REI layoffs

“Whether or not we really need 10 colors is another discussion, but definitely a first world problem.”

I was thinking the other day how spoiled we have become in having such wide color choices for our gear in tecent years. Mea culpa, since I love having beautiful colors and often end up with items that are duplicates of stuff I already have just because I could not resist the colors and/or patterns. My pumpkin orange Astral PFD and lime green Easky kayak were impulse buys triggered by their respective hues, I confess (though both have served me wonderfully for nearly 15 years). I already owned a kayak and PFD when I bought those, but I’m like a pack rat or a bower bird when I spot a pretty colored object.

Some of us oldsters will recall the CampMor store in NJ and the small but dense black and white newsprint mail order catalogs they sent out several times a year — one of the best sources for a vast range of wilderness sports gear for many years. Especially for their clothing and camping gear, it was like Henry Ford’s Model A car which a buyer could have in any color as long as that was black. Rain gear, stuff sacks, hats, lomg johns. paracord, shoelaces: all in black only. We used to joke that CampMor only catered to ninjas and Batman!

When I worked for outfitters in the 70’s the color options tended to be very limited and any given item would only be offered in 2 or 3 repeated choices every season. Camp Trails packs were either bright orange or pine green. Kelty did navy or dark green, Gerry clothing, tents and sleeping bags were red or royal blue, Snow Lion, Woolrich, North Face, Trailwise and Sierra Designs colors were tan, navy blue, or forest green, then they added rust one year and anything we got in that “novel” shade sold out immediately.

Back when LL Bean and Eddie Bauer peddled genuine wilderness gear, they stuck to that limited subdued pallette as well. Wasn’t until the 80’s when splashy neon climbing gear and stretch tech duds for biking and Alpine skiing bled over into wilderness equipment plus outdoor sports clothing became a fashion fad for people who never set foot in the woods that the colors and style varieties just exploded.


I lived in NJ for a few years as a teen, and remember spending time going through the basic b & w Camp Mor catalog. I’ve not thought about them in a long time. Out of curiosity, I consulted Dr. Google just now. They have an e-commerce site and a store in Paramus. The store, just like the catalog, is as plain as an old shoe. I’ll definitely stop in if I get back to the area one of these days.

Camp Mor

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I shopped with them for years as I was building my basic gear.

My brother lived in Maplewood NJ for a while so I stopped in to the Paramus store a couple of times when out there visiting him. Campmor was always known for offering up great deals on factory closeouts and overstocks and the store had a lot of items that were not in whatever the recent catalog was showing. I recall it was very basic and pleasantly rustic inside, sort of reminded me of the original L. L. Bean in Kennebunkport ME before that brand became a suburban mall mega-chain full of ill-fitting Chinese made preppy sportswear.

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Hey, that’s me!

This oldster wishes Campmor still sold the same kind of stuff they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I bought countless black turtlenecks, black long underwear, black shorts, black tights, and who knows what other black clothing. I still have several of the turtles and zip turtles, plus at least one black long-sleeve top, all of them made by Duofold. When Campmor broke the mold and offered Duofold’s turtleneck in a brilliantly deep purple hue, I had to have it. Still have that shirt, too.

They stocked lots of Duofold brand, who used to make the men’s small size perfect for me. They also sold a lot of Polartec fleecewear, and not just in black.

I bought lots of camping equipment, my first good paddling shoes (the mostly-mesh Teva Proton), some cycling gear, and many freeze-dried meals from them.

Several times in the last two decades I have wished Campmor didn’t change.

R.I.P., beloved former Campmor.

And then there was Sierra Trading Post…


I agree totally. I well remember the early days of REI from simple plane paper catalogs
to the original old brick and mortar wear house on Capital Hill in Seattle. Shopping
then was an experience wandering the old creaky wood floors looking at all the great gear. Now you cant even look at the shoes.

I just consigned a pair of those CampMor black Polartec long-johns you mention to my local indie shop’s used department (they have held up fine but I was 25 pounds lighter when I got them 30 years ago). I still can fit in the 3 thermal tops from them (2 black and one white.)

