I first joined REI in the early 1970's (for a $10 on- time lifetime membership fee then - yes, I am a dinosaur). Each catalog was filled with useful ourdoor information, not just on their products, but also on general advice. Each member of the board wrote an article on their recent adventures and wilderness expeditions. I saved each catalog for the information it contained.
Then I became aware of EMS, much closer to home. Similar offerings in the general catalog. product wise, but without the added adventure product use stories and without the annual member dividend on purchases made throughout the year. I bought a lot of gear in those early days and was an officer in my college outing club. The EMS catalog was thin and not worth saving. At some point after the internet revolution, some marketing brainiac at corporate EMS decided to eliminate their catalog completely, offering online and in store shopping only. At about the same time REI opened a store in NY. At that time you did not have to pay NY sales tax on purchases made out of state (technically you legally did, but no one actually did). So the REI dividend was eaten up with in-state sales tax, although still a better deal than the equivalent from EMS with their NY store presence.
But REI had changed substantially by then, non longer did the catalog contain anything like the useful information I had previously saved them for. Both REI and EMS had less and less hard core outdoor equipment, moving instead to foo-foo fluff clothing that appealed to city-folk easy trail hikers who felt it more important to look cool when in the woods than to have quality equipment.
Fortunately, my collection of necessary equipment is mainly complete and my need to buy new gear has diminished in recent years, and there are other resources for anything specialized I may need, so I rarely look to either company anymore.