MEC expanding into Alpine skiing and snowboarding
A MEC store is seen in Edmonton. (CTV)
Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, October 13, 2015 4:43AM EDT
MONTREAL - Sporting goods retailer MEC is getting into resort-style Alpine skiing as it continues to move away from its original mission of only targeting self-propelled wilderness activities.
The company has long supported backcountry and cross-country skiing but is shifting gear even though downhill skiing and snowboarding relies on mechanical lifts to take people to the top of hills.
"We're not going to go to the dark side at all," CEO David Labistour said from its headquarters in Vancouver in a recent interview.
Since 2012, the company has evolved its approach to helping people lead active outdoor lifestyles and has instead adopting a non-motorized policy.
"Skiing is a healthy, family-oriented activity that we believe fits in line with what we stand for."
The co-operative, founded in 1971, will begin selling equipment along with ski clothing beginning Tuesday at four of its 18 Canadian stores, and online. Skiing enthusiasts will be able to purchase downhill and boarding gear at the Montreal Marche central store, at Toronto's King Street store and in Ottawa and Calgary.
The program will be rolled out to other locations as early as next year if results prove successful.
Mountain Equipment Co-op has traditionally been stronger in Western Canada, catering to pursuits like backcountry skiing in the Rockies. Nearly half its sales come from B.C. and Alberta.
Ontario, meantime, contributes 27 per cent and Quebec 15 per cent. Its 4.5 million members are expected to spend $350 million in its stores this year.
Adding downhill sports is aimed at serving a popular winter activity in central and eastern Canada.
"From those with a Western perspective, we think the mountains are in the West, but actually the ski visits in the east are significant," Labistour said.
Canada is the world's seventh-largest ski nation with an estimated 2.5 million Canadians who ski or snowboard each year at some 279 hills across the country, according to the Canadian Ski Council.
MEC will sell equipment brand names that include Salomon, Rossignol, Vokl, Marker and Dalbello. Clothing will be available from Helly Hansen, Outdoor Research and Burton, in addition to its own MEC brand.
The move comes a few years after MEC added standup paddleboards and equipment for yoga, cycling and running.
As part of its new skiing focus, MEC is partnering with winter athletes Mark Sollors and Roz Groenewoud to raise awareness of climate change by donating up to $10,000 to the Protect Our Winters non-profit.
MEC's entry into Alpine sports may have an impact on other high-end retailers, but not those that cater to deal-conscious families that represent the largest segment of buyers, said Lee Brosseau, assistant manager of Andre Jac Sport in Laval, Que.
"If people are going there for high-end stuff, those are great skiers. Those are people who have got years of experience and they are looking for a high-end ski to match their experience," he said in an interview.