REI Announces 2010 Vendor Partner Award Winners

Barefoot running shoe innovator Vibram USA tops the co-op’s list
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REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a national retailer providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, today announced its 2010 vendor partner of the year award winners during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. 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 2010 Vendor Partner of the Year.

The annual awards program, established in 1993, recognizes three of its 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 with REI focused on meeting member and customer needs, and for efforts to bring quality, innovation, outdoor stewardship and performance to the industry. REI retail employees vote on the slate of nominees to determine winners.

“It is no surprise that Vibram was selected as the 2010 Vendor Partner of the Year. Not only were they innovative in introducing a brand new type of product to the industry in FiveFingers, but they have been credited for creating a new way for people to recreate,” said Angela Owen, vice president Merchandising. “Vibram stands out for its commitment to our partnership and has continued to prioritize REI to meet growing customer interest for its product for the past several years.”

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 climbers and athletes. In 2006 they introduced their first finished product: Vibram FiveFingers. The revolutionary glove-styled shoe is an unrivaled alternative to conventional footwear and is designed to help the foot work and move in a more natural way. Vibram is committed to promoting and confirming the health benefits of near barefoot or natural running and fitness training, and views Vibram FiveFingers as a unique opportunity to help redefine athletic footwear. For more information, visit http://www.vibram.com/.

The other 2010 divisional vendor partner award winners are:

Camp/Travel Winner: Osprey Packs (Cortez, Colo.) – Osprey Packs has long set the standard for creating innovative, high quality gear carrying equipment. Located at the corner of the rugged San Juan Mountains and on the edge of vast sandstone canyon country, this landscape provides a constant inspiration and a superb testing ground for its products. Every Osprey product reflects the company's commitment to protect the wild places its customers explore while using its products. For more information, visit http://www.ospreypacks.com/.

Action Sports Winner: Yakima Products, Inc. (Beaverton, Ore.) –Yakima is a world leader in the design and manufacture of cargo management equipment solutions for outdoor enthusiasts. Yakima's products include: vehicle racks for bikes, boats, ski equipment and gear, a line of cargo boxes and bags for a variety of needs, as well as high performance multi-sport trailers. For more information, visit www.yakima.com.

Outdoorwear Winner: Merrell® (Rockford, Mich.) – Merrell is a brand within the Outdoor Group, a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc. that also includes Chaco and Patagonia Footwear. Merrell believes in encouraging everyone to get outside, be active and have fun, and is the largest outdoor brand partner of the National Park Foundation. For more information please visit: www.merrell.com.

Other valued vendor partners also nominated for the 2010 awards included: Arbor Collective, Big Agnes, Chariot Carriers, Emotion Kayaks, Marmot, Patagonia, Pearl Izumi USA, Prana, Smartwool, Smith Optics, and Adventure Medical Kits.

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), and Yakima (1993).

About REI
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.

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