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I worked at REINo opinion of CEONo opinion of CEO
If you are a tree hugging camping nut who can't afford all the expensive gear and want to talk "shop" with a mainly Anglo-saxon crowd. The best thing about REI is the pro-deals. You can routinely get 50% or more off Oakleys, Patagonia, NF, Osprey's all year round on their top selling products. Also the classes are free though I never taken advantage of them.
Also the managers are some of the nicest people you'll work for. They are very cool and smart for the line of work they are doing. Most of them went to college and graduated with a wide range of subjects from environmentalism, English, computer science, etc.
All the negative aspects of retail like dealing with messy racks and dressing rooms. REI has a chronic problem with things out of order because they employ the same number of employees as Target, but expect them to help the customer and pay attention to them instead of stocking and arranging the floor. That's why when you walk into REI, it always look like there's been a hurricane on the racks.
Technical knowledge is a plus, but there seemed to be a more emphasis on salesmanship. Your performance wasn't based on how hard you worked or how much you helped a customer, it was based on member sales. Though I got to admit, the very knowledgeable people also sold a lot more memberships.
During my last days in REI, hours were cut to the bone with people working from 14 hours a week to 3-2 hours a week. Inventory was getting piled up in the warehouse, and it was a mad rush to stock everyday. On the whole, the very business model seemed very inefficient and aimless. A big concern was payroll. It was over budget because we had sales specialists and people solely working on inventory. I guess that's one of the problems of having a camping store in a city.
Advice to Management
More efficient logistics. Also training could use more work. The good salesman were people who actually had a passion for camping and hiking. They knew what they were talking about. Only they all had full time jobs so were not available most of the time. The people that were available a lot were college students, part timers, and people who had poor interpersonal skills like myself.