REI lays off employees at Kent headquarters; but more hires expected by end of 2013
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
March 22, 2013 · 5:42 PM
REI has laid off a "limited number" of employees at its Kent headquarters and stores nationwide as it drops some positions and plans to create new jobs to improve customer service.
The outdoor gear and apparel company continues to make money, so the layoffs were not connected to a lack of sales revenue growth.
"It's not financial," said REI spokeswoman Libby Catalinich in a phone interview. "What we are doing is shifting resources in support to give better support to customers. It's not because of any financial situation. We're de-assembling some areas and growing other areas."
Catalinich said final revenue figures will be released soon but sales grew 7.4 percent in 2012. In 2011, REI had a net income of $30.2 million with sales of $1.8 billion, a 8.4 percent increase from 2010.
Catalinich declined to reveal how many employees were laid off over the last several weeks. REI employs about 1,100 in Kent and 11,000 nationwide.
"During our Town Hall meetings on campus last month, REI's leadership informed employees that a limited number of positions – primarily in support areas – were being eliminated, while others would be created this year," REI said in a prepared statement. "The shifts we made support the needs of our business and growth strategy. Out of respect for those individuals whose positions were eliminated, we’re not providing specifics on the total number or which areas were impacted."
REI expects to increase its number of employees by the end of the year.
"We're not releasing the number but we intend to grow the number of jobs on campus," Catalinich said.
The Kent Reporter received an email from a person who claimed inside knowledge that nearly 250 employees were laid off in Kent.
"That's incorrect," Catalinich said.
In its statement, REI said "there were vacant positions that simply won’t be filled. In other cases, there were positions eliminated and people lost their job."
The company spokeswoman denied (email) accusations that REI is cutting long-time employees in order to hire younger employees at a lower rate of pay.
"It's based on the work they are doing and where the job growth is going to be," she said. "They can apply for other positions."
When asked whether the new positions would be at a lower rate of pay, Catalinich said it depends because some jobs could pay more and others less.
"It varies," she said. "I can't make a broad statement. It's all over the board."
REI just opened a new store Friday in Oxnard, Calif. The company's website also posts job openings at the Kent office.
"There's quite a bit of hiring going on at REI," Catalinich said.
Meanwhile, the company continues to keep a close watch as the U.S. Senate considers the confirmation of Sally Jewell, CEO and president of REI, to be the nation's Secretary of the Interior. President Obama nominated Jewell last month for the job. A Senate committee voted 19-3 Thursday to confirm Jewell. The full Senate will consider the confirmation next month.
If Jewell is confirmed for the job, REI then will begin a national search to replace her, Catalinich said. The company has an interim replacement in the mean time.Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at email@example.com or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.