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In an email sent to REI staff members last week, CEO Eric Artz reportedly confirmed plans to lay off 400 retail employees by Wednesday, cutting the company’s 13,000-person customer-facing workforce by roughly 3 percent.
Though OBJ was unable to obtain a copy of the email, sources have confirmed that the layoffs were disclosed to employees in anticipation of the company’s furlough period ending on July 15. The cuts will involve mainly those employees that have not yet returned to work, including some who do not wish to return, or are unable to do so.
In the email, Artz is said to have written that “nearly all employees who have the skills needed” and “who were available for the hours and shifts required for current customer demand” will return to work. “As the months roll by, it’s clear that the virus is going to be with us in a profound way, for the foreseeable future. We’re doing great work serving customer demand right now, but there’s a lot we still don’t know about the long-term impacts to the economy and the full impact to our business.”
In March and early April, REI closed all 162 of its retail locations and furloughed 90 percent of its staff without pay. The company also laid off about 300 corporate employees at its Kent, Washington, headquarters. As of July 6, most of those stores have reopened and the majority of employees have come back to work.
Asked about specifics of the layoffs, a spokesperson for REI declined to comment, other than to say, “nearly all REI stores are open in some capacity with a focus on health and safety standards for employees and customers, and we’ve been able to bring the majority of those employees back from furlough. Last week we notified approximately 400 retail employees (less than 5 percent of our retail staff) they will not be brought back when the furlough period ends on July 15.”