Comp stores sales at Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) declined 3.5% in 2009, or better than the retail co-op’s expectations of a 5% decline, the Seattle Times reported.

REI saw same-store sales jump 2% in the fourth quarter, the newspaper reported. By comparison, Dick’s Sporting Goods reported last week that same-store sales – including Golf Galaxy – rose 2.5% in the fourth quarter and declined 1.4% in 2009. For its third quarter ended Dec. 27, Sports Chalet reported a 10.8% decline in same-store sales.

REI published unaudited financial results for last year in mid-February and is expected to release its annual report in coming days. Annual dividend checks worth $80 million will begin arriving in the mail for the co-op millions of members in coming weeks. 

In an interview with the newspaper, REI CEO Sally Jewel said the co-op will open three new stores this year and would like to open more but that developers have been unable to secure financing for new malls.