"We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.” Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, first announced the OptOutside movement in a 2015 letter released to the store's 5.5 million members, letting the consumer world know that the retailer had officially decided to close its operations on Black Friday (aka the biggest brick and mortar shopping day of the calendar year).
Rather than incite the consuming masses to spend their money at a local REI store, the company encouraged the would-be crowds (including its own employees) to, instead, spend their time enjoying the very thing that REI gear is designed for: outdoor adventure. And, just in case you think that they left a digital window open for rampant consumerism, they didn't; the company even placed a black takeover screen on their website that reinforced its OptOutside initiative.
Rebel Brands Prioritize and Protect Their Core Values
It was a bold, unconventional, and potentially risky move. At the time, REI was the nation's largest consumer co-op and outdoor specialty retailer. Their unexpected twist on the traditional Black Friday approach used by other merchants was relatively unprecedented with enterprises of this size and scope in the retail space.
However, that's precisely what rebel brands like REI do. They zig while everyone else zags, both protecting and redefining their value proposition to customers in the process. Most importantly, true market innovators remain ready to slay the monsters threatening their core beliefs. For REI, they arrived at a place where they could no longer reconcile post-Thanksgiving swarms inside their store with their focus on environmental consciousness and helping people pursue peace, balance, and adventure outside.
Hence, the professional zig…and it worked.
Since 2015, REI has continued to close its doors on Thanksgiving and Black Friday every year, giving staff a paid day off as well as refusing to process online transactions. Not only did the OptOutside initiative help people embrace the beauty of the great outdoors, but it also helped the business remain strong amidst the country's raging retailpocalypse that has leveled hundreds of others brands. In a 2018 article, Stritzke noted the success of slaying the Black Friday monster, saying, "We've stayed healthy partly because we've stuck with our core values — like giving our employees time to do what they love with the people they love during the holidays."
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How do you slay the monsters that threaten your business' core values? Tell us your approach in the comments section. Or, contact the REBEL & REASON team to hear more about leveraging strategic rebellion in your daily operations to grow your business without compromising your brand's identity.