REI Executive on the Changing Apparel Mix
I am still super intrigued about how REI is changing its merchandising mix to include a broader range of brands, including some that are, shall we say, on the hipper side of the equation compared with the more crunchy styles the store has been known for in the past.
(We previously visited a store and evaluated this new approach – read the story here.)
Newer brands we saw in the store when we visited included Katin, Roark, Vissla, Vuori, HippyTree, Bridge & Burn and Mollusk.
We followed up with REI to ask about the tweaks in the apparel strategy. Michele Orr, the merchandising manager for apparel, answered a few questions for us.
Why did REI change its merchandise mix?
Michele Orr: At the highest level, REI is a specialty outdoor retailer. Our customers expect unique and differentiated products.
A few years ago, we asked our members and customers directly if our apparel assortments were meeting their expectations. They gave us great feedback and since then, we’ve made strategic shifts and concerted efforts to make sure we serve both our traditional and new REI apparel customers.
How would you describe the direction?
Michel Orr: In addition to offering the sought-after outdoor brands and core products, we seek out unique products and brands that are outdoor-oriented and meet our customers’ performance standards.
We listen to feedback from our members and employees, and our merchants attend diverse trade shows and markets to seek new brands. We also have our quarterly innovator series on the REI campus where we interview and vet potential new brands.
What kind of brands work for this new direction?
Michele Orr: Brands that offer versatile products that perform well on the trail and also look great for that post-activity brewery or wine bar stop.
What has been the customer response?
Michele Orr: Over the past few years our apparel sales have grown and we’ve received positive customer feedback.
Have the tweaks led to any changes in the age of the shopper buying clothing at REI?
Michele Orr: We are attracting a more diverse range of customers who are especially interested in some of the new brands we have introduced.
Are there similar changes happening in women’s? If so, what kind of brands have been added?
Michele Orr: Yes. Some of the newer brands in women’s are Indygena, Beyond Yoga and Kari Traa. In addition, Vuori added women’s clothing this year.