In 2015 Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as “REI”, sent shockwaves through the retail industry by announcing they would close their doors on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving! But this first of its kind announcement wasn’t without purpose. REI challenged their customers and everyone else who typically spent Black Fridays moving between shopping centers and retail stores, to put all of that aside and get outside! In fact, they started a social campaign #OptOutside, which encouraged people enjoy some nature with family and friends and post pictures of their Black Friday outdoor adventures on social media. But would this actually work and what kind of an impact would it have on REI’s overall sales and holiday promotions? 

REI provides their customers with top-quality gear and apparel, expert advice, rental equipment, inspiring stories of life outside and outdoor experiences to enjoy alone or share with friends and family. REI has no shareholders and as a result every purchase made with REI helps to steward responsibility in the outdoors, support sustainable business and help the fight for life outside.

REI is a company concerned with more than just profits. REI is one of the often underrated, but highly esteemed “Firms of Endearment” (we wrote about them briefly here) who focus on what some call a quadruple bottom line – People, Planet, Profits & Purpose. The #OptOutside movement was certainly a campaign of purpose.

The companies who have been recognized as Firms of Endearment include public, private and non-USA based companies of varying sizes and across many different industries. Despite their broader focus, which goes far beyond “only driving profits for shareholders”, they have consistently and significantly outperformed the S&P 500 and the “Good to Great” companies studied in the work of the same title. 

REI had the courage to stand up to the ingrained Black Friday sales frenzy and take a stand for something that they and their customer base truly believed in – “life outside”. The campaign has gained notable traction over the years and families (like mine) have made it a tradition to #OptOutside the day after Thanksgiving with family and friends to enjoy fresh air and nature, away from the stress and commercial focus that seems to dominate the holiday season. 

Along with avoiding crowds, there’s many other inherent benefits of opting outside. Not only does it help maintain a healthy lifestyle, but an ever growing body of research continues to support spending time in nature, which has been shown to increase creativity, lower stress levels and depression and lead to other physical and mental health benefits. A study done in England recently found that “a two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing, even if you simply sit and enjoy the peace.”  One cardiologist in Ohio has even started to see his patients outside for a walk, instead of in his office! 

So if you spent your Black Friday shopping, think about how you may invite yourself and others to enjoy some time in nature, help support a cause you believe in or simply take a break from the frantic pace of everyday life… we’ll bet you’ll be glad you did! 

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