This week, in what turned out to be a tremendous public relations boost, REI, the outdoor retail giant announced that it would be closing its doors for Black Friday. You won’t even be able to shop REI online, although, members will still get their deals. REI President and CEO, Jerry Stritzke, told his employees, “While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors.” Not only is REI giving its employees the day off but it is also paying them for the pleasure. According to Stritzke, REI was searching for a way to externalize the company’s authenticity. REI couldn’t think of anything better than giving its employees the day off on one of the biggest shopping days of the year, which is the kind of thing that has landed REI on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list since its inception in 1998.
What REI clearly understands and other employers should too, is that you can’t do business without your hard-working employees. Treating them well, as though they are part of a family instead of a machine, will go a long way toward loyalty and longevity. When employee morale is up, both the business owner and the employees stand to benefit. Yes, REI may lose sales on Black Friday but during the rest of the year, those employees made it possible for REI to close down for the day, contributing to double-digit growth. Chances are these same employees will go back to work on Saturday with a whole new appreciation of REI and a desire to work that much harder. Not to mention, happy employees tend not to sue.