Black Friday: One Retailer’s Radical Approach Has Employees Giving Thanks

iStock_000053017174_SmallFor most retail employees, the days of relishing in the Thanksgiving turkey hangover are long gone as Black Friday has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year. So instead, employees are forced out of their turkey coma to open store doors as early as 5 a.m. in some instances while others must work on the holiday itself. However, one retailer made headlines in October when it announced that not only will it not be open on Thanksgiving but that it will also opt out of the Black Friday craze and keep all of its stores closed on that day.

For the first time, REI, a specialty outdoor retailer, will close all of its 143 stores, headquarters and two distribution centers this Black Friday and will not process online orders until Saturday. As explained in its statement, REI invites the nation to join in by choosing to #OptOutside to reconnect with family and friends this Thanksgiving holiday rather than standing on long lines in its stores. Whether it be a marketing stunt or a sincere attempt to inspire its consumer base, one thing is clear: the move is a bold stance from a business and financial standpoint. Even bolder yet: paying its 12,000 employees for the day off.

The fact that REI employees will get a paid day off has not been a big part of the conversation but it certainly deserves notice as employees, often in need of more hours and wages leading up to the holidays, will not be penalized by REI’s closing of its doors.

REI’s decision adds momentum to the recent backlash over the “Black Friday creep” – the trend of opening stores on Thanksgiving itself rather than waiting for the wee hours of Friday morning. For instance, stores such as Target, Toys R Us and Best Buy will be opening their doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving in hopes of enticing shoppers away from the holiday table.

However, a growing number of retailers have opted to remain closed for the purported reason of letting their employees spend the holiday with their family. For example, the retailer H&M has announced  it will close its 400 US stores this Thanksgiving for the first time to allow their “store teams to enjoy this time with their families and friends.”

Meanwhile, the shoe retailer, DSW, continues to take a stance on family time during the holiday by remaining closed on Thanksgiving because “Family time is extremely important to us, and we want our associates to enjoy the holiday with their loved ones.”

Employers who are able and willing to close their doors on Thanksgiving are likely to garner goodwill among their employees who will appreciate the opportunity to have the day off on this national holiday. Also, it will increase employee morale since they won’t be strong-armed into coming to work or risk termination. More importantly, employees will likely feel a better sense of work/life balance in being able to spend the time with their loved ones.

As for closing its doors on Black Friday, REI still seems to stand alone among the major retailers in the US. However, its position on the Black Friday craze and its reward of a paid day off to its employees certainly did not go unnoticed.  While this is undoubtedly a novel way to acknowledge employees, employers should nonetheless take note of smaller ways to reward employees during the holiday season and year-round.

What are your thoughts on REI’s decision? Let us know by leaving a comment below.


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