Outdoor Retailers Cautiously Reopening Some Stores, with Safeguards

Outdoor retailers are beginning to cautiously reopen some stores across the country, after shutting them down in March because of COVID-19.

REI said in an email May 12 that some stores will open for a limited number of customers, while others will have only curbside service for online orders.

Eddie Bauer is reopening stores in Texas, Montana, and Tennessee, with customers limited to five at a time and frequent store cleanings.

Patagonia expects to reopen ten stores for curbside pickup on May 20, according to a story in the New York Times. The company has resumed online orders, which it shut down in March.

But the reopenings do not mean it will be easy for outdoor retailers in the coming months.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario told the Times that online sales may be the driving force for many months, and that she does not see in-store openings until June, or maybe even fall or early winter depending on the rate of COVID-19 infections.

The companies that are reopening stores and resuming limited operations say they are taking the health and safety of workers and customers into account.

“In every case, we’ll be taking precautions for the health and safety of our employees, customers and communities,” REI said in its email from Eric Artz, the co-op’s president and CEO. “We’ll have health and safety procedures in place for our store teams, and clear guidance for you on how to shop or do curbside pick-up. We’ll also be closely following guidance from national, state and local authorities to make sure we’re operating in compliance with any restrictions in your area.”

Patagonia says that face masks and gloves will be provided and required for all on-site employees; employee start times will be staggered and they will be told not to come to work if they are sick; and surfaces will be cleaned throughout the day.

Eddie Bauer says employees will be required to wear face masks, and customers will be encouraged to do the same; fitting rooms will be closed; and all purchases must be made by credit or debit card.

Beyond the loss of retail sales, outdoor retailers have had to halt programs that draw people to the stores, programs that create a sense of outdoor community. In-store seminars, backcountry trips, and gear repair have all been halted.

REI is trying to restore those programs with virtual events and gatherings for co-op members, zero-contact shop services for bicycle maintenance at stores, a virtual outfitting program, and a redesigned returns process.

And because many outdoor retailers count social responsibility as a big part of their business, they’ve made adjustments to maintain those values.

Artz forfeited 100% of his base salary for six months and REI senior leadership team members took a 20% pay reduction for six months.

REI paid retail employees and maintained their benefits through April 14 after closing stores in March.

Patagonia furloughed 80% of its retail staff for 90 days, but continued their health benefits.

And companies reached out to their communities.

Cascade Designs, parent company of Mountain Safety Research and Therm-a-Rest, transitioned its Seattle factory to manufacture medical masks that have been donated to West Coast hospitals. The company also is making protective reusable gowns for firefighters, and is giving a discount on all its brands for health care workers for a year.

Maine retailer L.L. Bean is sewing dog bed liners into medical masks. Production began March 31, and most of the masks are bound for MaineHealth, Maine’s largest health care network.

Canada Goose, best known for its $1,000 parkas, is making scrubs and gowns to be donated to medical professions.

“The gear will be donated locally at no cost, with the goal of providing as much equipment as possible to those in need,” Canada Goose said in a statement.

In the end, outdoor retailers have adjusted to meet the needs of employees, customers, and community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The journey is far from over, but we are making progress, and we’re grateful for your support and understanding right now,” Artz said in REI’s email. “To everyone who has reached out with a word of encouragement or has helped support local nonprofits through our Outdoor Emergency Fund, thank you.”

See all of REI’s COVID-19 information here.

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Comments 1

  • Avatar
    Sandra Knuth : May 17th

    I hope the hikers who obtained wilderness permits through the John Muir Trail lottery can hike this summer.

    Reply

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