Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) may be touting its new Outpost store as a return to its roots, but the “shop-within-a-shop” represents a new retail strategy for the leading outdoor vendor.
Until now, the cooperative’s 17 stores spread across six provinces have been stand-alone boxes of varying sizes. However, that’s changing – and not just with the Outpost store announcement of an 850-square-foot store located within the expanded and newly renovated University of British Columbia Bookstore.
MEC is also taking a new approach with mixed-use development. A hint of what’s causing the outdoor retailer to explore new formats can be found in the store’s 2012 annual report, the most recent one available.
In the report, CEO David Labistour writes that product and retail options for Canadian consumers have expanded rapidly from the arrival of more U.S. competitors as well as from the increasing adaption of e-commerce.
“We have seen U.S. online competitors establish distribution centres in Canada, and we have seen more competition from eastern-based retail pushing westward,” Labistour notes. He also cites the rapid adaption of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile applications “giving consumers greater choice and control over the global shopping experience.”
$300 million in 2012
In 2012, the retailer’s performance topped $300 million, an 11.8 per cent increase over 2011. However, MEC reported that it managed an “inventory turn rate” of 2.12, below its target of 2.3. That meant it overstocked on products and had to place inventory on clearance to make room for new stock, which subsequently affected its margins, MEC said.
“I believe we are at the threshold of a sea change in Canada,” Labistour said, “and only those organizations that are efficient, nimble and responsive will survive. That means MEC cannot stand still.”
Gary Faryon, MEC’s chief retail operations officer, said in a statement that MEC had come full circle with Outpost.
“A handful of UBC students started the co-op in 1971, and 43 years later, we are excited to be back with a new MEC store format that will serve students and the wider university community right on campus.”
The store will sell more than 100 popular MEC-brand products and will include lifestyle apparel as well as specialized clothing for cycling, running, hiking and yoga.
Received approval for a second store in GTA
MEC also announced at the end of March it had received zoning approval for a second store in the Greater Toronto Area. It is contained in a mixed-use project consisting of a two-storey, 44,000-sq.-ft. store fronting onto Sheppard Street in North York with 50 units of stacked townhomes on the rear of the development site.
MEC and project partner Broccolini Construction are now seeking approval from the City of Toronto for a site plan for the store and townhomes as well as approval to sever the property into two separate parcels.
Construction expected to start this month
MEC expects construction to start this month with an opening date of spring 2015. The North York store will be accessible from the Macdonald Cartier Freeway and well-served by transit along the Sheppard Line with Bessarion Subway Station only 80 metres from the store’s entrance.
Of MEC’s 3.5 million Canadian members, more than 620,000 reside in the GTA, with more than 100,000 in the North York area.