Dive Brief:

  • REI this week named a vice president of physical stores and retail operations. Mary-Farrell Tarbox will join the company’s retail leadership and corporate officer teams and starts on Monday, per a company press release.
  • At REI, Tarbox will oversee the company’s nearly 180 stores as well as its retail operations team. Of REI’s roughly 16,000 employees, more than three-quarters work in these areas, according to the company.
  • Tarbox joins REI with more than 30 years of experience in the retail industry, including in senior leadership roles at Crate and Barrel, Petsmart and Target. Most recently, she was a regional vice president at Bed Bath & Beyond, with responsibility for 370 stores.

Dive Insight:

Tarbox joins as REI continues to build out its store footprint, with a 2023 New York location just announced this week. She will be responsible for the company’s store strategy, including goals around improving the employee experience and customer service.

“Mary-Farrell is a proven leader in omni-channel operations. Her more than 30 years of leading successful teams across multiple retail environments made her a clear choice,” Cameron Janes, REI’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “As REI’s retail presence expands across the nation, she will have a key role in helping the co-op achieve our aspiration to serve a 50-million-member community.”

A headshot of Mary-Farrel Tarbox, REI's vice president of physical stores and retail operations.
Tarbox joins REI with more than 30 years of experience in the retail industry, including in senior leadership roles at Crate & Barrel, Petsmart and Target.
Courtesy of REI

Currently, REI has 21.5 million members, but the company is aiming to more than double that by 2030. Earlier this year, REI added more benefits to its loyalty program in pursuit of that goal, including monthly product curations for members, making its used gear offerings exclusive to members and free shipping with no order minimums.

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The company is expanding its offerings, which include adjacent services like travel and rental gear, as well. In June this year, the company said it has grown its experiences, such as multi-day trips and guided day tours, by more than 60% over the previous 12 months. And its product assortment is also expanding, with the retailer adding to its run category in the spring.

REI ended 2021 with $3.7 billion in sales, a 36% boost over the previous year, and opened eight new stores last year. In addition to Tarbox, REI this year named another operations-focused role with a chief of supply chain, a new position for the retailer.

REI has a habit of making a point with its stores, including deciding to open its stores late on Election Day to give employees time to vote and committing this year to closing on Black Friday in perpetuity. As the leader overseeing REI’s store teams, Tarbox also joins at an interesting moment for the retailer, with REI employees at a couple of stores choosing to unionize this year.