It looks like retailers will be facing some stiff competition this Black Friday, from the most unlikely source. While online vendors have staked their claims on “Cyber Monday,” and mom-and-pop joints have thrown their hats into the ring with “Small Business Saturday,” Mother Nature herself is making a play for your attention in 2015. Well, kind of.
REI shocked consumers and commentators alike when it announced in late October that it planned to close all 143 of its retail storefronts on Black Friday—while still paying its employees. Why, you ask? To encourage customers and employees alike to #OptOutside instead of shopping. The announcement has been a huge PR boon for the cooperatively owned outdoor retailer, garnering praise from economists, media outlets, and anyone who has ever used the hashtag #NatureLover (guilty as charged).
On the heels of REI’s groundbreaking news, nonprofit Save the Redwoods League has announced that, in partnership with California State Parks, free admission will be offered at forty-nine state parks on Black Friday this year. Then Minnesota followed suit. Never one to be left out of some exciting outdoor news, Oregon State Parks has also chimed in by waiving the usual $5 day-use parking fee.
I happened to spend Black Friday outside at Lake Tahoe last year, and I can assure you that I never regretted missing out on any 50 percent off doorbuster sales. In fact, someone had mysteriously erected hundreds of cairns—a type of rock sculpture used in prehistoric times for wayfinding, amongst other things—on the north shore of the lake, and it struck me as an especially profound symbol on a day so closely connected with consumer culture.
Spending the day under a blue sky, wind on my face, looking out at the largest alpine lake in North America, I felt certain that this was a clearer path to happiness than a day spent shopping. In a time when there seems to be more and more conversation about experience trumping things, I knew during that day at the lake that I was having a moment that proved the point.
So, where will you be this Black Friday? At a local state park? Your neighborhood running trail? Somewhere snowy? Somewhere tropical? Or the mall? I know I could probably save a few bucks on holiday gifts by taking advantage of Black Friday deals, but you definitely won’t find me in any shopping lines this year. You’ll find me outside, giving myself the gift of perspective as only Mother Nature can afford. And it will be worth every penny (saved!).