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Retailer REI Counters Consumerism on Black Friday
REI is a major retailer of clothing and equipment for outdoor enthusiasts. And as such they have a dilemma. They want to encourage getting outdoors—whether for a walk around a park or an extreme adventure—but having those outdoor experiences require clothing and gear in order to be safe and comfortable. And they have come up with some interesting solutions.
In 2015, the “outdoor retail monolith” began to boycott Black Friday. Instead of running sales, they shut their doors, suspend online sales, and give all 12,000-plus employees the day off. And they partner with 170 organizations to challenge would-be shoppers to go outside with their loved ones instead of shopping. And it’s caught on. #OptOutside has appeared on more than 7 million social media posts.
Spurred on by climate change, REI is also looking at what they are selling. They are questioning the liner business model, which feeds consumer addiction to buying new things on a seasonal basis, and looking a how they can use their existing customers as suppliers of used gear that could be sold as an alternative to new merchandise. “Everything you ever needs—clothes, equipment, shoes—already exists in the ecosystem,” says REI.
They want to help consumers recycle by finding “welcome send homes” for items. And it’s catching on. Sales of second-hand items doubled in the second year of the program.
Known as “circular economy,” this well could be the the wave of the future. Larry and I have been purchasing already-existing-products instead of new ones for years, particularly building materials and furniture. Today we are looking to existing products more and more because they are more durable and beautiful compared to the mass produced products of today. More and more I’m seeing existing products being taken apart and materials reused to make new products, particularly with clothing. We just have a tremendous amount of materials available if the materials of all products were reclaimed and remade into new products.
I think it’s a great idea to spend the day outdoors celebrating life on Black Friday, rather than going shopping. Kudos to REI for this great idea and putting it into practice.