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The Circle of Life

Outdoor co-op REI commits to the circular economy by giving gear a second lease of life with its new store concept




WHEN IT COMES TO innovative retail concepts, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.; Sumner, Wash.), the outdoor co-op, is at the forefront. One of its latest ventures, the Re/Supply store in Clackamas, Ore., embodies a revolutionary circular retail model, embracing sustainability and “re-commerce.” Behind its thrifty façade lies a design ethos that’s as daring as it is eco-conscious.

The Circle of Life

Emphasizing the power of repurposing and the “thrill of the thrift,” the team behind the project, including REI’s own architects, creative directors and experience managers, reimagined outdoor gear retail. Their goal was to create an environment that reflects the thrill of thrifting, making shopping an adventure in itself. The design process was collaborative, emphasizing a test-and-learn approach and a commitment to minimalism.

The Circle of Life

The store’s design elements focus on flexibility and sustainability. The use of existing space and minimal modification to the building’s structure reflect REI’s commitment to reducing environmental impact. “We really tried to go minimalist yet flexible and focus on the reduce, reuse, recycle ethos,” says Melanie Moody, Store Experience and Fixture Senior Project Manager at REI. “We maintained what we found.”

By repurposing fixtures such as the cashwrap and utilizing materials from other REI stores, they effectively lowered the store’s carbon footprint, aligning with REI’s 2030 climate goals. This commitment to sustainability isn’t just a design choice but a key part of REI’s core values.

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The Circle of Life Fixtures and various store elements found in REI’s Re/Supply store in Clackamas were mostly derived from other REI store locations. 📷 Courtesy of REI

The store’s layout and visual merchandising mirror the rugged spirit of the outdoors. With a minimalist palette of plywood and steel, the design exudes a raw and authentic vibe. The emphasis on durability and functionality over trends distinguishes this store from traditional retail spaces. The aim was to maintain a connection to REI’s beloved garage sales while offering a more polished and curated shopping experience.

One of the standout features is the “behind-the-scenes” storage area, allowing customers a peek into the processing and sorting of the mountain of used gear, spearheaded by Noah Goldsmith, REI’s Architectural Project Manager. With a clear division between soft goods (apparel and footwear) and hard goods (backpacks and camping kit), the space offers wide aisles for easy navigation. “We wanted to provide generous space for people to sit down if they want to try on some shoes or throw a jacket or pack on in front of a mirror,” says Moody.

The Circle of Life REI supported its commitment to reducing its environmental impact by making only minimal renovations and adjustments to the new space.

The store’s branding effortlessly communicates the message of sustainability, with bold signage and engaging graphics like the quip “It’s gonna get dirty anyway” from Graphic Designer Ian Hewitt-Woods, evoking a sense of adventure and environmental awareness.

REI’s Re/Supply store isn’t just a shopping destination – it’s a testament to its commitment to environmental responsibility and the thriving re-commerce movement. As it continues to expand its circular retail concept with a kit of parts that will allow it to scale this store format, REI is setting a precedent for retail experiences that resonate with the eco-conscious consumer.





MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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