So, thoughts on the demise of Mountain Equipment Co-op?

kayakwriter

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I mostly don't disagree with any of what you said, however:


Speaking only from my experience with REI, I agree with most everything that you said but I might change "doing whatever it has to do to expand, often while loudly protesting it needs to do so in order to further The Noble Cause" to "doing what it needs to do to survive in an increasingly competitive market and meeting the needs of the changing demographic".

And that gets messy. Original demographics age out and new demographics require some other product selection. Co-op members vote and are pretty damn loud. Climbing shoes change to golf attire, mountaineering tents change to family camping tents with a separate room for the kids, road bikes change to mountain bikes change to electric bikes, the "tippy" performance kayak changes to something that your Mother-in-Law can paddle.

It sucks. That we both agree on.

I think we agree on even more than that. My issue is not, and never was, with the changing offerings. As young people who were active backpackers and ski trippers become parents, of course it makes sense to offer them car camping stuff and kid-size sleeping bags. In an era when paid time off from work is decreasingly the norm, and outdoor rec pivots towards shorter duration/higher intensity activities, naturally you need to stock trail running shoes, SUPs, and yoga pants. And as old farts like me get creakier and creakier, sell us the thickest, cushiest sleeping pads you can source.

My beefs included how our buyers' ("Product Managers") success was measured. Not on overall member satisfaction and on the value-for-money of the individual products offered (which should be critical metrics of how a retail co-op is serving its owners), but on the easier to measure total value of goods sold, the margins made, and number of "turns" per year or quarter.

At the executive level, success was measured by total sales and by the rate of growth ("Go big or go home.") As with any other counter-factual/alternate history, it's impossible to know for sure, but I believe that if MEC hadn't been so over-extended by the growth-for-growth's-sake approach, it might well have weathered even the COVID crisis, and still be a co-op. Perhaps not as big as some other outdoor rec retailers, but the regular capitalist market creates a never-ending supply of those. A member-owned retailer was a welcome novelty that, when it was still true to its principles, benefitted even those who never shopped there: Other retailers knew they had to match MEC's lower margins on commodity items. MEC really did, to use that over-used phrase, disrupt the market. Its mutation into a regular, for-profit retailer is a loss to all.
 

Tiger Shark

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May 10, 2022
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Coquitlam B.C.
MEC used to have a good selection of kayaking gear, but now they are very quickly sliding toward a Canadian Tire selection. I find that as nice a big coastal city as Vancouver BC is, kayaking equipment here is sad at best.
Only 3 little shops left, someone needs to open a big shop with a good variety of good quality gear even beyond what Western Canoe and Kayak has.
 

Natasha

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Dec 12, 2006
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Since the Kelowna MEC has opened I've had numerous disappointing customer service experiences for questions ranging from help me pick a tent to where is your MSR Whisperlite service kit (they tried to sell me one for a different stove then tell me they didnt carry it even though I had checked their website 10min earlier to confirm it was in stock)? It was so bad that I consistently choose Atmosphere over MEC for their superior customer service. (Sadly MEC opening around 2016 caused all the smaller stores in kelowna to go out of business).

I've suddenly found myself in MEC twice in the last week and there is a obvious change. Staff seem to want to be there and proactively engage with you. They seem to have reasonable product knowledge (and volunteer to find out if they don't know) and the Kelowna store seems to actually have a reasonable selection of stock.

Something has changed. I am assuming it is the new ownership.
 
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ChG

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Nov 4, 2021
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Vancouver Island BC
I do agree that the change of ownership seems to be good so far. The MEC store in victoria has a more friendly lay-out and the staff is great. I have shopped at MEC from the early days, and for sure things have changed like most retail businesses do over time but it is still a great outdoor store. It is not sliding toward a Canadian Tire selection as an earlier post subjected. But the comparaison did make me laugh. Cheers!
 

Gary Jacek

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Dec 11, 2009
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Victoria, BC
Following up on that final, fatal, MEC board. The board chair, Judi Richardson, is still employed on another board. Spend your charity dollars wisely.


26A1043B-18BE-45E7-9CFF-2EF4E3116158.jpeg
 

Biere a Terre

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British Columbia
Having only been in Canada since 2019, my first impressions of MEC was similar to REI in the states: generally knowledgeable associates that like the outdoors.

IMO, here in the lower mainland, that has faded in the past year.

