REI reduces staff at Kent headquarters

CEO Eric Artz announces layoffs

REI reduces staff at Kent headquarters

REI has reduced the number of employees at its Kent headquarters because of COVID-19.

The specialty outdoor retailer announced last month the temporary closure of its 162 stores. CEO Eric Artz made an additional announcement this week that includes layoffs in Kent.

“Our limited operations mean we are also making overall reductions of our headquarters workforce,” Artz said in a blog. “All impacted full-time employees will receive severance along with outplacement services and support.”

Artz did not say how many Kent employees the decision impacts. The company employs an estimated 1,4o0 in Kent.

“I can’t share any details beyond what was outlined in the blog post our CEO Eric Artz posted earlier this week,” a REI spokesperson said in a Wednesday email to the Kent Reporter when asked for specific details.

The spokesperson also declined to comment about the potential impact of the coronavirus on REI’s planned move of its headquarters this year to Bellevue from Kent. The company announced the move in 2016 because it had outgrown its space in Kent and wanted to build a campus in Bellevue that will serve as a gathering place that fosters creativity and connects thousands of increasingly mobile employees.

REI opened its headquarters in Kent in 1988. The company was founded in 1938 in Seattle.

In his blog, Artz said the next few months could be the key to when stores will reopen.

“While we cannot predict the future, we must make informed assumptions and plan accordingly to control what we can,” Artz said. “We’re particularly focused on the next few months because we don’t know exactly when we’ll be able to reopen our stores. We believe this will be the most challenging period for our business, and we have to make some immediate decisions that impact REI employees.”

Artz said he is forfeiting 100% of his base salary for the next six months, as well as forfeiting all of his incentive eligibility for 2020. The board of directors is forfeiting their fees for the next six months as well. The entire senior leadership team will be taking a 20% pay reduction for the next six months and will also forfeit all of their incentive eligibility for 2020.

“We have also made the decision to begin an unpaid 90-day furlough of the majority of our retail and field employees, beginning on April 15,” Artz said. “During this period, all health and welfare benefits will continue as normal for all eligible furloughed employees. In addition, REI will also pay the employee portion of benefit premiums, which means we’ll be covering 100% of eligible employee health and welfare premium costs for all furloughed employees for all 90 days for those employees. All furloughed employees will be eligible to apply for government-funded unemployment pay.”

REI blog post

To Our Co-op Community,

Three weeks ago, in the face of the growing outbreak of COVID-19, I shared our decision to temporarily close our 162 retail locations and continue paying all of our retail employees and maintaining their benefits through April 14. As that date approaches, I want to share what we’re doing next.

Our hope is to begin a gradual reopening of our stores in the coming months. We plan to begin with curbside pickup hopefully in the next 45 days. And we look forward to welcoming you all back into our stores when it’s safe to do so. As we did with our decision to temporarily close our stores, we’re going to prioritize the safety of our employees and customers and closely track federal and local guidance.

While we cannot predict the future, we must make informed assumptions and plan accordingly to control what we can. We’re particularly focused on the next few months because we don’t know exactly when we’ll be able to reopen our stores. We believe this will be the most challenging period for our business, and we have to make some immediate decisions that impact REI employees.

Those decisions begin with me and with my senior leadership team. I am forfeiting 100% of my base salary for the next six months, as well as forfeiting all of my incentive eligibility for 2020. Our board of directors is forfeiting their fees for the next six months as well. My entire senior leadership team will be taking a 20% pay reduction for the next six months and will also forfeit all of their incentive eligibility for 2020.

We have also made the decision to begin an unpaid 90-day furlough of the majority of our retail and field employees, beginning on April 15. During this period, all health and welfare benefits will continue as normal for all eligible furloughed employees. In addition, REI will also pay the employee portion of benefit premiums, which means we’ll be covering 100% of eligible employee health and welfare premium costs for all furloughed employees for all 90 days for those employees. All furloughed employees will be eligible to apply for government-funded unemployment pay.

Our limited operations mean we are also making overall reductions of our headquarters workforce. All impacted full-time employees will receive severance along with outplacement services and support.

As the co-op’s CEO, my job is to serve our employees and you, our members. This current crisis is testing us all, but we have worked to make sure our decisions and actions are consistent with the co-op’s mission and values.

To everyone who has reached out with suggestions about ways to help the co-op and our people during this period, I thank you. We have considered every option, and I’m confident the actions we’re taking are the most beneficial for affected employees. The best thing you can do to continue to support the co-op is to continue supporting the co-op—both our business and our community of nonprofit partners across the country. In the coming days, we’ll be sharing more about how to directly support that nonprofit network.

And even with our stores closed, we’re working hard to continue serving your needs. Most orders through REI.com are being shipped for free. Customers who have questions about gear and local outdoor activities can get answers through our digital community, REI Conversations, and Co-op Journal will feature articles that help people find ways to safely get outside during these challenging times.

I am determined and committed to seeing the co-op through this. I am optimistic we will come out of this crisis as strong a community and business as we were coming into it. And I will continue to fight to ensure the co-op will be here for another 82 years to connect our members to a life well lived outdoors.

My best,

Eric Artz

President & CEO, REI Co-op


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

t
Sysco employees show off job skills at Kent warehouse

Company holds competitions in warehouse work and truck driving

Summer Passports can be found at all 12 participating women-owned businesses. Courtesy photo.
12 local women-owned businesses launch summer passport program

In an initiative to boost small businesses in Maple Valley, Covington and Black Diamond, shoppers and patrons of each women-owned business will be eligible to receive weekly raffle prizes.

t
Kent Chamber of Commerce CEO Harris to participate in leadership program

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation selects her for national business course

Courtesy Photo, Safeway
Two Kent grocery stores on Kroger-Albertsons sale list

Safeway on SE Kent-Kangley and QFC on SE 240th Street

t
Kent-based Blue Origin completes seventh human spaceflight

Six-member crew included Ed Dwight, the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate in the 1960s

t
Christie Nelson new leader of John L. Scott office that serves Kent

Office also handles Covington and Maple Valley with 60 brokers

t
Kent-based Blue Origin’s seventh human flight set for May 19

New Shepard-25 will launch from West Texas

t
Kent’s copper-colored building near Highway 167 to become banquet hall

Facility on Washington Avenue South previously housed LA Fitness; newspaper printing plant

t
Kent-based Stoke Space names retired US Space Force leader to board

Lt. Gen. John E Shaw appointed to Board of Directors

t
City of Kent again looking for new tenant at Riverbend restaurant

City terminates lease with Half Lion Public House, which had hoped to reopen at golf complex

t
Kent-based Blue Origin announces crew for next space flight

6 members to include former Air Force captain selected in 1961 as first Black astronaut candidate

t
Kent man among 40 Under 40 honorees by Puget Sound Business Journal

Andy Song, 33, works as chief operating officer at Kids and Family Counseling