Oh yeah: Sierra Trading Post, another fashion victim that started in the wilderness sports biz. In the summer of 2002 I worked at an archaeology dig in the National Elk Refuge. We “shovel bums” had Saturday afternoons and Sundays off so some of us would pile in one of the expedition trucks and spend some time poking around in Jackson Hole. There was an STP store there – not sure if it was their first outlet (they may have had one in California as well) but it was a small store front, basic and full of wooden bins of terrific deals on brand name outdoor gear and clothing, mostly factory seconds and overstocks. I bought so much there that I had to box it up and mail it back home because I was already maxxed out on airline baggage (had to bring our own camping gear including tent and a folding chair for the mess tent.) I continued to buy stuff from STP for a few years after that, like wetsuits, fleecewear and sport sandals, until they deteriorated into an online version of TJ Maxx, with home decor and luxury dress clothing taking priority.

I try nowadays to patronize our 5 year old indie wilderness sports and kayak shop, 3 Rivers Outdoors (3ROC), which is well-stocked with better brands, every accessory you could ever need and a lot of craft items made by local artisans. Stopped in last Thursday and they had 30 people gathering in their outdoor firepit patio for the scheduled weekly trail run in the adjacent 600 acre city park plus there was a local guy who bakes and sells savory handpies who had a pop-up stand inside the store (bought a still warm curried pork and apple one in flakey crust that was divine.) They also run the summer kayak and SUP rental concession on one of our big rivers and offer instruction classes and pool sessions. Their main competitor here is the Pittsburgh based Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is an all sports mega-mart empire (they also own a golf specialty chain). Dick’s opened an offshoot two years ago called “Public Lands” which basically rips off the REI/EMS model (lots of wood, cathedral ceilings, climbing wall, etc.) and they succeeded in poaching one of the two co-owners of 3ROC to come and be their “brand ambassador”. Put a lot of strain on the remaining owner (who has two young kids), plus she has to deal with the same issue I recall from my days in the outfitter biz: when you hire enthusiastic young outdoor adventurers who are best equipped to help customers outfit themselves, those sales staff tend to eventually leave Pittsburgh to move to other parts of the country that have better access to mountains and National Parks. I had to turn down an offer to work part time for them in 2022 due to obligations of my own at that time, but have been thinking of asking if they would consider adding me on as backup staff now. I don’t need the money (and they would not have to pay me benefits since I’m self-insured) but since I’ve retired I often miss being around people and the opportunity to connect with new friends, plus the store is only 5 minutes from my house.

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When I first started kayaking in 1999 I bought 2 black and 3 grey poly t-shirts from Campmor. The black ones were $2 and the grey were $3. I still wear them from time to time.

“Back in my day”. Joining the thread. Where I grew up in the 60s and early 70s when I was a kid, the only place in town to buy sporting goods/camping gear was in the basement of the Bargain Grocery store on main street. The choices you had were what they had in stock. This sort of adjusted your expectations. If you saved up enough money your parents might take you to Salt Lake City where there were three decent places to buy sporting goods, the worst of these was Sears, the place where I could afford to buy things. I was thinking about this yesterday because I just moved back to rural Utah and choices again are pretty limited. Amazon does deliver but I prefer to spend my money locally, and the Bezosmobile takes 5 to 7 days even with Prime.

I have two cheap water resistant shirts from Camp-Mor I bought ca 1999 and a Eureka tent I bought a few years later. They have been all over US, Canada, UK and New Zealand and still in decent shape. I also have three arrows I bought at the bargain basement in 1970, but I don’t shoot them anymore, I keep them to remember the first time having enough money from mowing lawns to buy what I wanted.

Mail order for you in your rural digs! I’m lucky to have a few high-quality indie outdoor stores to shop in, about a one-hr drive away.

REI supposedly will build a new store in that town, which gets both boos and hurrahs from the area’s residents. I think it’s a good addition, and we plan to shop both there and at the indies. And online as well.

There are two good locally owned sporting good stores in Town, one has kind of grown into a Dick’s and the quality of the water sports stuff is aimed at very low end of the rec kayak market. They do have an amazing gun shop though; I’m not really needing anything from there. ( was tempted to buy a lever action 0.22, not sure why.).

There is also a store that has also has been in business about 70 years. They went the mostly clothing route about 20 years ago, but they have a great ski shop. Cabela’s is about an hour away and I suspect there is an REI in Salt Lake somewhere but I haven’t bothered to check. The University in Logan has an outdoor equipment rental I have used a long time ago, I believe I get discounts, but have not visited for a long time.

