Vancouver-based large format outdoor consumer cooperative retailer MEC (aka ‘Mountain Equipment Co-op) has been opening locations at a rapid pace, bringing the number of new stores to five by the year’s end. According to Chief Financial Officer Sandy Treagus, more locations will open in 2017-onward as MEC continues to see considerable success.
This autumn has been particularly busy for MEC. On November 12 the retailer opened its second Edmonton store measuring 35,000 square feet at South Edmonton Common, complementing an existing downtown Edmonton location that will be relocating next year. In October of this year, MEC opened a 24,000 square foot store next to CF Carrefour Laval north of Montreal, as well as a replacement location in London, Ontario, also measuring 24,000 square feet. Earlier this week, MEC opened its second Toronto store, located next to the TTC Bessarion subway station at 784 Sheppard Avenue East. The new freestanding store spans 34,000 square feet and features an assortment of clothing, footwear and gear for outdoor activities — including cycling, running, camping, hiking, climbing, yoga, fitness, paddlesports, snowsports and travel. In-store services include a full-service ski-tech and bike-repair shop as well as bike-and pack-fitting stations and an equipment rental program, which will launch in 2017. The store is powered by renewable energy.
As well, on April 23 of this year, MEC opened its first store in British Columbia’s Okanagan, at Orchard Plaza in Kelowna. The store is about 20,000 square feet and features a massive wood overhead canopy.
MEC now operates 21 stores in Canada. Of those, five are in British Columbia, three are in Alberta, one is in Manitoba, one in Nova Scotia, five are in Quebec, and six are in Ontario. According to Mr. Treagus, there’s plenty of room for growth in eastern Canada, where MEC’s store penetration is about half that of Western Canada.
Moving forward into 2017, MEC’s expansion will include a new store in Kitchener, Ontario, measuring about 18,000 square feet. MEC will also open two replacement locations next year — the downtown Edmonton unit will be relocated to the city’s downtown Brewery District in a new 38,000 square foot space, while MEC’s downtown Quebec City unit, which has issues with parking, will be relocated to a more suburban space, according to Mr. Treagus.
MEC will continue its store expansion plans into 2018-19 in Calgary, where it currently has only one store. A 30,000 square foot store will open at Seton Urban District in the fall of 2018, followed by the 2019 opening of a store in the new suburban community of Medicine Hill.
MEC’s 2018 plans also include replacing two prominent urban flagships, in Vancouver and Toronto. The company’s Vancouver flagship, currently located on West Broadway Avenue in the city’s Fairview area, will be relocated to a 45,000 square foot space in mid-2018 in the nearby Olympic Village area. As well, the company’s downtown Toronto flagship, located on King Street West near Spadina Avenue, will be relocated to a prominent site at Queen Street West and Soho Street in 2018. That new location will span about 40,000 square feet over two levels.
While Mr. Treagus couldn’t confirm an ultimate Canadian store count for MEC, he expressed that the retailer will continue to seek out retail opportunities as they present. Membership is growing quickly across Canada, with a lifetime membership costing only five dollars.
MEC is seeing considerable success in Canada, with overall sales expected to be close to $400 million in 2016. Formerly known as ‘Mountain Equipment Co-op’, MEC boasts over 4 million Canadian members. The company donates 1% of revenues to Canadian non-profit organizations that help conserve ecologically and recreationally important areas, and has invested over $34 million and counting into non-profit organizations that support outdoor recreation and conservation.
All interior photos above are of the Kelowna store, and are by Robb Thompson Photography.