Hundreds of REI employees lost their jobs this week, as the company announced layoffs in anticipation of lower sales in 2024. In a Thursday letter posted on the REI website, CEO Eric Artz explained that the outdoor specialty retail segment had declined throughout 2023. As a result, company leaders expect that “the coming days are going to be tough,” Artz wrote.
To deal with the shortfall, REI will lay off 357 employees, including 200 people at headquarters, 121 in distribution centers, and 30 from teams that handle REI Experience classes and events. The announcement comes just weeks after REI said it planned to open 11 new co-ops throughout the country in 2024 and 2025.
None of the affected workers were part of the company’s growing number of unionized employees, The Seattle Times reported.
“As a cooperative, we have both the privilege and the deep responsibility to think longer term, about generations, not just quarters. We can—and must—get through this moment because the world needs a healthy REI,” Artz wrote. “Our work is important, and REI makes the world better.”
Outdoor Recreation Continues to Grow
The announcement also comes just a few months after REI laid off 275 employees in an October “restructuring initiative.” REI Union, which now represents employees in eight of the company’s stores, called those “ill-conceived changes” that underscore the importance of union representation.
“Regardless of union status, REI should be accountable at all the stores that faced these callous layoffs. All green vests deserve respect for the value we bring to the company,” REI Union said in a statement.
The outdoor recreation industry overall continues to grow, reaching $1.1 trillion, according to a federal report released at the end of 2023. But specific segments haven’t been able to maintain the momentum. As of December 2023, outdoor specialty sales were down 1% at $4.6 billion, The Daily Outdoor Retailer reported.
But it’s still not a gloomy outlook overall. The outdoor equipment market will likely experience a 6% growth rate from 2024 to 2028, according to Statista.
Regardless, Artz said that REI’s latest round of layoffs were a financial necessity. “The year ahead will require us to make strategic and intentional choices to control the things that we can,” he wrote. “Many of these choices will be difficult. And they are what we must do to ensure the Co-op is healthy for the long-term.”
Neither REI nor REI Union could be reached for comment on Friday.