Friday, November 27, 2015


#OptOutside on Black Friday, is REI's adventurous Thanksgiving marketing campaign motivating  folks to head for the great outdoors instead of the shopping mall. It has been gathering momentum since it was announced. What started as REI's declaration close all of its stores on Black Friday, the so-called busiest shopping day in the year, while still paying its 12,000 employees to take the day off and enjoy the outdoors, has prompted nearly 1 million endorsements.  More than 150 other companies, nonprofit organizations and agencies that support state and national parks have jumped on board encouraging people to spend Black Friday in nature. "The idea has struck a chord – far more than we expected," said Jerry Stritzke, REI president and CEO, in statement released from the company,  "We did this to share our passion for reconnecting with the people we love, in the outdoor places we love. But honestly we are surprised by – and very grateful for – the number of groups joining in. Clearly people are looking to do something a bit different with their time. The folks at REI just want to get out to the trails, slopes and parks with our members."

Minnesota and California's state parks were the first to jump on board the band wagon providing free admissions to the parks. Only 49 state parks, mostly near the coast in northern and central California are participating. The national parks and many other state parks systems have followed suit by offering admission free of charge. Missouri State Parks have a special offer for free camping on Black Friday. No fees will be collected for first, come first served campsites. Admission to Missouri state parks is always free.

"At a time of year when Minnesotans pause to give thanks, I am so grateful for the incredible state parks and trails we have here in Minnesota,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Visiting these parks is a great way to spend time with family and loved ones, relieve stress, and enjoy exercise in the great outdoors.” While Sarah Creachbaum, superintendent at Olympic National Park, suggested it would be a good way to start something new away from your standard holiday routine, "Thanksgiving is a time-honored American tradition, and we invite families to create new traditions."

Nevertheless, many of those same consumers choosing to OptOutside on Black Friday will be shopping online Cyber Monday. According to the Shopify website, between 2006 and 2011, online sales doubled to over 1.2 billion dollars on Cyber Monday. Shopping at home has become the norm, as consumers hope to grab online bargains.

However, Team Pyranha kayaker Pete Delosa says rather than getting your kayaking gear online, instead visit your local kayak shop for all your outfitting. "Kayaking, especially whitewater kayaking, is too small of a business for people to be ordering their stuff from one or two online super stores." said Delosa, "I think people have this perception that things are always cheaper on the Internet too which isn't always the case. Most importantly, the people who work in kayak shops are usually kayakers and if we all buy everything on the Internet that directly puts boaters in our local community out of work which means they can no longer go kayaking and our community gets smaller."
In his October blog post in, he listed five reasons to stop buying your paddling gear off the Internet and how to support your local paddling shop. 
  • The people who work in your local shop are part of your local river community. They paddle the same rivers you do. You might even paddle with them. By getting your gear from them you are keeping your friends employed.
  • When you buy gear from your local shop you have a person to go back to if you have any problems. Let’s say you order a kayak from the Internet and you need help setting up the outfitting. Is the Internet going to help you?
  • Kayaking is not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle. Hanging out in your local shop is a great way to get to know other paddlers in your area. When you’re looking for a new boat, paddle, or whatever else, talking to the other people in the store is a great way to get the scoop on what gear is working well for people and what gear people have not been so stoked on. Sure you can read reviews online but do you know who wrote them? If you talk to the staff and customers in a shop you can actually get to know a person and understand their personal experience which lends some context to the review they might give. Plus, you get the added bonus of talking face to face to a real live person. Remember when people used to do that?
  • Kayak shops usually have info on upcoming events in the area. Just stopping in once in a while is an easy way to keep current on festivals, competitions, community gatherings, clean ups, etc. in your area.
  • Try before you buy. Sure most companies have fit guides on their websites but I prefer to know something is going to fit before I buy it. Suppose you’re looking for a new dry suit. If you follow the size guide and order online you still run the risk of not quite having the right fit when your suit arrives. Then you have to send it back and wait even longer. Wouldn’t it be better to walk into the store, try the suit on and be able to wear it on the river the next day? What if you’re looking for a boat? Everyone wants to demo new kayaks before buying one. You can’t do that if you order your kayak from the Internet. Sure you could demo from your local shop and then order online, but do you really want that on your karma next time you head out to the river?
 "The same idea probably applies to other industries, "said Delosa, "But since I work in the paddling industry and because the paddling industry is so small already it is particularly important for us to support our local shops."

Moreover, when you shop at a small independent businesses owned by people who live locally, your dollars stay local; they're recycled right back into the community, rather than padding the profits of a large corporate chain. So while opting outside for the day, drop by and support your local paddle shop, it's most likely on the way.