Outdoor retail standout REI has a new leader.
REI veteran Eric Artz is now its president and CEO, effective immediately. The exec is just its eighth CEO in 81 years, according to REI.
“After a thorough national search, it was clear to us that the best person for the job was already leading the co-op,” REI board chair Steve Hooper said in a statement. “To his core, Eric believes in the purpose and impact of the co-op. Anyone who knows him well will tell you that above all, he cares deeply about the power of the outdoors to bring people together.”
Hooper made the announcement in front of REI co-op members, employees, nonprofit leaders and community members at its annual member meeting on Monday at its flagship store in Washington, D.C.
“It is such a great honor to serve this organization. REI is so much bigger than a single person. You need to know that I am here to serve you,” Artz said in a statement. “What you all do each day as employees and members of REI makes a difference in people’s lives. My job is to help you reach more people. The fight for life outdoors starts right here at REI.”
Prior to the role, Artz — who joined REI in 2012 — was most recently the retailer’s COO. Prior to that, he was its CFO.
Artz also served as REI’s interim president and CEO since February after the resignation of Jerry Stritzke, who left following what REI described as an investigation surrounding a “personal and consensual relationship” with a leader of another outdoor industry organization.
The exec will take over a firm that announced in April that it made $2.78 billion in 2018, a company record.
In order to be successful, The NPD Group Inc.’s senior sports industry analyst Matt Powell believes his mission is clear.
“He’ll need to stay true to the core values that built REI — [to] inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship,” Powell said. “I’m sure he lives these values every day.”
And Susquehanna Financial LLLP analyst Sam Poser agrees.
“He needs to make sure they stay focused, stay to their guns and continue to build upon why they’re there and what they’re all about,” Poser said. “The secret sauce these days is knowing who you are, why you’re there and continuing to improve on that and not try to go out and do something just because you can. Just because you could sell something doesn’t mean you should sell something.”
It appears that plans to stay the course are already in motion. Last month, REI stated it would expand its gear rental program and invest in used-gear and gear trade-in options. The rollout will occur in-store at its 115 doors throughout the U.S. and online.
In today’s statement, Artz said one of the biggest tasks ahead will be to lead REI in its efforts to connect new people with the outdoors.
“Our purpose at REI — our reason for being — is to awaken a lifelong love for the outdoors for all,” Artz said in a statement. “Because if we can’t help people to be connected with nature, how can we expect them to care for the long-term health of the planet?”
Artz is also the vice chairman of the board of the Outdoor Industry Association, according to REI, and sits on the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in Washington state.
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