1 unlikely sporting goods store is thriving as retailers implode everywhere

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Reinventing retail

The retail industry has been something of a bloodbath lately.

Gap Inc. and J. Crew have been floundering. Formerly beloved teen retailers like Aeropostale andPacSun have filed for bankruptcy. Sports Authority did, too - and now it's shuttering all of its stores.

Standouts in this environment are worth taking note of. One of them is sporting goods retailer R.E.I.

The company reported record sales, of $2.4 billion for 2015, and said same-store sales rose 7%. It's a stark comparison to Sports Authority, and also better than results from Dick's Sporting Goods, which saw same-store sales decline last year.

Related: REI closes it's doors on Black Friday:

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REI closes it's doors on Black Friday
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1 unlikely sporting goods store is thriving as retailers implode everywhere
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: Ben Steele and Rachel Ligtenberg of Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI announce Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide with unveiling at Seattle flagship store as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI announces Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide with unveiling at Seattle flagship store as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI announces Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide with unveiling at Seattle flagship store as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: REI Seattle flagship store employees gather after news that all 143 stores will close on Black Friday and the specialty outdoor retailer will pay all 12,000 employees to take day as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: Employees of Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI pose outside of the flagship store following the announcement of Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: REI Seattle flagship store employees gather after news that all 143 stores will close on Black Friday and the specialty outdoor retailer will pay all 12,000 employees to take day as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 27: Ben Steele of Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI announces Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide with unveiling at Seattle flagship store as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)
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There are, of course, reasons for Sports Authority's decline that are singular to it: at a recent roundtable of industry executives, it was brought up that the golf boom imploded, and, as Matt Powell from market researcher NPD Group pointed out, Sports Authority was crippled with debt. REI isn't burdened with that.

But there are four other distinct reasons why REI is thriving when other retailers aren't:

1. These products contribute to an experience

This has been said over and over again: millennials love experiences. They'll buy a pizza, but they probably won't buy your shirt. If they can't Instagram it, they don't want it - and that statement packs extra weight when it's Gen Z.

Camping and hiking are experience. (And highly Instagrammable ones, too.) In order tocomplete those tasks, you need the equipment...which in turn, makes it a necessary purchase. This isn't typical of apparel companies.

Most people don't want to shell out lots of money for apparel; they've been conditioned to never shop at a premium. However, most high quality products do demand a steeper price tag. Even though some consumers cannot grasp that concept - you'd be hard pressed to find someone who'd disagree with the fact that it's worth it to buy a quality backpack or hiking boots if he or she going for a walk in the woods.

3. It doesn't sell brands you can get anywhere

Daniel Hoverman, director of Houlihan Lokey, pointed out that Sports Authority had a major problem: you could buy its core brands - Adidas, Nike, Under Armour - anywhere. It doesn't give you a need to go into the store specifically. He also pointed to how direct-to-consumer business ended up it hurting it, as well.

This is a problem that retailers who aren't specialty retailers could face: if they don't give consumers a real reason to go into the store, they'll just go elsewhere.

4. It has created a community - which is marketing gold

REI prides itself on its strong community, namely, its "co-op," which offers hiking and camping classes, various outings and trips, and events for its adventure-seeking consumers - thereby cultivating a sense of connection between shoppers, making it more than just a store to them.

And it's true that companies who do this are often very successful. Many extremely successful brands, such as SoulCycle and Harley Davidson, have cultivated such strong communities, that they've been labeled "cult like brands."

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