REI making bigger play in running category with in-store, online moves

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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REI is stepping up efforts to engage customers.

REI Co-op is investing in a multi-year strategy to capitalize on its growing running business. 

The nation’s largest consumer co-op said customer demand for running and fitness products has doubled since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, REI is broadening its related product assortment, updating in-store and digital experiences and expanding national and local partnerships.

"REI's run business has grown more than 65 percent since 2019,"  said Fan Zhou, REI run activity director. "As interest and demand for run continues to grow, the co-op is uniquely positioned to serve runners of all skill levels."

Following is an overview of REI’s new initiatives. 

Product assortment

REI is growing its assortment of technical running gear with both national brands and new options from its in-house brand, such as the Swiftland Running collection. Designed specifically for runners, the line of apparel, accessories and gear is available in inclusive sizing.

In-store and digital experiences

REI will complement its increased product offering with updated in-store and digital experiences. The retailer is piloting new store layouts,  deepening staff training and expanding running footwear fit services in all stores and online to help customers select the appropriate shoes. Additionally, the co-op is deepening its engagement with local run clubs and is creating more opportunities to connect communities through their passion for the sport.  

Online, REI will increase customer access to one-on-one virtual outfitting sessions, where shoppers can obtain expert advice on outdoor products from REI product experts who are also American Sports & Fitness Association (ASFA) certified running coaches.

REI relaunches lifetime membership program

REI’s latest efforts to increase omnichannel customer engagement comes on the heels of making some major changes to its loyalty offering. In March 2022, the retailer revamped its lifetime membership program.

New and enhanced membership benefits include a curated set of products just for members that will launch each month; used gear offerings, called Re/Supply, that are just for members; free U.S. standard shipping on all orders, with no minimum purchase required; and bike, ski and snowboard shop services discounts that are now doubled to 20% off for members. Bicycle flat tire repairs and ski/snowboarding machine wax service continue to be free.

Through continued grant and gear support for Black Girls Run and REI's Path Ahead Ventures initiative, the co-op is investing $30 million to support 300 Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs in growing and scaling their businesses.

Headquartered near Seattle, REI has 174 locations in 41 states and the District of Columbia, as well as two e-commerce sites and a mobile app. The company recently said it is building a 400,000-sq.-ft. distribution center in Lebanon, Tenn., to support its continued growth on the East Coast and in the Midwest and South.