Does Walmart = REI?

In my admittedly suspect opinion, Walmart is evil.

Whenever a Walmart moves into a town, it sucks the life out of all the local businesses that sell all the things that Walmart sells. It is just too hard to compete with those folks from Bentonville, and those traditional downtown stores soon go Tango-Uniform. The older, existing businesses just cannot compete with a well-run, clean store with extremely low prices, massive advertising and happy employees and isn’t that what healthy competition is all about?

The American way. It’s not personal, it’s business.

REI is, in many ways, very similar to Walmart. REI has continued to grow, to expand, to move into the territories of the existing Mom-and-Pop specialty retailers. They are very aggressive and fiercely competitive. In the San Francisco Bay Area, we have four of them now. Or is it five? I can’t keep track.

The way it’s going, REI will soon rule the world!

I wouldn’t want to be an employee of Marin Outdoors, Sunrise Mountaineering or Any Mountain right now. I’m sure that they can read the writing on the climbing wall.




I am not in love with REI, though I admit to mixed feelings

My family joined in 1969, my member number is 105756. I remember visiting the original location in Seattle. It was in a run-down location filled with brick warehouses and sooty pigeons. When REI opened a store in Berkeley in 1974 I stood in line for hours to buy “grand opening sale” bargains. I came home with a down jacket for $36.
It was a butt-ugly kelly green color.

Berkeley is something of a ‘outdoors store’ Mecca.

Though REI certainly makes the rules these days, there is still plenty of feisty competition. Berkeley still has six other decent sporting goods stores, maybe seven if you count the Travelsmith outlet. Some better than others of course, Any Mountain and Marmot Mountain are quite excellent with quality product lines and a very knowledgeable staff. Both are worth a special trip.

There is also a North Face Outlet in Berkeley, though the deals there are few and far between and the staff there are primarily untrained and clueless. (Think part time, no benefits and low wages)

The Berkeley REI store is truly delightful. It has a wonderful product assortment, a well-trained staff that seeks you out and offers to help you find exactly what you are looking for. It has almost anything one could possibly need for travel. No matter how many times I go there; I always see something new, something that amazes me. I can’t be angry at them for long, they are just too good at what they do.

Hating big business is not that simple.