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REI Reports Zero Profits for 2020: ‘Member Reward’ to Replace Dividend

REI Co-opPhoto credit: Joshua Rainey Photography
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Citing a ‘year like no other,’ REI informed members there was no dividend to go around. But there’s still a giveback.

For the first time in recent memory, REI Co-op members will not receive their annual dividend. That’s because, for the first time in a very long time, the co-op failed to turn a profit.

REI broke the news today in a letter to its 19 million-plus members, saying 2020 was “one of the most difficult years” in the brand’s history. But the letter, penned by Vivienne Long, REI’s VP of marketing, wasn’t all dire. Long noted that the co-op also carried no debt and would issue a “member reward” in lieu of the traditional dividend.

“Even though we didn’t make a profit last year, you’ll receive a member reward equivalent to what your dividend would have been: 10 percent back on your eligible full-price purchases in 2020. This will feel a lot like the dividend experience you’re used to. [Members will] see their total reward in their account on March 1,” Long wrote.

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No Dividend: REI Issues ‘Member Reward’

According to Brigette Pence, REI’s manager of loyalty and strategy, this reward will, for most members, look and act like the annual dividend. However, Pence noted that the reward does carry a couple of noteworthy differences.

First, she said, the reward will expire at the end of this year (Dec. 31, 2021). Second, unlike the dividend, members won’t be able to cash out the reward. Rather, members must use it toward eligible purchases at REI stores and online, the REI Outlet, REI adventure travel trips, and more.

Finally, Pence said that issuing the reward is a response to the unprecedented events that impacted the co-op last year. That is, like everything else, it’s unique to 2020. Members should still expect the dividend to remain a part of the co-op structure moving forward, post COVID-19.

According to REI, not issuing a dividend is rare and has only happened a couple of times in its 83-plus-year history. Have more questions about the member reward? Check out REI’s member FAQ page here.

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