(This story was updated on 10/19/2023.)
REI Co-op laid off about 275 store workers yesterday, cutting its sales lead role across all retail operations.
In an email sent to employees obtained by The Daily entitled “Stewarding Our Future,” Mary-Farrell Tarbox, vice president of stores for REI, said the cuts are about 2% of REI’s overall store workforce of 12,300 people. KIRO 7 News first reported the layoffs.
After reviewing job roles and descriptions, REI management decided that the sales lead was “the most inconsistently used role across the fleet,” according to Tarbox.
According to an online job description, the sales lead role helps REI engage with its audience and interact with REI members and customers every day. The sales lead was expected to be knowledgeable about all outdoor equipment and services.
“This is not something we take lightly – these actions are necessary to set us up for long-term success,” Tarbox wrote. “We cannot build a best-in-class employee experience while we currently have more than 180 different employee experiences.”
The layoffs will allow REI “the flexibility needed to support our business, provide enhanced hours predictability for most staff, improve accountability at all levels, ensure we’re investing the right number of hours into the right roles,” Tarbox added.
The company will reinvest “many” of those hours back into the store and will be adding new roles as well as hiring for the holidays. Between the new roles and holiday hiring, REI will open about 1,300 new jobs across all stores through the fourth quarter of 2023, according to Tarbox.
REI is also adding a new senior specialist role that will support the store management team as well as a senior shop mechanics role that will take direction from the shop service manager.
In Tarbox’s letter, she also mentioned that REI’s current operating model for stores is more than a decade old.
“There are many areas that are out of date and no longer serving our employees or REI’s mission and business,” she wrote. “We have no consistent model for store structure with outdated volume bands and a different staffing model in nearly every store. This lack of clarity leaves us with inconsistent accountability measures for store leaders and teams and no standard operating procedures across stores.”
In February, REI laid off about 8% of its headquarters staff, or 167 workers.
At the time of the layoffs, President and CEO Eric Artz cited “increasing uncertainty” as one of the reasons for the restructuring as the company focused on what he described as the “most critical investments and areas of work to best serve our members and grow the co-op over the long term.”
The CEO emphasized the need to “get the co-op back to profitability as quickly as possible,” in his note to workers in February, explaining the layoffs allow the company to “focus resources on areas of highest impact.”
In April, REI reported net sales of $3.85 billion for 2022, up from the $3.74 billion it generated in 2021. The retailer swung to a $164.71 million loss in 2022, compared to net income of $97.66 million in the prior year.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at email@example.com.