REI has a new head, the eighth CEO in the company’s 80-plus year history. Yesterday, REI announced that Eric Artz, the man who’s kept a hand on the tiller as interim CEO since Jerry Stritzke abruptly resigned four months ago, will assume the role permanently.
Artz is a big-time veteran of the apparel industry, you won’t be surprised to learn. He spent nearly two decades at VF Corporation, the parent company behind The North Face, Altra, Icebreaker, and Smartwool, among others. Artz was also an exec at Urban Outfitters. He held various “C” roles at REI in the seven years he’s been there, and is very plugged into the outdoor executive leadership world. Artz sits on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association and is an advisor to the Univerity of Washington’s Earth Lab, a program REI has sunk a ton of money into that researches how people use the outdoors.
Aside from shuffling at the company’s top post, times are very good for REI. In 2018 they posted record earnings, a staggering $2.78 billion, their biggest year ever. There are more than 18 million REI members earning dividends across the country (full disclosure: your author included). New stores are opening and the company is pumping millions of dollars into the outdoor community; they recently passed the $100 million mark in donations to outdoor causes.
Stritzke, you may remember, resigned after disclosing he’d been involved in a consensual relationship with the leader of a competing outdoor brand. Speculation swirled about who would replace Stritzke at the top. Now we know. Stritzke was the mind behind REI’s #OptOutside program, and a driving force behind the brand’s push to get more people outside, in their public lands, learning new outdoor skills. Artz’s involvement in Earth Lab suggests he’ll continue the same tack.