Mountain Warehouse Looks to Further Expand in Canada by Opening Dozens of Stores [Interview]

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Canadians love the outdoors and Mountain Warehouse is growing its presence in the country to meet a growing need in the market.

Mark Neale

Mark Neale, CEO and Founder of the outdoor clothing and equipment London-based retailer, said Canada is the second most popular country in the world for the brand behind the UK.

The brand began in 1997 and today it has about 370 stores in eight different countries. There are 45 stores in Canada.

“We carved out this positioning for ourselves where we offer great value for money, every day outwear we call it, for the whole family,” said Neale. “There are loads of what you might call our (competitor) brands and they’ve all got a picture of a guy, and it’s always a guy with an ice axe hanging off the glacier. We instead have pictures of a whole family playing with the dog in the woods.

“So it’s an accessible offer, accessible price points, accessible stores where people are shopping anyway, and accessible advice with friendly people who are pleased to see you when you come into the store.

“You don’t need to be a super technical outdoorsman to shop with us.”

Image: Mountain Warehouse

Neale said the brand opened two stores in Canada in 2023 in Whistler, B.C., and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Another Vancouver store in CF Richmond Centre is opening around Christmas this year and a shop in Banff on Banff Avenue will open sometime before Easter.

“We’re also doing a new store next year, spring time, in Kingston, Ontario and we’re looking at a few other things,” said Neale.

When asked how many stores the brand could grow to in Canada, Neale said: “I honestly don’t know but I’d like to think we can get to 70 or 80 stores in due course.”

Stores are typically 3,000 and 6,000 square feet.

“One of the things we are doing is we’re looking for bigger stores at the moment,” added Neale. “In the UK, which is our home market, we’ve been doing a lot bigger stores. We’ve got some now that are 15,000 plus square feet and we found that they’ve been going really well for us. We developed a much wider product range during COVID for the online business because when all the stores were closed the online was really booming.

“Now we’re finding to put that in stores we need bigger stores and that’s working well for us.”

Mountain Warehouse (Image: G.L. Smith)
Mountain Warehouse (Image: G.L. Smith)

Neale said when the company looks for real estate space in Canada it is now keen to find locations in power centres which it hasn’t done yet. 

“Geographically we’re all over the country but we’re in the most populated areas obviously. But we’re also in some smaller markets,” he said.

COVID was a booming time for the retailer, like many others in the industry. During the pandemic, many people were buying outdoor gear who traditionally were not outdoor customers.

“I particularly remember that, particularly in that first year, literally every person in the world wanted a pair of walking boots so they could spend their one hour of exercise a day with their dog or whatever walking,” said Neale.

“But travel gear you could not sell for love or money. As things progressed, things changed and it’s pretty much back to normal now.”

Neale said the newest stores have a much brighter look to them and they are tending to be bigger to showcase the whole range of products.

“And that’s been working well for us,” he said.

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

1 COMMENT

  1. It would be interesting to get more retailers to discuss why they are not entering the Quebec market. Mountain Warehouse is a good example of this. Quebec is a very rich market for sporting goods and outdoor equipment stores. Why not take advantage of that and join the fun?

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