REI Co-op announced a plan to slowly begin reopening brick & mortar stores across its U.S. footprint as the company prepares a “safe return to customer-facing services.”

Starting this week, REI will begin offering curbside pick-up at more than half of it stores across the country and will launch zero-contact bike shop services in select locations. The co-op will also begin opening its stores to customers, beginning with three stores in Montana.

In a letter to REI customers, REI President and CEO Eric Artz spelled out the process for opening the doors to REI’s 162 stores.

“I’m writing to share some good news,” Artz wrote. “After two months of temporary closures, this week we will begin reopening our stores—just in time to celebrate our 82nd anniversary. In some places ‘opening’ will mean curbside service. In others, our doors will open for a limited number of customers. In every case, we’ll be taking precautions to ensure the health and safety of our employees, customers and communities.”

The Kent, WA-based outdoor retail giant closed all of its retail locations on March 16 in response to COVID-19. At the time, Artz committed to working with store teams and public health officials across the country to figure out how to responsibly resume services as local conditions allowed.

The co-op said it will use four factors to determine where it can reopen customer-facing services:

  1. The co-op’s ability to ensure a set of detailed health and safety protocols
  2. Local community readiness and sentiment
  3. Federal, state, and local guidelines and restrictions
  4. Facility and team operational readiness

“We have made significant progress in all of these areas over the last month, and we are ready to begin expanding services in many of our stores,” Artz wrote. “Our hope and expectation are that more than half of our stores will be open for curbside pick-up in time for our anniversary sale, May 15 through 25 and a small number of stores will be open for in-store services as well.”

The co-op is also implementing a number of health and safety guidelines, including (but not limited to):

  • Operating on a reduced schedule and limiting the number of people allowed in stores;
  • Requiring employees to wear face coverings and asking customers to do the same (disposable face coverings will be available for those who don’t have them);
  • Socially distanced queuing at store entrances, cash registers and shop counters;
  • Installing plexiglass shields at all registers; and
  • Maintaining enhanced cleaning procedures with thorough, frequent cleanings of high-touch surface areas.

REI on April 6 announced it would furlough most retail and field employees for 90 days beginning April 15 as the company’s stores remained closed due to the coronavirus. Artz made the announcement in an email sent to the co-op community.

Other measures include Artz forfeiting 100 percent of his base salary for six months and his incentive eligibility for 2020. REI said its board of directors would forfeit their fees for the next six months and its entire senior leadership team would take a 20 percent pay reduction for the next six months and forfeit all incentive eligibility for 2020.

Photo courtesy REI