REI TO CAST NET IN STORES
Byline: Denise Power
NEW YORK — Outdoor apparel retailer REI plans to complete this week a full rollout of in-store computer kiosks linked to the Internet, effectively bringing its on-line cyberstore into its physical retail space.
The Seattle company, with 50 stores and a mail-order business, is bringing to stores its two-year-old Internet commerce site, REI.com, as a way for smaller units to offer the same broad merchandise selection available in its 100,000-square-foot flagship store in Seattle.
Each store will be equipped with at least two Internet kiosks and perhaps as many as seven, depending on the size of the store, said Matt Hyde, on-line store manager for REI, also known as Recreational Equipment Inc.
REI plans to open its newest store, in Brookfield, Wis., on Friday.
“There are really two purposes here,” Hyde said. “The first is to get at a broader selection of product than is in our typical stores. The other is to provide product information and give customers and employees access to product specifications.”
When REI launched its Web site in September 1996, complete with detailed product data, the company’s management became concerned that on-line consumers would have access to more information about REI merchandise than its own employees on the sales floor. It was at that point that REI began thinking about bringing the Internet site into stores to benefit both customers and staff.
Because REI sells performance-oriented merchandise such as outdoor gear and equipment in addition to apparel, consumers are often interested in information about specific product features. For example, a hiker may want to compare the down content or weights of various sleeping bags — details a sales associate may not know offhand, but has ready access to via an on-line kiosk.
REI, a consumer cooperative with more than 1.5 million active members, reported 1997 sales of $536 million. While REI stores are open to the general public, only members share in the cooperative’s profits. In 1997, the company paid out $29.5 million in revenues to its members.