By Randee Dawn, TODAY

(NBC News) - Continuing a slowly evolving trend for 2015, outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI is telling its workers to stay home on the day after Thanksgiving.

REI will shut doors on Black Friday in its 143 stores for the first time, as owners want to encourage their workers and customers to do what their products encourage anyway: Play outside!

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke told USA Today. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"

Co-op REI has 5.5 million members who pay a one-time fee for a "share" in the business. Members are responsible for the vast majority of REI sales.

While REI currently has no stores in Chattanooga, they do have retail locations in nearby Nashville, Knoxville and Atlanta.

In addition, the store will have no Black Friday promotions and no online orders will process until Saturday. Only a few of its 12,000 employees will be on call while the rest will get a paid day off. (Thanksgiving itself is also a holiday.)

The chain is encouraging everyone to share what they do with that non-shopping day by posting images on social media using the hashtag #OptOutside.

It sounds like a great promotion, but it's also about making a point while likely taking a financial hit: Black Friday has regularly been one of the retailer's top 10 sales days.

The letter, sent to REI members, states:

This Black Friday the co-op is doing something different. We’re closing all 143 of our stores. Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our employees to do what we love most—be outside.
We want you, our members, to be the first to hear—not just what we’re doing, but why.
We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us. Perhaps John Muir said it best back in 1901: “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.”
We think Black Friday is the perfect day to remind people of this essential truth.
And don’t worry, as a member you’ll still enjoy great deals on great gear all holiday season long. But on this one day, we’re going to #OptOutside and we want you to join us.

While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors. Visit and you’ll discover great ways to #OptOutside from coast to coast.
Let’s get out there,
P.S. If you have friends you want to encourage to #OptOutside, please pass along this invitation. You can also visit to customize your own Black Friday message and share it via social media. There’s plenty of room out there for all of us.