Outdoor Retailer La Cordée Opens Storefront in Downtown Quebec City: Interview/Photos

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Through its 60-year history, La Cordée has helped shape the outdoor adventure landscape in Quebec.

Cedric Morisset

And the retailer, which President Cédric Morisset describes as the Quebec version of MEC (Mountain Equipment Company where he was VP Retail until recently), continues to expand its footprint in the province with the opening of a new store at 405 rue Saint-Joseph Est in the Saint-Roch district of Downtown Quebec City.

“We own the outdoor industry. We own everything that’s outdoors related in terms of retail in the province of Quebec. It’s an institution in Quebec just like MEC is an institution in the rest of Canada,” said Morisset.

The retailer now has six locations in Quebec – four are in the Greater Montreal Area with two in the Quebec City area.

Image: La Cordée

What started as a small shop in 1953 has become a leading resource for outdoor enthusiasts throughout North America. It originally opened as a cooperative selling Scouting uniforms and reasonably-priced light camping gear. The first 10 years of its existence were spent serving the needs of this clientele, says the retailer.

Like any downtown store, the newest location is a hub, a community gathering place, in close proximity to the city’s downtown offices.

“Since March 2020 (and the beginning of the pandemic), we’ve seen the office reopen in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhood getting busy again. It’s going to be a very nice place for La Cordée because this is the future of our brand. We want to get closer to the community. We want to make sure we have the right product for the community,” said Morisset.

“For us, it’s easy as well if we want to do events with our customers in terms of running clinics, or running shoe clinics, it’s going to be super easy for us. We are in the heart of Quebec City. It gets super busy. It’s a nice neighbourhood. There’s a lot of restaurants, a lot of offices. And Quebec City is really booming in terms of population as well.”

The brand partnered with Montreal-based GH+A Design Studios for this project.

Paola Marques

“We love the discovery and exploration part of any project and there was a lot of great data and all the history of LaCordee to be inspired by,” shared Paola Marques, Principal at GH+A Design.

“Showcasing their reputation as trustworthy experts focused on the ‘outdoor enthusiast’ was a key element that needed to be inherent in our approach.”

Image: La Cordée

The Montreal-based design firm was able to create a design that integrated multiple customer profiles into a single concept.

“LaCordee has a strong brand recognition in Quebec with a certain generation, but wanted to extend their reach into a younger group who are also “outdoor enthusiast”, so this was a wonderful time to introduce an evolution.

“The design concept needed to support this common passion for the outdoors with multiple client and product engagement points. Some of which LaCordee was already offering but they needed to be celebrated more within the store journey.”

Marques went on to explain the evolution of the design, which included the thoughts and decisions that the team went through in order to create the Downtown Quebec City location.

“So, we re-imagined a warm welcoming environment for all ages and named it the “Urban Chalet”. The design language of the space is intentionally urban with materials and finishes in lite warm tones, black used only as a defining contrast and LaCordee red painted industrial light fixtures for a bit fun and a nod to the historic brand colour. The raw floor and open ceilings support the natural and real approach to the design leveraging the existing architectural conditions of the space which include expansive windows to the street. We set back the perimeter fixture partitions from these windows to allow for ample story-telling display and engage with the city fabric at a pedestrian human scale….almost saying…we’re back! The environmental graphics used are surreal landscapes invoking a calm peaceful outdoor environment and at key areas like the fitting rooms we re-created hiking trails maps around the Quebec city region perhaps known by clients or there for them to discover.

We enhanced the design of customer touch points and reaffirmed LaCordee’s position as a knowledgeable leader in this sector by creating such things as:

  • an improved bike(ski) repair shop officially labeling it the “Atelier” with it’s dedicated industrial shop-like environment that clients can walk into.
  • A walking trail demo path to test different boots for fit and terrain usage.
  • A kids climbing wall

At the heart of the Urban Chalet is ‘The Foyer’ – this is a community flex space for all. It allows for new product launches by vendors, product demos and key product display and story telling, staff meetings, community postings for events. Most importantly it allows La Cordee to truly connect with new and existing clients in a casual lounge-type environment supporting the evolution of the brand in the community of ‘outdoor enthusiasts’.”

Image: La Cordée

Cédric Morisset said the retailer plans to expand even more in the future.

“The goal for me is to open one or two stores every year for the next five to 10 years. The goal is really to gain market share. Yes in the province of Quebec. Maybe down the line in the Ottawa market, that’s possible,” said Morisset.

“I’m not saying next week. But it’s something we’re considering. Even though La Cordée’s an institution, it’s still an untapped territory in Quebec for us because we are not in the smaller cities. Other than Montreal and Quebec, we still have other bigger cities in the province and those markets are untapped right now. So there’s a lot of possibilities, lots of growth options for a brand like us.

“We are an outdoor country. There’s a lot of outdoor space out there.”

Image: La Cordée

Morisset said the outdoors market is booming these days.

“The cycling industry right now, the bicycle, is totally on fire. Every boat that we have, I mean, we’re almost sold out of all of our boats. Everything that’s regarding the lakes and kayak, it’s crazy right now,” explained Morisset.

“And trail running is another area where we’re seeing a lot of growth. Camping.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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