REI scraps mail order catalog to publish a magazine
REI is discontinuing its mail order catalog in favor of launching the Uncommon Path print magazine dedicated to delivering inspirational stories about outdoor life and culture.
The magazine will be published by Hearst Magazines in collaboration with an in-house team of journalists and editors at REI. The magazine will be available this fall at all REI stores and select newsstands.
The first set of stories “take readers on a bike ride through Atlanta with Civil Bikes founder Nedra Deadwyler; explore the beautiful landscape of the U.S./Mexico border; and discover the eerie green glow of phosphorescent diatoms in the intra-coastal waterway of northern Florida,” according to a statement from REI. Product recommendations and gear reviews will be included.
The magazine, along with other media offerings — an online journal, film and podcast program — all support REI’s expressed purpose “to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors, for all.”
REI has earned praise for its OptOutside campaign in which it closes its stores and online site to encourage people to go outdoors rather than shop on Black Friday. The co-op gives back 70 percent of its profits each year to local and national nonprofits to support access to outdoor places.
“We’re seeing smart brands like REI take an innovative approach to content by building audiences with their own premium-quality, branded editorial products,” said Brett Hill, editorial director of HearstMade.
REI also announced a nationwide campaign to strengthen local journalism in partnership with NewsMatch. REI said nearly 1,800 newspapers have closed since 2004 and a 2018 research paper found that corporations pollute more when there aren’t local newspapers to hold them accountable.
In May, H&M joined a number of retailers who have either ceased catalog production or pulled back. In 2016, Victoria’s Secret announced that it was stopping its production, and last August IKEA announced that it would be pulling back on catalogs to support the company’s sustainability goals. REI launched in first catalog in 1948.
A number of traditional retailers, from Walgreens to Costco, send out free magazines, and digital retailers like Net-a-Porter and Away sell magazines, although it’s rare for a retailer-supported magazine to hit the newsstand.
- REI Co-op announces two new efforts to bolster environmental and outdoor journalism – REI
- REI Shelves Catalog For Print Magazine – Advertising Age
- REI Co-op announces record financial results, major expansion of rentals and used gear – REI
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of REI’s move to replace its mail order catalog with the Uncommon Path print magazine? Does the magazine have to be profitable to be deemed a success? Should other retailers look at starting magazines as content opportunities?