On Friday November 29th, REI will be closing its 158 stores for “OptOutside”.
A bold move that started in 2015 when CEO, Jerry Strizke decided REI would close its doors on Black Friday while other giant retailers cashed in on one of the biggest spending sprees in the entire year.
“I was looking at the chaos of Black Friday and how more and more stores were opening on Thanksgiving and it just didn’t feel right,” Stritzke said in an interview. REI has never opened its doors on Thanksgiving, but the retail giant felt their employees should be spending more time with their families and hence closed its doors on Black Friday.
REI committed to putting their people before profits. In that same year REI posted its largest ever membership growth and revenue increased by 9.3% to $2.4 billion. Was it a coincidence the year they began operation “OptOutside” that same year they had the largest growth? Most certainly not. No other retailer had shut down on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
It was the company’s steadfast belief that putting people before profits mattered most. They marched to the beat of their own drum, not following the herd but following their heart and it seems they spoke to the hearts of its members and non-members. An incredible 1.4 million people and outdoor companies, non-profits and organization spent their Black Friday with their families outdoors.
So what exactly prompted REI? Was it a marketing move or was it showing their people how much they were valued in the organization?
I choose the latter, because any other kind of marketing efforts would not have cost them as much as it did paying their 1200+ employees and a willingnes to loose one of their top 10 revenue days.
This year, CEO, Eric Artz announced REI is taking the initiative further and asking all 18 million members to part take in #OPtoutside in a clean-up effort nation-wide.
REI has been working toward zero-waste operations and challenging the industry to eliminate unnecessary packaging.
Here is how REI demonstrated leadership:
- Put action to their core values.
- They were aware of their competition’s blind spots to what customers really wanted: aligning their purchase with their values (emotional ROI)
- Made connection to millions of people and organizations by being an authentic voice.
- Stood in vulnerability, taking guts and courage over fear of risk.
- Didn’t forget about the passion and purpose that got them started in the business.
What was a purpose driven initiative to put their people before profits evoked consumers to be inspired by their actions, increasing their membership and becoming a hero in the hearts of many.
True heros are those willing to take risks, be vulnerable and stand for what they believe in.
What Can We Learn From REI? When we choose to have real integrity to our core values and are willing to take actions that will move an organization forward, we are leading purposefully. When your customers bear witness to your integrity, you gain their trust and loyalty and a natural alignment begins between your authenticity and their values.
So, I leave all leaders, CEO’s, and decision makers with this quote: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” —Woodrow Wilson