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Outdoor Retailer REI Lays Off 400 Retail Workers Following Furlough

Despite the rising popularity of outdoor excursions throughout this spring’s lockdowns, heritage apparel and gear retailer REI has been hit hard by the lack of foot traffic to its stores.

In April, the sustainable stalwart laid off nearly 300 employees at headquarters and furloughed about 90 percent of its store staff, funding benefits for eligible employees during the period that followed. Last week, the company notified about 400 retail workers—about 5 percent of its total workforce—that they would not be brought back. The furlough period was set to end on Wednesday, July 15.

An REI spokesperson confirmed the news to Sourcing Journal, adding that the company now employs about 13,000 people. “As of July 6, nearly all REI stores are open in some capacity with a focus on health and safety standards for employees and customers, and we’ve been able to bring the majority of those employees back from furlough,” the spokesperson said.

The 82-year-old company has been pummeled, like so many others, by the spread of the coronavirus and the resulting retail shutdowns. But REI hasn’t let up on its commitments to support America’s national parklands—a mainstay of its corporate mission.

Last month, REI released a statement in support of the passing of the Great American Outdoors (GAO) Act, which passed on June 17. The ruling addresses the underfunding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been bogged down with a backlog of maintenance requests for issues on federal public lands.

The GAO provided $9.5 billion to address those outstanding problems, and committed another $900 billion annually to the LWCF.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is historic legislation that will provide more high-quality and more equitable access to outdoor recreation across the county, make a strong investment in our public lands, and provide full funding for the LWCF,” said REI CEO and president, Eric Artz, said in a statement. “I applaud the bipartisan leadership for its commitment to passing this vital legislation and remaining united outside.”

REI called outdoor recreation a “major driver of the U.S. economy,” with concrete benefits to physical, mental and emotional well-being. As shoppers across the country continue to socially distance, forgoing crowded spaces, the advantages of spending time outside should be “made available for all,” the company said.