By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern
It’s finally November! Hell, it sure doesn’t feel like it though. Indy is deciding to extend the warm weather even further and we’re sitting at a fantastic 70-ish degrees this first week of what should be the start of a stark Midwest winter. What November really means is that it’s almost time for Thanksgiving. The amazing holiday where abnormal consumption of high-calorie food is encouraged, awkward family hello’s are made, football and parades are watched, and of course Black Friday.
Black Friday originated in the 1960s as way to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season shopping. The “Black” comes from the glory days of accounting being done by hand with a pen (Wait, that was a thing?!) If there was a loss, it was written in red and profit was written in black. In retail, Black Friday marks the date when an accountant’s ledger goes from red to black for the rest of the year. Nowadays, it means ridiculous sales, insane lines and overly congested stores at the crack of dawn.
It seems that in the past ten years or so, the start time of these sales are getting earlier and earlier, almost to the point of a sale beginning several days before Thanksgiving. What gives? Do offering more insane sales at earlier times give a company that much of an increase in profit? The Wall Street Journal did some digging and found that many of the deals were never meant to sell at the original price, but were intended to be sold at a fix point and marketed as a sale. Fishy stuff is going on here. The most terrifying aspect of this glorified, materialistic day is the amount of people who have been injured or in the worst cases have died while trying to buy these products on sale. There’s a website that actually keeps track of these growing statistics. Black Friday Death Count has up-to-date figures on injuries and deaths and the added bonus of a link to the original news report of the incident.
After all of these years of madness, one store has finally stepped up and said enough is enough. Outdoor recreation supply giant REI has launched a strong digital marketing campaign telling consumers they will be closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday and everyone should go outside instead. A press release says that all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers will be closed and all employees will be on paid leave and encouraged to go outside. They have a countdown clock and everything. CEO Jerry Stritzke is the spokesperson in their simple, but powerful video spot posted on YouTube.
With some further research, there are many companies that actively tell consumers they’re not open on Thanksgiving Day, but unlike REI, stop short of taking Black Friday off as well. Here’s the full list:
- J. Maxx
- Home Goods
- Sam’s Club
- Home Depot
- Barnes and Noble
- Pier 1 Imports
- Crate and Barrel
- Burlington Coat Factory
- Sur La Table
- Jo-Ann Stores
- C. Moore
- Sierra Trading Post
- Harbor Freight
- At Home
- Von Maur
- Mattress Firm
- Half Price Books
It’s always impressive to see retail stores so actively and aggressively standing up for their employees. Ensuring holidays and paid time off can only be encouraging factors when it comes to employee loyalty and productivity.
REI has competently approached this topic and zhave avidly integrated each aspect into their social media outlets. Using YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most recently Reddit. All outlets have promoted and encouraged tons of feedback from news sources and blogs alike. So far, the only downside has been the Reddit Ask Me Anything or AMA online forum CEO Stritzke recently held. While most outsiders could see his intentions were for people to ask him questions or comment on how great the #OptOutside movement was, the Q & A devolved into complaints about poor working conditions and hours being cut. With an open forum such as Reddit, you can only hope that Stritzke understood questions and concerns like that would arise and was prepared for them.
At the core of this campaign, REI is sticking to its values and staying consistent with its marketing practices. Staying outdoors, finding adventures, doing good things for your body and the world are principles that make REI different from the rest. One of my favorite professors used to say, “Great companies stay great, because they do good.” Never mind the grammar issues with that line, but it has always stuck with me. My final thoughts on REI: Keep playing outside, doing good and challenging the status quo on what the holidays really mean to your consumer.