November 17, 2015 / Melissa Faudree

As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, you’ve undoubtedly heard numerous Black Friday deals and specials. You can’t seem to escape the commercials and advertisements, can you? You hear them on the radio, receive daily emails, see commercials on your television, and not to mention it is plastered all over social media. How could you possibly forget about Black Friday?

So my question is this: When did Black Friday become more important than Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday that allows us to think about what we are thankful for and spend time with the people we care about. Then we turn around the next day, dismissing the fact that you just celebrated what you were thankful for. So you can go out and purchase a brand new 60-inch 4K TV.

Recently REI, a major outdoor and sports gear retailer, decided to close their stores on Black Friday (Including all 143 locations and their online store). Their reasoning? The company has encouraged all their employees to be outside, doing what they love. After all, their company sells products for consumers to spend time outside. What better way to do it than being authentic and true to your brand’s mission? Practice what you preach, right? So instead of REI employees going into work on the biggest shopping day of the year, they have been asked to head outdoors. Even better, all 12,000 employees are getting paid! Currently over 890,730 customers have decided to join REI’s #OptOutside campaign on Black Friday. I suspect the numbers will continue to rise as the holiday approaches.

REI Opt Outside

REI certainly gained attention that they may not have otherwise received with traditional marketing strategies. They made a bold statement and took a risk. They caused a stir. In exchange, they gained brand awareness and had thousands of people talking about them.

Do they have the right idea? Should other brands follow suit?

A few years ago I worked in retail and was fortunate enough that my store didn’t have crazy hours during the holidays. We merely opened our store an hour earlier beginning on Black Friday. I know we got off easy but part of that was because of the company’s mission. They strongly believe in family. However, others retail stores weren’t as fortunate. They had their employees coming in at horrible hours and working extremely long shifts. What is worse, some of these retailers made it mandatory that they work on Black Friday. Are these companies thinking about their family?

Black Friday Family Tradition at SuperTarget

Unlike many families who have had Black Friday traditions for years, my family recently started our tradition in 2012 at Super Target. A large group of us decided to join the crowds at midnight after we had stuffed ourselves silly with turkey, assorted casseroles, pies, and cookies. I should preface this and say that this was my first Black Friday adventure; I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

When we arrived in the Target parking lot just 30 minutes shy of opening, we couldn’t help but laugh. I had never seen a line so long…or so I thought. How would we ever make it into the store with such a long line? When we FINALLY made it into the store, it was an absolute madhouse! People were everywhere and grabbing things off the shelves. You would have thought the world was ending with people rushing around frantically. I will say that it certainly was an adrenaline rush!

After spending close to an hour or more in the store, we made our way to the checkout. We noticed that the checkout lines had been roped off. They had workers everywhere directing us where to go. The result? We ended up weaving in and out of ALL the grocery isles in Target. It felt like we were in a maze…a never-ending maze. I actually remember thinking that this had to be some kind of joke. I thought the line outside the store was bad! This line was the winner. Our “quick” trip to Super Target on Black Friday turned into an all night affair.

Black Friday group

Despite the lines and craziness, ever since that year our family has made it our tradition to go to Super Target on Black Friday. I do believe that the holiday should be spent with your family. However, to some degree I think Black Friday has gotten out of hand. While, I am able to spend time with some of my family shopping, what about those working? Did they have to leave their Thanksgiving meal early or did they have to skip it altogether? When I think about it, it makes me feel guilty for going out in the first place!

Because some of these stores are opening ON Thanksgiving, we need to take a step back. I think REI really put things into perspective. Each year stores are opening earlier and earlier. I fear that Thanksgiving will be completely forgotten as well as the true meaning of the holiday. Last year Super Target opened at 6PM on Thanksgiving and will do the same again this year. It makes me feel sorry for those that have to work. But at the same time there are others who have to work, like health care professionals. They don’t have the luxury of spending time with their family. Just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean you won’t have sick or injured people come into the hospital. The same thing is true for other industries such as those working in hospitality, airports, law enforcement, firefighters, public transit, etc. There are some industries that have no other choice.

Every business is unique and has different goals and strategies. Maybe Black Friday is a time when you make the most sales. So you can’t afford to opt out of Black Friday. I think a large company such as REI can afford to take off one of the largest shopping days of the year but not every business can. I just want businesses to think about their employees and stress the importance of spending time with your family and friends. Be thankful for what you have.

Will you participate in Black Friday shopping or will you have to work? 



Posted In: Blog, Holidays, Marketing