REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op, is a growing consumer community of more than 20 million members. Though these member owners have grown to expect the best quality experts, gear, and service from REI, the store adheres to adventurist ideals instead of consumer values.
This November, as the holidays descend, REI will once again close its more than 170 locations — stores, activity centers, distribution centers, call centers, and headquarters — on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This is the seventh year in a row that the co-op will forgo profits and sales on the busiest shopping day of the year, instead paying its more than 15,000 employees to #OptOutside.
As the hashtag indicates, this isn’t just an isolated promotion either. According to REI’s 2016 YouTube case study, social media responses rose 7,000% in the first hour of the hashtag’s release, adding up to 2.7 billion hits within its first 24 hours.
Despite revenue down from 2019 and zero profit reported in 2020, REI remains dedicated to driving its outdoor mission, even in lieu of profits.
“As the last year and a half has continued to challenge us all, #OptOutside is a reminder of the importance of community and time outside,” REI CEO Eric Artz said. “What started as a special moment for employees has become a movement for the co-op community to come together and prioritize action on the things that matter most.”
Since 2015, #OptOutside has become a genuine movement, with tens of millions of people and thousands of organizations joining REI in opting for a day outdoors instead of a day stuck shopping on Black Friday, rejecting the mass consumption and stress that drives Black Friday.
This spills over to other socially responsible actions from the co-op as well. In the beginning of October, the outdoors company launched the REI Cooperative Action Fund. The community-supported, public charity aims to make the outdoors equitable and inclusive. For the first time in the co-op’s 83-year history, the Cooperative Action Fund will allow members, employees, and public persons to contribute to a nationwide network of nonprofit organizations promoting justice, equity, and belonging in the outdoors.
In its initial grant cycle, the Fund will invest $1 million in 19 nonprofit partners. REI hopes to scale this investment as more people participate and contribute. The is just a tiny part of the over $120 million the co-op’s invested in hundreds of nonprofit partners across the country to date.
#OptOutside is a movement that marks this mission: For people to recreate responsibly and spend time outside. This year (as in others), REI calls on everyone to come together to build an outdoors accessible to everyone.
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