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Originally published August 30, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Page modified August 30, 2013 at 6:50 PM

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REI picks a CEO who packs retail, outdoors expertise

Jerry Stritzke, who most recently served as president and chief operating officer at Coach, will replace Sally Jewell, who left to run the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Stritzke may well be a good choice, but REI ceased to be a member-run cooperative when... MORE
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Recreational Equipment Inc., the iconic outdoor-equipment retailer based in Kent, named Jerry Stritzke, previously president and chief operating officer of luxury-goods maker Coach, as its chief executive Friday.

Stritzke, 53, replaces Sally Jewell, who left the company in April to become secretary of the Interior. Stritzke will start at REI on Oct. 1.

The consumer-owned cooperative said it tapped Stritzke, in part, for his experience in retail. Before joining Coach, Stritzke served as chief operating officer and co-leader of Victoria’s Secret. He also is a director of Lululemon Athletica.

“Jerry is going to bring retail expertise, and that’s what we need right now,” REI Chairman John Hamlin said in an interview.

Stritzke was unavailable for comment.

As the economy has sputtered, REI, like many retailers, has seen its business slow some, too. In 2012, REI reported a 4 percent decline in profits to $29 million, after paying out nearly $105 million in member dividends. Sales were $1.9 billion, a 7 percent gain.

In laying out Stritzke’s challenges, Hamlin pointed to REI’s wide range of competitors, both online and with brick-and-mortar sites. Those businesses are pushing REI, which has 130 stores in 30 states and a large online-sales operation, to adapt quickly to win consumer sales.

“You have a very different set of competitors that are driving customer expectations,” Hamlin said.

Stritzke’s background in specialty retail and his experience building Coach’s brand will help REI address those challenges, Hamlin said.

In a news release announcing the hire, REI described Stritzke as “an outdoor enthusiast” who hikes, fly-fishes and summits Colorado’s many 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Hamlin said he wouldn’t always get a quick return call to his voice mails because Stritzke was on an outdoor adventure.

In the release, Stritzke said he recognizes the importance of REI’s mission to get customers outdoors.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to combine my professional expertise with the outdoor activities I personally enjoy,” said Stritzke, who lives in New York City, but plans to move to the Seattle area for the new job.

Hamlin said REI will pay Stritzke “in line” with Jewell’s compensation. Jewell received $2.1 million in base pay and bonuses in 2012, and $2 million in 2011.

At Coach, Stritzke took home $4.8 million in base pay, bonuses and stock awards in 2012 and $10.4 million in 2011.

“He’s not doing this for the money,” Hamlin said. “He’s doing this because he believes in the mission.”

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or jgreene@seattletimes.com. Twitter: iamjaygreene

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