REI recently named Christine Putur, a technology veteran of retail sector companies such as Coach and Staples, as its new chief information officer, REI confirmed to Retail Dive.
The news was first reported by GeekWire, which noted that Putur fills the CIO job left open when former REI CIO Julie Averill left the company earlier this year to become the CTO at Lululemon.
While an REI spokeswoman confirmed that Putur had joined the company, she provided no further details on the hiring, saying the retailer will have "more information coming out soon."
Averill, who left REI in May, was the first CIO in the history of the outdoors and fitness retailer. Putur has been a CIO at other well-known firms in the sector as well. She was CIO and executive vice president at Coach for the last four-plus years, and earlier served as CIO and senior vice president of Staples, a company she was with for more than a decade.
It's not clear what drove Putur to join REI, but Coach has made some big changes recently, announcing a rebranding as Tapestry and bringing on a new president and CEO. Regime changes often do drive executives to seek out new challenges, and REI might represent one for Putur, as it's a retailer that has aggressively migrated operational systems to the cloud.
Meanwhile, REI has widely been viewed as a rising star in its particular segment. Its marketing efforts have been viewed as a model for other retailers, and it has generated praise not only for leading the anti-Black Friday movement, but also by putting a strong focus on gender equality. The retailer's commitment to the latter is only emphasized by the number of women holding senior-level positions, especially the CIO role, of which women make up just 19%.
Regarding its now three-year tradition of closing on Black Friday, the #OptOutside marketing campaign that grew out of that decision is now becoming a technology campaign as well. The retailer last month announced an #OptOutside search engine for user-generated content, including images and information to help users share and discover outdoor activities, instead of trampling (or getting trampled) at the local shopping mall.
It's not clear if that effort will come under Putur's guidance, or what her most high-priority strategic missions will be, but with Bass Pro Shops' recently completed acquisition of Cabela's, REI may be sensing an opportunity to up its game in a number of areas, technology included.