REI pays employees to skip Black Friday and head outdoors

When it comes to shopping in the U.S., no day can outshine 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.

REI #OptOutside Banner
Courtesy of Recreational Equipment Inc (REI)

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.

The National Retail Federation shocked analysts last year, after figures suggested Black Friday weekend wasn't as successful as previous years. The non-profit cited online shopping, early holiday promotions and an improving economy as reasons for the change in how consumers saw Black Friday.

On top of asking its employees to "opt outside", REI is asking its customers to venture outdoors rather than in stores during the day's event.

"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," Stritzke added.

Shoppers carry away discounted items on Black Friday.
Black Friday isn't dead! It's just evolving

David Ciancio, a senior customer strategist at Dunnhumby, a U.K.-based customer science company, said that REI knows its customers well and understands that loyalty is a quality earned by delivering a great holistic brand experience.

"Loyalty is much more about interactions and relationships with people and about quality, value – and above all – trust."

"I think that REI's decision to respect the holiday of Thanksgiving, thus honoring its staff with an 'employee' Friday will prove to be a much more effective and longer-term loyalty building strategy, than a one day sales event," he said in a note emailed to CNBC.

Since Monday's announcement, over 291,900 people have signed up to REI's #optoutside campaign.


By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her on Twitter @AlexGibbsy.