NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t expect major retailers to follow REI’s move to close its stores on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
REI, a chain that sells hiking boots, yoga mats and other outdoor and fitness apparel, said this week that it will not open its doors on the day after Thanksgiving. The day, which is called Black Friday, has grown into an American holiday shopping spectacle.
But many other retailers won’t be able to give up Black Friday as easily. Target, Wal-Mart and Macy’s didn’t return requests seeking comment on this story, but industry watchers say big retailers that sell toys, clothes and electronics depend on sales generated during that day.
REI, on the other hand, likely won’t lose many sales as a result. And what the company loses in sales, it will gain in goodwill from its employees and customers, marketing experts say.
“It makes them seem like they are socially responsible and doing the right thing,” says marketing consultant Allen Adamson of BrandSimple Consulting. “Younger consumers are very concerned about how companies behave and treat their employees.”
REI said it will pay its 12,000 employees to take the day off. In addition to closing its 143 stores, it will also close its two distribution centers and Seattle headquarters. It will still take orders online on Black Friday, but those orders won’t be filled until Saturday, says REI’s senior vice president of retailer Tim Spangler.
“We feel that Black Friday has gotten a little out of hand,” says Spangler.
The move comes as Black Friday sales have been dwindling as retailers have been spreading Black Friday-like deals more throughout the entire holiday shopping season. Indeed, in recent years, stores have been opening on Thanksgiving Day to better compete with online retailers.
As a result, U.S. shoppers spent $9.1 billion at stores on Black Friday last year, according to research firm ShopperTrak, a drop of 7 percent compared with the same day the year before.
Still, the day is an important one for most retailers during the critical holiday shopping season, a two-month stretch in November and December that accounts for about 20 percent of annual retail sales. And some retailers have gotten flak from some customers and employees for opening on the actual holiday.
While most retailers likely won’t follow REI, other specialty retailers that don’t depend on the day so heavily may close their doors on Black Friday, says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of retail consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail.
“It will be interesting to see who else will fall in line,” she says.