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Recreational Equipment, Inc.
Type Consumers' cooperative
Founded 1938 (1938)
Headquarters Kent, Washington,  United States
Key people Salley Jewell, CEO
Industry sporting goods and outdoor gear
Members 2,222
Employees 6,227

REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) is an American consumers' cooperative that sells outdoor recreation gear and sporting goods via the Internet, catalogs, and over 100 stores in 27 states. It opens four to six new stores each year. REI's sales exceeded US$1.43 billion in 2008.[1] Its major competitors in the U.S. include many other sporting goods retailers.



Lloyd and Mary Anderson founded REI in Seattle, Washington in 1938. The Andersons imported an Academ Pickel ice axe from Austria for themselves, and decided to set up a cooperative to help outdoor enthusiasts acquire good quality climbing gear at reasonable prices. Through the 1970s it identified itself prominently as REI Co-op, focusing primarily on equipment for serious climbers, backpackers and mountaineering expeditions. However, in the 1980s, with changes to its Board of Directors, the emphasis shifted toward family camping and branched out into kayaking, bicycling, and other outdoor sports. Clothing, particularly "sport casual" clothes, also became a greater part of the company's product line. Although the company is still a cooperative, providing special services to its members, the "co-op" moniker has been dropped from much of its literature and advertising as it solicits business from the general public, even if they are not members.

REI memberships

There is a one-time fee of $20 for lifetime membership to the co-op. REI normally pays an annual dividend check to its members equal to 10% of what they spent at REI on regular-priced merchandise in the prior year. The refund, which expires on December 31 two years from the date of issue, can be used as credit for further purchases or taken as cash or check between July 1 and December 31 of the year that the dividend is valid. In recent years, REI's annual financial statements have shown several million dollars in unclaimed annual dividends, suggesting that not all members avail themselves of this significant membership benefit. Summaries of the financial statements are mailed with the member's dividend statement and are posted on the REI website.

Members are able to buy returned/used/damaged goods at significant discounts. Other benefits of REI membership include discounts on rentals and shop services, as well as rock wall access at locations that feature indoor climbing walls.

Corporate information

REI is headquartered in Kent, Washington. Its flagship stores are located in the Cascade neighborhood of Seattle at the southern end of Eastlake Avenue East and in Denver, Colorado.[2] It has distribution centers in Sumner, Washington and Bedford, Pennsylvania.

The REI store in Mountain View, California

REI employs over 9,500 people, most of them in the stores, many of whom are part-time. All employees receive health care benefits. REI has been ranked in the top 100 Companies to Work for in the United States by Fortune Magazine since 1998, which earned them a place in the Fortune Magazine's "Hall of Fame". REI ranked as #12 in 2009.[3]

REI is governed by a board of 13 directors, one member being the CEO. Directors serve for terms of one or three years. Board candidates are selected by the REI Board Nomination and Governance Committee. In earlier years the elections for the board were a competitive election with both board nominated and self-nominated petition candidates. In recent years REI has eliminated the opportunity for petition candidates and have only nominated as many candidates as open positions. Members are mailed a ballot, with the nominees required to garner 50% of the ballots returned. Though REI is owned by its membership and the board ostensibly serves at the members pleasure, there is no path to board membership without the approval of the Board Nomination and Governance Committee.[citation needed] Its chief executive officer is paid in the approximate range of $1 million a year, which REI describes as in line with the median of similar-sized corporate enterprises.[4].

Although the majority of what it sells is brand-name merchandise from other companies, REI designs and sells its own private-brand products under either the REI brand or under Novara. REI positions its brand as primarily focused on value and durability.[citation needed] REI claims its branded products are tested extensively by REI staff in house using specially designed tests that closely simulate outdoor use.[citation needed]

While the Andersons originally established the co-op structure in order to secure reduced prices for its members, REI today models itself instead as a full-service retailer, with a web site, including order-on-the-web and free delivery to a nearby store, rather than as a low-price retailer. Local stores host free clinics on outdoor topics and organize short trips originating from the store to explore local hikes and cycling paths. REI claims to support local communities, offer meeting space free of charge to non-profit organizations, support conservation efforts, and organize yearly outdoor service outings. REI donates annually to conservation groups in the US. Its 2007 giving of $3.7 million represented about .28 of one percent of its $1.3 billion in gross sales, or 3.5% of its $106.7 million in operating income.[5] In 2006, REI engaged almost 170,000 people in 900,000 volunteer service hours and company-wide donations exceeded $4 million.[citation needed] They also send volunteers to help the groups with cleaning up the environment, building new trails and teaching children the importance of caring for the environment.[6]

Environmental initiatives

In 2006, REI purchased 11 million kilowatt hours of green power, enough to offset twenty percent of its overall power consumption. This purchase placed REI on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's top ten list of retailers who purchased cleanly generated electricity.[7] By 2007, REI promises to make its trips through REI Adventures carbon neutral through the purchasing of green power credits "Green Tags".[8] REI Adventures is the first US travel company to introduce this type of program.[9]. REI has pledged to be a climate neutral and zero waste to landfill company in 2020 focusing on the five areas of its business: green buildings, product stewardship, proper paper usage, reducing waste and energy efficiency.[10]

Non-retail diversification

REI has diversified its offerings into global adventure vacations though the REI Adventures branch which began in 1987. REI Adventures offers vacations for active travelers all over the world. Offerings range from a 2 day weekend getaway in Yosemite to a 14 day trek to Everest Base Camp. [11]

In 2006 REI started the Outdoor School in selected markets. The Outdoor School is a series of one day outings in the local area and in store classes. Offerings include mountain biking, road biking, kayaking, backpacking, rock climbing, outdoor photography, family hiking, snowshoeing and others. The current locations of the Outdoor School are the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Diego area, the Los Angeles area, Boston, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Washington D.C./Virginia/Maryland area.

Related links

See also

Mountain Equipment Co-op is a comparable cooperative in Canada.


External links



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