REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a national retailer providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, today announced its 2011 Vendor Partner of the Year award recipients during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. For the second year in a row, Vibram® USA, best known for its high performance soles for outdoor, recreational, work and fashion footwear, including Vibram FiveFingers®, received top honors as REI’s Vendor Partner of the Year.
The annual awards program, established in 1993 by REI, recognizes three key vendors for divisional awards and one vendor as its overall “Vendor Partner of the Year.” Companies are nominated by the co-op’s three merchandising divisions – camp/travel, actionsports and outdoorwear – for their efforts to build a strategic and successful relationship focused on meeting member and customer needs, and for their work to bring quality, innovation, outdoor stewardship and performance to the industry. REI retail employees vote on the slate of nominees to determine recipients.
“Last year Vibram took the outdoor industry by storm, upending consumers’ perceptions of performance footwear with their minimalist design,” said Angela Owen, senior vice president of Merchandising. “We recognize Vibram again as REI’s overall Vendor Partner of the Year as they continue to attract consumers’ attention and innovate new products. We value their extraordinary commitment to our business partnership as demonstrated everyday through their unparalleled service and support.”
Based in Concord, Mass., Vibram is recognized worldwide as the leader in high performance soles for outdoor, recreational, work and fashion footwear and is relied on by the world’s greatest outdoorspeople and athletes. Vibram soles have set the standard since Vitale Bramani created mountaineering’s first rubber lugged sole in the late 1930’s.
In 2006, Vibram introduced FiveFingers®, a revolutionary and patented glove-styled shoe that pioneered the minimalist footwear movement. An unrivaled alternative to conventional footwear, Vibram FiveFingers was named one of the best inventions of 2007 in the category of health by Time magazine. The company is committed to promoting and confirming the health benefits of near barefoot or natural running and fitness training, and views this as a unique opportunity to help redefine athletic footwear. For more information, visit http://www.vibram.com/.
The other 2011 divisional vendor partner award recipients are:
- Camp/Travel recipient: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. (Salt Lake City, Utah) is celebrating its 22nd anniversary of manufacturing equipment for climbing, skiing and mountain sports. By consistently building innovative, standard-setting products and actively preserving the mountain/canyon environment, Black Diamond Equipment has assumed a leadership role in the international outdoor community. For more information visit: www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com
- Actionsports recipient: Thule (Seymour, Conn.), established in Sweden in 1942, is now a premium brand used around the world. Under the motto “Bring your life,” Thule offers a wide assortment of accessories to simplify the transportation of your gear and equipment in a secure, safe and stylish way. Roof racks, bike and water sport carriers, roof boxes, accessories for recreational vehicles, trailers for the active life (horses, boats etc.), snow chains as well as luggage bags and boxes are just some examples of what Thule offers. For more information visit: www.thule.com
- Outdoorwear recipient: Merrell (Rockford, Mich.), a brand within the Outdoor Group, a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc. that also includes Chaco and Patagonia Footwear. Merrell encourages everyone to get outside, be active and have fun. The brand’s mission is to increase youth participation in the outdoors through causes such as Outdoor Nation. For more information visit: www.merrell.com
Past recipients of the REI Vendor Partner of the Year Award include Atlas Snowshoe (1999), Black Diamond Equipment (1994, 2006), Bell Sports (1997), CamelBak Products, LLC (2008), Cascade Designs (2001), Columbia Sportswear (1998), Eagle Creek (2000, 2005), Keen Footwear (2004), Osprey (2007), prAna (2003), Smith Optics (2002, 2009), Vasque (1995, 1996), Vibram (2010) and Yakima (1993).
REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Founded in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers seeking quality equipment, REI is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.