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REI is Kicking Butt

From the Seattle Times comes a story on my favorite chain of stores, REI:

The gloomy economy hasn't turned Recreational Equipment Inc. members into a bunch of frugal couch potatoes.

Sales at REI's 63 stores kept growing last year as the Kent-based consumer cooperative turned a record $16 million profit, more than doubling 2001's bottom line, the company reported yesterday. Sales at stores open at least a year climbed 1 percent, while direct sales -- REI's online, phone and catalog division -- were up 2.5 percent...

While some national retailers are scaling back and closing stores, REI added four stores last year, including those in Tukwila and Tacoma. This year, the co-op plans to add seven stores in cities including Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco...

After dot-com expenses and failed Japanese expansion led REI to post its first-ever loss in 2000, the co-op decided to tighten its focus on its U.S. business in 2001. For the past year, REI's strategy has focused on three main points: opening new U.S. stores, building Internet sales, and putting more emphasis on designing and selling its own branded gear and outerwear.

REI made progress on all three fronts last year, [CEO Dennis] Madsen said: Each of the four new stores surpassed expectations; REI.com sales were up in the double digits; and REI-branded gear such as its half-dome tent and high-performance jackets were well-received...

REI members receive a 10 percent annual refund on purchases of full-priced merchandise. The co-op said it has set aside $38.7 million for member refunds and will give $1.8 million to such community efforts as environmental and youth programs.

One of my favorite stores of any type, anywhere, is the REI flagship store in Seattle. If you're visiting, I recommend it. There's a waterfall and a bicycling trail (to try out bikes) outside, and inside is a 65-foot climbing pinnacle with views of Puget Sound. Hot tip: the World Wrapps on the second floor has good wraps and bowls at cheap prices with panoramic views of downtown and the Sound. It's a great bargain. Oh, and they have an excellent parking structure. (It's an inside joke.)

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