In late October, Jerry Stritzke, the C.E.O. of the outdoor-gear store R.E.I., appeared in a video posted to YouTube. He’s sitting at a desk, and behind him some bookshelves are decorated with bland office paraphernalia: framed photos, tchotchkes, an orchid. “This Black Friday, we’re closing all one hundred and forty-three of our stores,” Stritzke says; employees, he reassures viewers, will still be paid. As he explains the reasoning (“We’d rather be in the mountains than in the aisles”), the camera pans out to show that his desk sits not in an office but on a bluff, with mountains rising in the background. The video has since gone viral, with more than five hundred thousand views, and the Black Friday closure was seen as so unorthodox—and welcome—that it made national headlines. On the Forbes Web site, a blogger raved “Kudos to REI,” calling the decision a message that “success isn’t just about money.” In USA Today, another journalist wrote, “REI is taking direct aim at the frenzied consumerism that dominates the holidays with a message to do the exact opposite of what Black Friday demands.”
In the past couple of years, it must be said, retailers have tended to take a determinedly pro-frenzied-consumerism approach to Black Friday, beginning their sales earlier and earlier, so that they have eventually impinged on Thanksgiving Day. The phenomenon became so pervasive that it even got a na...
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