Here's an interesting article I found in the G & M about Canada's well-respected outdoor gear seller, Mountain Equipment Co-Op or MEC. The company is more than 40 years old, has 13 retail stores across Canada, was among the earliest Canadian retailers to join the "1% for the Planet" program anddddd made roughly $260 million in sales last year (not bad at all, ehh!)
Being inside an MEC store (like the one on King West) is almost a surreal experience with all the stuff that you could possibly want (backpacks, snow-wear, climbing gear, kayaks, snow shoes ...it's endless...BUT!! They do not carry snowboards....no clue why!) and hands-on staff to have a conversation with you about why you're looking for stuff before pitching any product!
Problem 1 - So who's the #1 competitor for MEC: It's a sedentary lifestyle that we're moving towards and focusing less towards "Self propelled" activities (I remember one of the top guys from MEC saying it).
The article in G&M talks about MEC trying to have more urban products. That's so true. My school backpack is from MEC and has a v protective laptop area and a million zippers to store every thing possible!
Problem 2 - Canada's changing demographics: A Recent article in The Star talked about 265,000 new PR admitted into Canada. The highest numbers in 57 years. wow! While doing an assignment in my Strategy course on Netflix Canada, I found a Statistics Canada report which suggested some alarming numbers:
- By 2017, 1 in 5 Canadians will be born out of the country.
- South Asians and Asians will be the largest visible minority groups with 1.8 million members each
Without generalizing Asians and S. Asians too much, it'd be safe to say that we're not exactly into adventure sports/activities. There's a reason why MEC was born out of Vancouver. These kinda activities have more following amongst Caucasians.
I'm not aware of MEC exporting goods to other countries but based on the current trends, it would have 2 reasonable alternatives that I can think of (at 2 am ...):
1. Stay true to roots and seek other Western markets
2. Change with times and understand newer Canadian customers better
While expanding into other markets sounds easy, it's not. IF MEC has no experience in international markets, it can face pitfalls. My guess is that Europe would be lucrative but brands like Boreal, Salomon, Rockport are already popular.
Option 2 presents its own challenges. Here's an example of a solution. I do not know the price of ski equipment but snowboarding can cost roughly $1,000 (boots, boards, apparel, helmet...). As it is, skiing/snowboarding would have a low adoption rate amongst immigrants. The cost of buying the gear is rather prohibitive. Could the company look at selling lower-end (but quality) gear not aimed at professionals but rather beginners who might get hooked on to the sport?