We had a very strange experience when we visited the North Vancouver store in ... February? An associate almost stuck to our side (me, spouse, two kids) the entire time and asked multiple times if we were coming in to get Arc'teryx gear or wanted to try some on (we were getting a bear spray/banger kit for a backpacking trip). We politely declined, and even after getting our items and walking up to checkout she basically shadowed us... and then push-activated the door on our way out but didn't say anything. Very strange.

I just visited the Langley store last week with my just turned five year old and was looking to get him his first real backpacking kit. We stopped in specifically to ensure the Osprey Ace 38 would fit his torso, so had previously read the specifications and such. But we couldn't find it on the floor. First associate told me "I'm new, I'm not sure, I'll get someone," the second associate told us almost the same thing, and the third associate with a waxed handlebar moustache twice told me my 45" tall five year-old son would be better served by just using a MEC school backpack. Huh? I said I really just would like to know where this specific Osprey kit is located in the store as I wanted to size that for him, and he tried to talk over me stating "if you need the specifications of any backpacks, we cannot be responsible for that, you should really check the manufacturer website to confirm details." I was kind of dumbfounded. We continued to wander around and eventually found it next to the garage sale/clearance displays (not in or near kids packs or backpacking kits), but the metal torso length adjustment bar was broken so didn't bother.

We've also had the completely regular retail experience at MEC this year, where no one is around and no one offers to help. Which most of the time is fine! But frustrating when mec.ca says in stock or low stock and you cannot find the item or staff to locate it.

Just my personal experience. I kind of feel like the best MEC experience now is their website. Pick, order, ship, deliver. Its hard to screw that up.
 

AM

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Jan 30, 2006
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Vancouver
Sounds about right. A former student of mine went recently to get some backpacking gear at the Vancouver store and was told by a flustered sales person: “Never work here!”

That’s the opposite of what it was in the old days, when a gig at MEC was pretty desirable for anyone into outdoor adventure: decent wages, great colleagues, and some fun training opportunities.

I do like being given the once-over by store security every time I enter or leave, though!

Cheers,
Andrew
 

Biere a Terre

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I mean doesn't everyone want to be wanted? Heh.

I don't believe I've seen any security guards at the Langley store, but that place is car-dependent hell with no pedestrian traffic. I don't recall at the North Vancouver store, but totally understand at the Vancouver False Creek location: I'm sure all sorts have tried to camp out inside.
 

nootka

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May 26, 2007
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Campbell River
Warning: MEC is now shipping by Fedex, so packages that used to go to your community mailbox will now be dumped at your front door.
There is no option to choose shipping by Canada Post when you order from the website.
Apparently you can choose Canada Post if you order by phone - but who orders by phone?
 

nootka

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It's even worse - I asked MEC to send my package to a local post office outlet and they sent it via Fedex !?!
The local PO will refuse delivery (I asked them). I tried to get Fedex to change delivery location, but MEC put some kind of condition on the package such that no one, not even Fedex, can change the delivery address. And Fedex was unable to tell me where the package will go after the PO refuses delivery.
 

nootka

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I'm not sure how many $ the free non-delivery will cost me, but it certainly has been aggravating so far. It would be nice if these companies (includes Fedex) would have an expert program their "expert" systems. From what I've seen they are farming the software out to newbies who don't know what a flowchart is.
 
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nootka

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It gets a lot worse ...
The parcel went back to Nanaimo (Cassidy) after Canada Post did not accept delivery.
Fedex says they cannot change the delivery address until MEC instructs them where to send it.
Yesterday MEC customer service said they would contact Fedex to send the parcel to a Fedex office in Campbell River.
This morning Fedex said MEC had not contacted Fedex.
This morning MEC said they cannot (will not) change the delivery address, but after Fedex returns the parcel to MEC then they can reship it.
Or I can order the item a 2nd time (ie today) and eventually get reimbursed when the first parcel finds its way back to MEC.

Update ...
I spoke to a supervisor at MEC who said MEC got an email from Fedex stating Fedex would send the parcel to the Fedex office in C.R.
Wait & see.
 
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nootka

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Package has been received. All the delay and wasted time could have been avoided if MEC gave a little more thought to their customers and a little less thought to quarterly profits.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Victoria, BC
All the delay and wasted time could have been avoided if MEC gave a little more thought to their customers and a little less thought to quarterly profits.
:thumbsup:
How quaint! :)
We old hippies have to get with the New World Order (corporate version 2.0) or get out of the way, I think!
 
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