REI Ended 2020 ‘Without Making a Profit’ — What Happens to Its Member Dividend?

REI is replacing its member dividend with a special reward after ending a pandemic-plagued year “without making a profit.”

In a letter to co-op members, VP of marketing Vivienne Long wrote that the annual benefit — or a share of the outdoor and sporting goods retailer’s yearly profits — will not apply for 2020. Instead, it plans to dole out a member reward equivalent to what their dividend would have been: 10% back on eligible full-price purchases in 2020.

“Since we didn’t earn a profit in 2020, we don’t have those profits to provide to members in the form of a dividend,” said Long. However, she explained that the reward will “feel a lot like the dividend experience you’re used to.”

Co-op members, according to REI, will be able to see their total reward in their account on March 1. (REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard rewards are unaffected by this change.) The reward will expire on Dec. 31.

“It’s our way of saying thank you for your loyalty and support in 2020, and our hope that you get to enjoy lots of time outside in 2021,” Long added. “In good times or bad, our community always comes first.”

Last spring, as the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the United States, REI shuttered its 162 units. It continued to pay employees through March but, like many retailers, announced unpaid 90-day furloughs for the majority of its store and field workers starting mid-April. It also made staff reductions at its headquarters.

Following two months of temporary closures, the co-op reopened its outposts with curbside pickup and virtual outfitting services.

Despite the impact of the coronavirus on its brick-and-mortar fleet, Long shared in the letter that the company ended 2020 in a “strong financial position, with a healthy cash balance and no debt.” She added that REI welcomed nearly one million new members to its community last year.

“Because of you, we made it through 2020 in better shape than we initially projected,” Long wrote, “and we believe the future is brighter than ever.”

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