REI Shelves Catalog in Favor of Print Magazine
REI is discontinuing its print mail-order catalog and debuting a magazine. Called Uncommon Path, the print publication will run on a quarterly basis and include stories focused on the outdoors. Kent, Washington-based REI is partnering with Hearst Magazines on the project, which will be staffed by a team of roughly six in-house REI employees as well as a collection of freelancers and Hearst workers. REI expects to sell the magazine in some airports, bookstores and newsstands around the country, as well as in all 155 of its stores, with a cover price of $4.95. The first issue this fall, at 84 pages, will include a mix of editorial features and print ads.
Total Retail's Take: REI is known for taking risks — the company's decision to close all of its stores on Black Friday for its now annual "Opt Outside" campaign is testament to that — and this decision might qualify as a risk. While catalogs are expensive to produce and mail, they've been proven to be steady sales drivers for many retailers. Consider the case of Nordstrom, which recently reported weaker-than-expected first-quarter results that were hurt, in part, by stopping its use of direct mail to promote its loyalty program. Will REI's print magazine be able to offset the lost revenue, both digital and in-store, that will result from discontinuing its print catalog? That remains to be seen. Brand-published magazines have had mixed results. GameStop, for example, has a very specific, customized loyalty program for its magazine, Game Informer, but other retailers have had trouble scaling such ventures, including direct-to-consumer mattress brand Casper.