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Originally published March 21, 2013 at 7:10 PM | Page modified March 21, 2013 at 10:12 PM

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Retailer REI says a ‘limited number’ of employees are being laid off

Kent-based retailer REI, which employs about 1,100 at its headquarters, said most of the eliminated positions were in “support” areas.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Outdoor-gear retailer REI said Thursday it has laid off a “limited number” of employees at its Kent headquarters and in stores throughout the country.

It characterized the layoffs as a response to its changing business needs rather than any financial downturn.

REI, which has about 1,100 employees at its headquarters, said most of the eliminated positions were in “support” areas. But it gave no details, including the number of layoffs.

“The shifts we made support the needs of our business and growth strategy,” REI said in a statement. “Out of respect for those individuals whose positions were eliminated, we’re not providing specifics on the total number or which areas were impacted.”

Spokeswoman Libby Catalinich said the layoffs began a few weeks ago and now are complete. She added that REI plans to hire an undisclosed number of employees in the coming months, for an expected “net increase” in headquarters jobs by year’s end.

“We have eliminated some employees in support areas. We’ll be growing in other parts of the company,” she said.

The layoffs come as REI’s chief executive, Sally Jewell, goes through the confirmation process to lead the U.S. Interior Department. T REI has said it will not begin a search for Jewell’s replacement until she is confirmed.

The company operates 128 stores in 32 states, and for 16 consecutive years has been recognized as one of the 100 best places to work by Fortune magazine.

Catalinich said REI is making changes at its stores to “help us focus on our customer and provide more scalability.”

“In some cases, there were vacant positions that simply won’t be filled. In other cases, there were positions eliminated and people lost their job,” she said.

Four years ago, REI eliminated about 60 jobs at its headquarters and at a Sumner distribution center after its profit plunged amid the Great Recession.

The company’s sales rose 8.4 percent in 2011 to $1.8 billion, while its profit held steady at $30.2 million. Its 2012 financial results are expected soon.

REI said it is providing laid-off employees outplacement services to help them find other jobs, and in most cases, they will be able to apply for new positions at the company.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @amyemartinez

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