We love a good PR stunt as much as the next person. So when REI, the company that sells camping gear and other outdoorsy wares, told us it was closing all of it’s 143 U.S. stories on Black Friday, our ears pricked up.
For those of you that don’t know (and this is an international blog so don’t judge) Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November). Since the early 2000s, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S., and most major retailers open very early (and more recently during overnight hours) and offer promotional sales. In 2014, 133 million U.S. consumers shopped, spending $50.9 billion during the 4-day Black Friday weekend.
Why isn’t REI closing and how will this affect their sales?
REI is one of the most powerful forces in outdoor retailing, with over $2 billion in sales in 2014. But it’s also a member-owned cooperative (REI’s more than 5 million members pay a one-time fee and contribute some 80% of its sales).
Authentic? REI’s CEO Stritzke said, “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”. This sounds authentic (even through the PR lens) and as such should resonate well with customers – deepening their relationship with the company.
Will that deepening customer relationship (and the story behind it) be able to overshadow the loss of convenience to shoppers?
Oh, and is it a coincidence that this announcement came the same week that Amazon.com announced it’s latest financial earnings, making it the largest retail store in the world (click or mortar) overtaking Wal-Mart for the first time in history.
Of course, following Black Friday, we get Cyber Monday, when there are (allegedly) great online sales to be snapped up by the most finger nimble online shoppers.
Is REI pushing their cyber sales – it certainly has a robust and deep online sales offering? We have to assume that REI’s online store will be open on Black Friday.
Is this just a PR stunt?