REI pushes outdoors spending to new peak


REI rode into Kitsap last fall on a wave of enthusiasm.

About 800 people waited in line (some overnight) for the opening of the new Silverdale store.

The iconic sporting goods retailer’s entry into West Sound was hailed by both outdoor and economic development groups.

To get a sense of REI’s direct economic impact, I pulled retail sales numbers for sporting goods stores in unincorporated Kitsap County.

The chart below shows those taxable sales broken down by quarter for the last four years. It’s not hard to tell when REI opened its doors:

REI debuted in October, the start of the fourth quarter of 2013. Taxable sporting goods sales jumped by $2.8 million in that quarter compared with the same months in 2012. Though that gain can’t be attributed wholly to REI, the store clearly drove up spending in the busy holiday season.

I checked in with store manager Greta Eaton Caulfield to see how things have gone in Silverdale since then:

— You had huge interest for the opening, has that momentum carried on?

Yes, although the initial interest has tapered since the beginning of the year. Many people still don’t know that we are here! Just about every day someone comes in and tells us they did not realize that REI had opened a store in Silverdale.

— Are there items/departments/programs that have proven especially popular in Kitsap?

Footwear, clothing, camping and paddling have all been very popular with our customers.

— Any plans for new additions to the store? A rental section perhaps?

REI has scaled back on its rental strategy and only a select number of stores have rental depts. There are no plans to add rentals to Silverdale. However, REI is constantly evaluating its assortment strategy based on in store sales, so breadth and depth of products we carry will change over time.

— How does REI contribute locally?

REI contributes the local community in variety of ways. While we cannot provide specific financial info we have provided jobs for approximately 40 employees in the local area. In addition, REI donates to and partners with non-profits who work to maintain and protect the lands where our members, customers and employees recreate. 

Washingtonians spend about $22.5 billion on outdoor recreation annually, generating about $1.6 billion in tax revenue, according to the national Outdoor Industry Association.

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