MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Retailing during the holidays


Earlier this week, gear and sports retailer REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) announced that its 143 stores will be closed on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as "Black Friday," a day that many retailers view as the most important shopping day of the year. The Seattle-based retailer has launched a campaign "encouraging people to forgo shopping and spend time outside instead."

The issue of retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day has become a contentious one of late. While convenience stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores may be providing essential goods on the holiday, few people really need to go out and buy electronics and other gadgets on a day intended to be about family. As we highlighted on the this blog last year, most people who rely on retail jobs for their income are forced to work on holidays if the store decides to stay open. But the decision to close on the following day is nearly unheard of in the U.S.—especially considering that REI is paying its employees for the day off.

The company, which is technically a co-op, might be saving in electricity and other costs, but they are undoubtedly paying out for a day that was previously a top ten earner for the company and that this year will earn them no revenue at all. Even their website will go dark for the day, with a message that reiterates their command to enjoy the great outdoors. Call it a publicity stunt if you like, but by all accounts, REI seems truly committed to their mission of anti-consumerism and embrace of Mother Nature.

MIT Sloan's Adjunct Associate Professor of Operations Management, Zeynep Ton, has researched retailers' operational strategies and identified several retailers that offer their employees "Good Jobs"--retail jobs that pay more than minimum wage and invest in their workers. And she has made the case for how these business can and do reap greater profits than those with more traditional business models. REI's Black Friday overture certainly warrants a closer look, to see if perhaps it too belongs on this list of companies with a Good Job Strategy.

This entry was posted in Work and Employment on Sun Nov 01, 2015 by MIT Sloan Executive Education


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