REI Co-op is selling its new campus even before it moves in a shift away from the traditional retail HQ model.
The outdoor gear and apparel retailer is pursuing a sale of its nearly completed, eight-acre corporate campus in the Spring District of Bellevue, Washington, as it moves to a “less centralized” approach to its headquarters presence in the Seattle area. REI, which transitioned to nearly 100% remote work for its headquarters staff in early March, began construction of the new site in 2018, with an intended mid-summer 2020 move-in date.
“The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reexamine and rethink every aspect of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. That includes where and how we work," said REI president and CEO Eric Artz, in a video call with employees on Wednesday. "As a result, our new experience of 'headquarters' will be very different than the one we imagined more than four years ago."
Rather than a single location, REI's "headquarters" would span multiple locations across the region (including an existing site in Georgetown). The company said it will “ lean into remote working” as a normalized model for headquarters employees, offering flexibility for more employees to live and work outside of the Puget Sound region while also shrinking the eco-conscious retailer’s co-op's carbon footprint.
REI expects to operate in several sites, including an existing one in Georgetown, as well as new satellite campuses on the Eastside and in South Puget Sound, which the company is scouting for.
"[This year] we learned that the more distributed way of working we previously thought untenable will instead unlock incredible potential," said Artz. "This will have immediate, positive impacts on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond."
REI said that while the decision to move away from a traditional headquarters model was motivated by recent learnings and a desire to create more flexibility for employees, the sale would also have financial benefits for the retailer and enable important investments in customer innovations along with the company’s network of nonprofit partners and carbon goals.
"I am confident that the sale of the Spring District campus would have a positive impact on REI's future—and yours," Artz told employees. "This year has shown us our home is not a building. Our home is wherever we find ourselves doing our best work, pursuing our outdoor passions, serving our communities. Serving each other. That is what we will build around as we move forward—and as we accelerate into what's next."
REI has 161 locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia.