REI could easily have been like most other American retailers when it comes to Black Friday. They could have opened up their doors at 2:30 AM and invited scads of consumers to stampede their aisles for a great deal on a pair of skis. But they aren’t do that. Instead, REI’s 143 stores are shutting their doors on Black Friday, and paying their employees to go out and do something outside. If you’ve ever slogged through the Black Friday ritual, you know that this garrish consumer feeding frenzy can be anything but humane. By setting aside the big box retailing aspirations of many of their peer corporations, REI has made themselves stand out in a different way.
It’s an important step. Everybody knows that the way America does business has gotten swollen and out of hand. But until companies like REI are willing to put aside profit opportunities like Black Friday, things aren’t going to change. This announcement alone may not be enough to put a nail in the coffin of Black Friday, but it’s a moral victory for those of us who don’t care for it.
REI has made their announcement in one of the most memorable little ads of recent memory. In just a few seconds, we’re introduced to REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, chilling in his office. As he gives his spiel, the camera slowly pulls back, revealing blue sky around the border of the office set. Pulled fully back, the video shows that Stritzke is actually chilling on top of a mountain. The office isn’t real. People are gallivanting around the slopes behind him. They very might be some of the employees he’s talking about, those who will earn their Black Friday paycheck by doing something fun and exciting out of doors. It’s a reason to work for REI, or to shop at REI, or simply to enjoy a video on the internet.