Co-op encourages Black Friday #OptOutside

US speciality outdoor retailer REI is shutting shop on Black Friday – and instead is inviting the nation to OptOutside.

American retailers have been opening increasingly earlier for post-Thanksgiving sales, and Black Friday is now one of the biggest shopping days of the year. While some stores open at dawn for deal-hunters, others open at midnight  – and some even earlier.

In a letter addressed to its 5.5 million members, REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op, announced plans to close all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centres, giving its 12,000 employees a paid holiday. Even its website will feature a black takeover screen that encourages customers to #OptOutside with family and friends.

Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, said: “Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside. 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.”

In his letter to members, Mr Stritzke quoted outdoor visionary John Muir, who said in 1901: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.”

To help aspiring adventurers choose how to #OptOutside, recommends hiking trails, many built and nurtured by nonprofits supported by REI. Last year REI gave $5.9m to more than 300 nonprofits to take care of 1,000 outdoor spaces in communities across America. REI has invested more than $60m in the outdoor community.

Mr Stritzke added: “As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors.

“We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”