If you’re an REI member and you’ve checked your email today, okay, and assuming you read REI emails, this might not be news, but: REI told members this morning the co-op didn’t make a profit in 2020, and therefore, they won’t be earning a dividend as they would in normal years. Instead, members will receive a reward (credit) for purchases at REI in the amount their dividend would have been, had there been one. Unlike a member dividend, however, the reward can’t be redeemed for cash—it must be used to buy something at REI.
This may seem strange, considering the boom in outdoor adventure during the pandemic, and especially if you’d tried to buy almost any piece of gear for outdoor adventures and found it to be out of stock. But most of the stock issues are related to supply chain shortages due to pandemic, not necessarily a crush of outdoor purchases. REI was also one of the first big retailers to completely close when the pandemic hit, taking a massive hit in their profits in the process.
REI members received an email this morning from Vivienne Long, Vice President of Marketing:
“2020 was a year like no other—at the co-op and around the world. Many organizations would say that the past year was among the most difficult years in their history. The same is true for our co-op.
We were one of the first retailers to proactively close all of our stores last spring, as the significance of the pandemic began to take shape. What we first thought might last a week or two ended up stretching for nearly two months. And while we ended the year in a strong financial position, with a healthy cash balance and no debt, our temporary store closure and great challenges posed by the pandemic meant we ended 2020 without making a profit…As challenging as last year was, we have something others don’t—you. Our members are at the center of who we are and how we operate. You asked us how you could help the co-op; we responded by asking for your continued loyalty as co-op members. We’re grateful for your support. Because of you, we made it through 2020 in better shape than we initially projected, and we believe the future is brighter than ever.”