Ha! The closest REI is now in Farmington UT, a screen shot from their google blurb …

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We have one good cross country ski/bike shop that we’ve been doing business with for many years, and they are friends. Another shop 18 miles away that carries kayaks, camping stuff, skis and bikes - it’s okay, but pricey. We kind of keep it separate: bikes and skis from the one, kayaks and camping from the other. That way I don’t have to feel guilty.

The closest REI is 4 hours away. We’re members, and our credit card is from them, so we get lots of dividends……which I get, in exchange for Hubby going to Florida every spring. However, I do see it’s getting harder to find things I “need” from there. I thought it was just a change in me the last couple times I’ve been inside an actual REI, but it was disappointing. Anyway, I’m mostly shopping there online, but it used to be a treat to go to one of the stores. Our dog has been using some of my dividend lately - Ruffwear stuff. She got a new PFD for Christmas.

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Everyone needs a good .22. I’ve given my son 2 rifles and a pistol and he has 2 sons to teach.


We’ve been also been happy dealing with the folks at Canoe Country Outfitters, in St. Pete. More kayaks these days than canoes. Same family running it for years. My grandfather dealt with the father, who started the business. I was happy to buy a new boat from the older son last year.


Yes I’ve bought a few kayaks from there, and occasionally stop in to see if they have an accessory that I need. Unfortunately like most places much of their inventory is targeted towards rec and light touring kayaks and most times I’ve gone in looking for a sea kayak specific thing they don’t have it. To their credit they are happy to order items that they don’t have, though.

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Long ago through Sears Catalog,
many sat and paged and stammered,
fascination in choice three forms,
of a black/white ball-peen hammer.

To then go Campmor in our dreams,
of black-white-red-green paged Paramus,
halls of Eureka pop-up palaces,
that poled in nylon not in canvas.

But from those droll trolled Jersey unsures,
and sepiated Sierra posts,
we geared for crayola crowd explores,
sites set on multi-chromatic boasts.

Thus pixel and page grew and grew,
to those brights of some Mother Gert,
mad monikers new that none ever knew,
to color tents, boots, packs and skirts.

And on and on through Columbia Blue,
hue knew there’s fifty more in a shade,
Bimini Bop to Acapulco True,
Turquoise Town to Midnight Everglade.

And don’t get me started on the greens,
a veritable verde’ if you let us,
from Satan’s Sedge to Swamptop Sheen,
and their Denver Mint would really get us!

So the catalogs grew thicker,
and many pages on eyeballs glossed,
and then to this they added big boxes,
but in aisle and print something got lost,

or maybe lost there soon were many,
in halls of Bass Pros and Cabela’s,
collidin’ a scopic of catastrophes,
in collage camouflage of the shop-n-hunt fellas.

So now we lament dearth of good choice,
we ole geezers and alta kochers,
wasn’t it so much better in black-n-white,
and just one pair of boots in the Foot Locker?

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Personally love REI. Been a member since the first store opened in my town. Now we have 3 stores including a flagship store. I’ve bought great gear from them over the years. One kayak too. Tons of clothes and camping gear as well. Some departments I’d like to see them beef up a bit. Bikes for instance. Most are entry level to mid level. Sea kayaks same situation. It’s primarily eddyline or delta. Nothing wrong with those brands but it would be nice to sea something a bit more high end. But I shop many stores for my gear. I suspect some of the layoffs are triggered by inflation eating up a lot of discretionary income.

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‘23 numbers aren’t out yet but, in ‘21 they had a net profit of $97.7 million. In ‘22 they had record sales of $3.9 billion and increased co-op members by 1.3 million. But managed to end up in the red a whopping $164.7 million. I’m the opposite of a financial wizard but I suspect there’s more to it, a lot more, than inflation.

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I think there’s three aspects to it. First, their operating expenses went up a lot in 2022, mostly driven by increases in employee compensation according to their financial statement. Second, they’ve been expanding and opening new stores. Third, the cost of refinancing their debt went up a lot in 2022 with interest rates.

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The pandemic effect. Companies with a good e-commerce platform did well, especially those (like REI) selling outdoor equipment and home exercise stuff. REI had the right stuff at the right time in '21. Then, as @RedMC said, interest rates were rising fast and they had to pay way more to re-staff stores post-pandemic as available labor dried up. The '23 numbers will be interesting to see.