Stand up for nonprofit news & help us reach our $100,000 goal! GIVE NOW
COVID-19

REI wants to sell its new headquarters before it moves in

Andy Uhler Aug 13, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Ben Steele, REI's chief customer officer, at the outfitter's Seattle flagship store in 2015. REI has abandoned plans to move into its new headquarters during the pandemic. Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI
COVID-19

REI wants to sell its new headquarters before it moves in

Andy Uhler Aug 13, 2020
Ben Steele, REI's chief customer officer, at the outfitter's Seattle flagship store in 2015. REI has abandoned plans to move into its new headquarters during the pandemic. Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Recreational Equipment Inc., the retail co-op where members get discounts on gear for hiking, camping, biking and other outdoorsy stuff, was set to move 1,200 employees into a brand-new Seattle-area headquarters this summer. But yesterday, after months of employees working at home while COVID-19 spread, the company said that’s not happening anymore.

“We really sought to build a space that was, I think, very representative of the brand and ethos of the co-op,” said Ben Steele, REI’s chief customer officer.

The property features outdoor staircases, native plants and skylights. Steele said instead of moving in, REI will lease smaller offices around Seattle and allow employees to work remotely.

Sara Sutton, CEO of FlexJobs, isn’t surprised REI is pulling the plug on a new headquarters.

“They’re identifying that there are a lot of opportunities for their employees to work from home remotely and still maintain productivity even if they can’t be in the office,” she said.

But retail employees, of course, still need to be in REI stores to help customers.

A customer shops at a reopened REI.
A customer shops at a reopened REI. (Courtesy REI)

Cali Williams Yost, founder of the Flex Strategy Group, said companies considering their workplace strategy should avoid tilting too much in one direction. 

“I think there is this tendency to think, ‘Oh we can save all this money, let’s get rid of all our workspace’ when really it’s about optimizing it,” she said. Employees want a hybrid approach, she said, with some time at the headquarters and some time working in their kitchen.

REI’s Steele said the company hasn’t lined up a buyer for that new campus outside of Seattle yet, but he’s not concerned about the money already spent.

“We think it’s a very attractive space, and we expect to get premium pricing should we reach an agreement with a buyer,” Steele said.

At the same time, fewer companies are looking for office space, so selling it could be tougher than it was just six months ago.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

Read More

Collapse

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.