Last week REI announced that not only would it be closing its doors on Black Friday, but that it would also be paying its employees. With 143 retail locations, REI is the nation’s largest specialty outdoor retailer. The question remains if closing on the biggest retail shopping day of the year is informed out of an effort to create affinity amongst its employees or a brilliant marketing campaign. The answer could be both.
As a marketer, I could say that their decision to close and pay its 12,000 employees “to do what they love most – be outside” is brilliant. Why? REI is creating a social media campaign that is sure to catch on with as it asks the nation to join them by choosing to #OptOutside. Additionally, by closing REI gained a tremendous amount of good PR as a company that its president Jerry Stritzke explained is “closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.” In that same release he explained that REI is looking to “galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”
Okay, but are they also looking to align REI’s values to better align itself to its target audience and customers? Absolutely. They are reinforcing their brand as the best place to get “great gear” for outside activities, but they are also strengthening their brand amongst their customers whose profile would suggest that they prefer to shop at a store that shares its values and who are less price sensitive than the typical consumer. At the same time, my guess is there will be online shopping deals on that same day on REI’s website.
A few retail outlets that are also closed on Black Friday include Costco, Sam’s Club, Staples, TJ Maxx, Lowes, GameStop, and Sears. Whether these retailers are paying employees for a vacation day or not, a clear motivator is undoubtedly an effort to increase employee loyalty. Black Friday may have been coined to get sales out of the red and into black, but for many retail employees today it is much more aligned with stress.
Most of our readers aren’t in the retail world – and Black Friday is already a paid holiday, right? So what does this matter other than it’s a list of stores where shoppers cannot go on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
HR executives often serve the dual roll of being an organizations conscience as well as its “internal marketing” team. HR executives set the tone and help to craft messages to employees that define an organization’s values and – hopefully – increase employee engagement and loyalty.
It’s in this capacity that HR executives should encourage a company’s leadership to emphasize that the Thanksgiving four-day weekend is indeed, time off. Today’s employees are increasingly expected to be available 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s the smart organization that helps employees unwind and take time off when it is afforded to them. No one expects major business to happen over the Thanksgiving break, make sure your organization not only encourages, but also insists that employees take the four days off to recharge. It will go a long way in building employee loyalty.
If the corporate staff of your organization has Black Friday off, but your front-house staff is expected to be there, ensure you are supportive. Make sure they have access to the appropriate people in time of need, their schedule isn’t too strenuous, and they know how much you appreciate their dedication.