Authenticity: Why REI is one of the top 100 places to work 18 years in a row

In Culture, Purpose, Mission & Values


Outdoor retailer REI has demonstrated not only why they have been voted one of the top 100 places to work for 18 consecutive years, but also how they have managed to enjoy double-digit growth for the past two years. In a statement released on their website, REI shared that the company will close all 143 stores on Black Friday, pay its employees, and encourage all customers to join them outside that day in a movement labeled #optoutside.

REI will have no Black Friday promotions and won’t process any online orders until Saturday.

REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was initially apprehensive about closing, said he realized after much soul searching and evaluating how we as people can be authentic to who we are that, “… we define success a little differently. It’s much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?”

In a letter to customers published on the REI website, Stritzke wrote:

“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.

We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us”.

This isn’t a campaign. It’s not a marketing stunt. It’s an authentic manifestation of the purpose and values of the company. REI employees aren’t happy because the company makes $2 billion a year. It’s the other way around. The company makes this money because the employees are happy, and because customers recognize the authenticity and shared values.

A quick look at the REI Facebook page shows the response from the public today:


Stritzke was interviewed on CBS about this decision. What value will be gained through all of this press coverage? More business? New customers/ increased loyalty? All of the above.

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Barry-028 2Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them to achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.