing some evangelical Christians to complain and call for a boycott, and then other consumers to complain about the complaints.
The red cups have become a tradition among Starbucks’ devotees — there’s even a countdown to their release each year — and business writer Katie Sola, of Forbes.com, said this latest dust-up is unlikely to hurt the coffee giant. If anything, she argues, “the conflict cements the cultural relevance of the iconic red cups.”