Outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) has hired industry veteran Lee Fromson to head the company's Gear and Apparel product group as its vice president. Fromson will join REI on April 1.
REI's Gear and Apparel team develops, designs and sources equipment and apparel for outdoor pursuits under the REI brand name, and the company also offers bicycles, cycling gear and cycling apparel under the Novara brand. The division accounts for about 20 percent of REI's total sales, making it one of the largest brands in the outdoor industry. The Gear and Apparel group has 59 staff members with expertise in all elements product development.
Fromson resigned in February from the position of president of Cascade Designs, Inc. (CDI) after a 23-year career with the Seattle-based company. He served as president during the past four years, and over his career worked at CDI in the positions of comptroller, CFO and COO. Cascade Designs owns a family of premium outdoor brands that include MSR®, Therm-a-Rest®, SealLine®, Platypus®, and Varilite®, which specializes in wheelchair seating and positioning products.
“I've long been an admirer of Cascades Designs and the opportunity to have a respected leader with Lee's experience in manufacturing and outdoor products join REI is very exciting for our team.” said Matt Hyde, the company's senior vice president of Merchandising and Gear and Apparel. “As a vendor to REI for many years, Lee knows our business, understands what it takes to bring quality product to market, and he also has a sharp appreciation of our interest in growing the size of the outdoor market for REI and the industry.”
REI has offered products under its own brand, exclusively through REI outlets, for more than three decades. REI Gear and Apparel products in recent years have received a number of honors, which recently included Outside magazine Gear of the Year awards for the REI Taku jacket, and the REI Momentum jacket and a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award for the REI Half Dome 2 backpacking tent.
“I have a long history with REI as a vendor and business partner, and I have great respect for the company and all it does,” said Fromson. “The chance to join such a dynamic company and work with a team dedicated to making great product was too good an opportunity to miss. I've been increasingly impressed with a team of professionals at REI that is building a very strong reputation for its brand and its products in the outdoor industry.”
“REI is a very important retailer for Cascade Designs, and we wish both the company and Lee success in their efforts. Lee is a solid professional and should be a great asset to REI, as he was during his days with Cascade Designs,” said John Burroughs, a founder of CDI. Burroughs is currently the company's chairman and president.
Fromson is a well-known industry and outdoor leader. He served on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association for seven years, including a term as board chairman. OIA is the trade organization for human-powered outdoor companies. Fromson also serves on the boards of the National Forest Foundation and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.