Why We Choose to OptOutside

Dear all,

Last year, we put our people ahead of our profits and closed our doors on Black Friday. As a retailer, this was a big decision. We sold nothing on the biggest day in the global retail calendar. Millions of Americans joined us in choosing to #OptOutside. It was humbling seeing such an outpouring of support. If you took part and lent your voice, thank you.

Our collective decision to #OptOutside sparked a national conversation about choosing to be outdoors with family and friends over fighting it out in the aisles. People everywhere–regardless of age, sex or race–embraced the transformative power of the outdoors. We saw national and state parks join the movement and experience record visits.

Once more this year, we are closing our doors and paying all 12,287 of our employees to reconnect outdoors with family and friends on Black Friday, Nov. 25. We will also be closed on Thanksgiving.

Why? I believe that living your values makes a difference.

As a co-op, we share a simple belief that time in the outdoors makes us healthier and happier–as individuals and as a society. This year, in particular, I worry about the divisive tone pulling at our nation’s fabric. In my experience, the outdoors is one of the great conveners–able to help people bridge divides. We tend to put aside differences when we are presented with the magnificence of being in nature, no matter our beliefs or allegiances. That’s a big reason we used the phrase “United Outside” as a rallying cry when we opened our Washington, D.C. flagship this past week.

In our increasingly urbanized society, we all need to find time to breathe fresh air and reflect. Spending time outdoors lifts us up. That idea is baked into the way we run REI. It’s one of the reasons we give more than 70 percent of our profits back to the outdoor community. And I believe our 78-year-old outdoor co-op continues to do well in a tough retail environment thanks to that focus.

This year we aim to build on the momentum of #OptOutside and to start a new tradition. Already, more than 275 nonprofits, government organizations and companies have stepped up to help. Together, we are asking the nation “Will you go out with us?” and are deeply grateful to all those who have already offered support.

REI is committed to advancing this conversation about the outdoors and its benefits. This is a multifaceted topic, so for the next month you will hear from experts across the outdoor community about the power of nature to heal, the value of childhood play outdoors, the importance of nurturing and conserving our public lands, and the increasing need for diversity in the outdoors.

If you are an advocate for the role of the outdoors in making our society healthier and happier, we welcome your voice in this conversation. Whatever your plans this Black Friday, please consider joining me in welcoming your local community to #OptOutside–because this movement begins with you.

Jerry Stritzke

A Life Outdoors Is a Life Well Lived