REI expands gear rental to 115 stores
As promised, REI announced another expansion of its gear rental program in 2019, which will include, among other things, snowshoes, skis, snowboards, and camping and backpacking kits. The products will be available for rent in 115 stores, according to a company press release.
The outdoor retailer also announced Tuesday that it would be investing in used gear and gear trade-in options both in physical stores and online. The moves come off of a record $2.78 billion in net sales for fiscal 2018, as well as the addition of one million new co-op members.
A new brand campaign, building off of the success of #OptOutside, was also announced in the press release. Find Out aims to change "how people think about the powerful role the outdoors can play in their lives and sets out to tackle head-on the trend that more than half of Americans do not recreate outside even once a year."
REI's environmental focus is climbing ever higher as the retailer expands upon sustainable initiatives launched in years past. Rental and used gear, both trends that have taken hold in the outdoors space in particular, are also becoming popular in the apparel space thanks to players like Rent the Runway, which recently hit unicorn status and announced several expansion efforts, including kids apparel and home goods through a West Elm partnership.
REI launched sales of used gear in 2017 and has since broadened the program with more brands and product categories, evidently with no plans to slow down. The rental program has also been a source of repeat investment; the retailer kicked off a "significant expansion" of the program in December and this move is further evidence of those efforts.
"We're determined to make it as easy as possible for people to make more sustainable choices," Ben Steele, REI's chief customer officer, said in a statement, citing the retailer's year-old introduction of product sustainability standards, as well as the ability to search for products by sustainability attributes online. "In 2019, we see the expanded rental and used gear program as keeping us moving toward a sustainable and accessible outdoor future by offering new models of access to great outdoor gear and apparel."
The retailer also highlighted its philanthropic efforts for the year, which included investing $8.4 million into nonprofits, and stewarding more than 5,000 outdoor places and 86,000 miles of trails.
REI is not alone in building a business model off of sustainability. Competitor Patagonia's brand message is tightly aligned with the environment, and startups outside of the outdoor space, like Allbirds and by Humankind, are also launching with sustainable missions.
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