For the third year running, REI Co-op, the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer, has announced that it will close its 151 stores on Black Friday, process no online sales and pay all 12,000 employees to #OptOutside with family and friends.
Each year, REI gives more than 70 percent of its profits back to the outdoor community. Rather than seek to pull shoppers inside for this Thanksgiving weekend, REI is launching a new experiential search engine at REI.com/opt-outside to help inspire and enable people to get outside. It’s powered by the individual and collective experiences of the outdoor community and free for all to use.
“We are doing this again to unite people and to find common ground in the outdoors,” said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. “Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves and come together. More than 700 organizations and nearly 8 million people have joined #OptOutside over the past two years. We could not be more thankful. But last year we stepped back and said we can do more. We asked how we could offer new practical tools and inspiration. So we have captured the experiences of the outdoor community and organized them in a way that no one has done before.”
At the heart of this year’s effort, the new experiential search engine from REI is designed to inspire millions of people to #OptOutside. It features images pulled entirely from #OptOutside user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram, augmented with real-time information about locations and experiences across the country. For example, users who click on an image of a hiker can see the name of the specific trail featured, the trail’s difficulty rating, directions to the trailhead, recent user reviews of the experience and related expert advice from REI. Beginning today and leading up to Black Friday, the co-op will release 20 films featuring this community-created imagery to connect people through their shared #OptOutside experiences.
The co-op’s efforts to get more people outside do not begin and end with #OptOutside. Year-round, the co-op partners with hundreds of local and national organizations, nonprofits and governmental agencies, championing the outdoor life by implementing and encouraging others to adopt the highest sustainability standards and working to increase access to the outdoors for everyone.