When you think of a national chain with 122 retail stores and $1.66 billion in sales, you probably don’t associate it with the words “community” or “sustainability.” But as REI’s new NYC store shows, national reach and local impact aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Built inside the historic Puck Building in SoHo, REI has incorporated much of the space’s history and existing elements. Instead of covering up the internal facade, for example, the brick walls and ceilings, as well as the building’s steel columns, have been left exposed, giving a glimpse of how the building originally appeared in the 1890′s. Repurposed wood has been used to build many elements in the store ranging from the cashier counters, display tables, and chair railings, and a collection of the original stone printing tablets found during construction have been placed on display in the store.
The SoHo store also features a community room for educational activities like learning about first aid and navigation—while, of course, giving students an incentive to pick up some new gear. Furthermore, the company donates money, and employees’ time, to projects that maintain and restore outdoor spaces in the Tri-State area.
By promoting its connection to the community and the local environment, REI is developing a high degree of passion for the brand and loyalty to the organization. While this strategy is undoubtedly easier to implement due to the fact that REI is a co-op, it can still serve as a model for other companies and brands looking for ways to engage with their customers in an authentic, and profitable, manner.