By Mario Toneguzzi
Outdoor gear retailer MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) is building new flagship stores in Vancouver and Toronto as it eyes further expansion in the future across the country.
David Labistour, CEO of MEC, told Retail Insider that the company’s website is by far its fastest growing store and its single biggest store.
“But we also know we have to have convenient locations for our customers,” he says. “I think we have to put in more stores. Ontario. We’re under-stored in Ontario. The whole GTA region. If the right opportunity presents itself we’ll go into Saskatchewan."
“Retail is shifting incredibly quickly. I think we have to be adaptable and make sure that we respond to the changes that are happening.”
MEC has 22 stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
It is Canada’s largest consumer co-operative with about five million members across the country. A lifetime membership is available for $5.
“We’ve always been very focused on having a very strong customer focus,” says Labistour. “We’ve had a very clear idea the purpose of the organization to be. We want to get people active and get people outdoors. A lot of what we do is aimed at the purpose of getting people off the couch and out the door. We’ve really tried to build a brand that is consistent with that and I think we’ve managed to build a very authentic brand that does resonate with people.”
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He says the company is moving its Toronto store from King Street to Queen Street.
“King Street has become very congested. We know that it’s becoming very difficult for people to access that store. So we’re moving the store to an area where it’s more of a shopping precinct and has better access. I think in retail you need to continue to assess whether you can improve your locations,” says Labistour.
The new build will be about 40,000 square feet.
“It will be a much nicer store we believe because it gives us the opportunity to freshen up the way we build stores now. And our new store builds are quite different. They’re much more open and light. Have better flows,” he says.
There is no firm date on the opening of the new store but it will be within the next year.
Recently, MEC also announced it was building a new 60,000-square-foot flagship store in Vancouver with the three-storey building to be located at the eastern gateway to Olympic Village.
MEC’s Olympic Village location will replace its store at 130 West Broadway, which the Vancouver-based retailer has occupied since 1995.
Labistore says the current store in Vancouver on West Broadway is leased. The lease is coming due and the landlord wants to redevelop that site.
“In moving, it gives us a chance to really build a great flagship store in Vancouver because our oldest and possibly, arguably, least attractive store we have is our Vancouver downtown store. So it gives us a chance to really build a beautiful new building while moving to a new site to avoid disruption,” says Labistour.
Beedie Development has owned the site of the new MEC store to be built at 2nd Avenue and Quebec Street since 2007. When construction of the new store is complete in mid-2019, MEC will operate the purpose-built, high-performance green building on a leasehold basis from Beedie for at least 20 years.
MEC was established in 1971.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.