“REI cuts 275 employees in store operations overhaul” by Cara Salpini via Retail Dive

“REI cuts 275 employees in store operations overhaul” by Cara Salpini via Retail Dive

A brick REI storefront. The outdoor retailer said its operating model is more than a decade old and no longer supports its employees. Daphne Howland/Retail Dive

Dive Brief:

  • REI is laying off about 275 people in “lead” roles in stores as it shifts its store operating model, the company confirmed to Retail Dive. The outdoor retailer is eliminating the lead position, which is “the most inconsistently used role across the fleet,” according to a note Vice President of Stores Mary-Farrell Tarbox sent to employees Thursday.
  • Outside of those laid off, most employees in the position will move to new roles, Tarbox wrote. The company is reinvesting much of the lost hours into other roles in stores and is also adding new positions. REI has about 12,300 store employees.
  • “This is not something we take lightly — these actions are necessary to set us up for long-term success,” Tarbox said. “We cannot build a best-in-class employee experience while we currently have more than 180 different employee experiences.”

Dive Insight:

REI is overhauling its store operating model in pursuit of a more consistent experience. 

“Our current operating model for stores is more than a decade old,” Tarbox wrote. “While there are some things that we have done and continue to do extremely well, there are many areas that are out of date and no longer serving our employees or REI’s mission and business.”

Tarbox joined REI as its vice president of stores and retail operations about a year ago. Now, the retailer is updating its employee scheduling processes, with the aim of giving a majority of store associates “transparent and consistent hour predictions with committed weekly ranges.” Employees will be divided into full-time, part-time and part-time+ positions, each with a designated range of work hours per week. 

REI also updated job descriptions for several positions and said changed titles to better reflect what work is performed. In addition to cutting the lead role in stores, REI introduced senior specialist and senior shop mechanics positions. The company is also introducing new volume bands for stores that determine staffing levels and the correct mix of roles at a store.

“These changes will give us 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 said.

REI’s most recent layoffs come after a round of job cuts in February that impacted more than 150 employees at the outdoor company’s corporate headquarters. That decision was aimed at reorganizing REI around its “areas of highest impact” as it looks to regain profitability. Despite record sales, the co-op swung to a loss in 2022, recording a net loss of $164.7 million compared to a net income of $97.7 million the year prior.

The retailer is expanding its store presence with used gear stores dubbed Re/Supply, and just last week announced a new distribution center opening in Tennessee.

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