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REI Wants You to Ditch Black Friday for Outdoor Activities

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We're all about companies that actually live and breathe their advertised message. Proof that REI is one of them: All 143 of the company's storefronts will lock their doors on the most profitable day of the year, Black Friday. And they're not just giving their 12,000 full and part-time employees Thanksgiving off—something that happens less and less with retail giants these days—but they'll also pay them not to come into work on the D-Day of the shopping calendar. While the website will remain up and running, it won't even process orders until Saturday and customers that visit will encounter a diversion message encouraging them to explore the outdoors instead. (Check out these 8 Fitness Companies Making Kids More Active too.)

The decision comes as part of the #OptOutside campaign, the brand's movement to combat "commercial madness" and get people to spend time exploring in nature—the very place that inspires and propels their business—instead. Participants can create an #OptOutside image on the REI website, complete with the official stamp, their choice of image, and the activity that they'll be doing that day rather than hitting the retail sales.

CEO Jerry Stritzke recognizes that this choice means the company will take a big financial hit, as Black Friday has been one of the company's top 10 sales days for the past few years (not to mention the 12,000 wages they'll be doling out).

Despite the dent this may put in the company's bottom line, REI's status as a consumer co-op (the nation's largest, might we add) means that it can get away with what may otherwise appear to be a counterintuitive move. Rather than shareholders, REI has over 5 million members that pay a one-time fee and receive an annual dividend. All in all, these loyal participants account for about 90 percent of the company's yearly sales.

Why do we care? Well, for starters, that means brand loyalty is a big deal so the company doesn't worry as much about picking up bargain shoppers. Plus, the people who hold sway in the business believe in this message and support the push to get outside wholeheartedly.

So rather than wake up at the crack of dawn to sip tepid coffee and wait in line with hundreds of other equally frantic outdoor-loving shoppers, we propose an alternative: You can wake up at the crack of dawn—but do it to catch the sunrise, to be the first one on the trail, or to fish in the early morning fog. (If you're worried you won't wake up in time, try these 16 Evening Habits for a Better Morning.)

Looking for that #inspo? If you're a snowbird, check out Liftopia for some serious Black Friday promotions on lift tickets. If hoofing it is more your thing, pay a visit to one of these 10 Picturesque National Parks Worth Hiking. Or if you're too exhausted from cooking (erm, eating) to come up with an excursion on your own, check out REI's #OptOutside database, a one-stop shop for all of the ways you can get outdoors in your area.

Whatever you do, we promise it'll beat the 5 a.m. sprint down aisle six in your local Target.

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