View topic - MEC is sold to private equity. Cooperative no more.

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PostPosted: September 23rd, 2020, 9:37 am 
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I'll also say that I really don't think MEC would be missed as an outdoor retailer. Personally I think the question is whether the idea of a coop is worth saving. This is where I think that a rescued MEC can have a valuable role in supporting, promoting, and serving Canadian outdoor recreation.

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PostPosted: September 24th, 2020, 11:11 am 
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Splake wrote:
Personally I think the question is whether the idea of a coop is worth saving. This is where I think that a rescued MEC can have a valuable role in supporting, promoting, and serving Canadian outdoor recreation.


This is what I've been thinking as well. I believe the original idea of the co-op was from back when good gear was hard to get and this allowed people to leverage some buying power and get gear that wasn't normally available to them.

I think a co-op concept in this day and age would work as some sort of on-line buying group. A good example is "massdrop" now just called drop which is a US based site that offers reduced prices based on the number of people who agree to buy a certain item.

When you think about it retailers are really middle-men and you could make a case that with the internet providing access to small cottage manufacturers and more niche oriented products that retailers aren't well suited to specialty hobbies.
However Lee Valley Tools and Wild Birds Unlimited seem to do just fine.

I think the idea of a co-op still holds validity but maybe not in bricks and mortar fashion.


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PostPosted: September 26th, 2020, 12:18 pm 
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In today's paper the real estate assets are said to be about $65 million, worth over half of the projected deal. It's a surprising amount for a retailer? Speaking of Lee valley, i bought an agawa canyon saw there before i ever noticed them at mec. I was amazed to learn later that it's an outfit in Uxbridge of all places. Picked up a pot last fall at a little shop in Etobicoke or Missisauga I think. They had a bunch of the boutique canvas gear strewn all over the place but all I needed was a pot. It's a pot you can't get a mec, bail handles, and the first pot i've ever owned that didn't burn the soup because it's just the right gauge. The market for quality gear is relatively small and hasn't grown in pace with the general increase in outdoor activities. People are getting outdoors more than ever before, but not very deeply into the backwoods so to speak. If MEC were to try to revert to an earlier incarnation, it would have to get far smaller than the proposed 17 stores under this deal I think.


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PostPosted: September 27th, 2020, 7:35 pm 
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PostPosted: October 8th, 2020, 8:19 am 
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Splake wrote:
I'll also say that I really don't think MEC would be missed as an outdoor retailer. Personally I think the question is whether the idea of a coop is worth saving. This is where I think that a rescued MEC can have a valuable role in supporting, promoting, and serving Canadian outdoor recreation.


MEC also has a significant amount of intellectual property that it would be incredibly unfortunate to see go to Kingswood. You can pretty well guarantee that those designs will never see the light of day again except when they try and sue people for trying to reverse engineer those old designs and remake them at the cottage vendor level.

In all honesty, it would be better if that intellectual property went fallow and we could start reverse engineering their stuff under new banners as opposed to having to fight Kingswood for them.

MEC had a lot of stinkers in terms of new gear over the past 5 years, but they also had a lot of winners, especially going back into the past. It would be really good if that stuff could be made available to other manufacturers and we could start making small runs of the gear that was really good / popular.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2020, 10:34 am 
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Re your reference to:
Quote:
a significant amount of intellectual property that it would be incredibly unfortunate to see go to Kingswood
.

Josh - way over the top! You make it sound like the loss of the Avro Arrow or the loss of Nortel! What next - a Heritage minute on MEC? What specific designs do you have in mind that are so unique that their loss would be so devastating? Are you talking dry bag designs? air mattresses? gloves? Tents?

Consider Arcteryx, another once-Canadian company whose design team in Vancouver still continues to innovate and create indusjtry-leading products. All the while it is owned by a Chinese company. As the Wikipedia entry states -

Arc'teryx is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation, since 2019 owned by the Chinese group Anta Sports,[3] with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Sports Tracker, Salomon, Precor, Suunto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc%27teryx

Nostalgia and fantasy are not what MEC needs to survive in the 2020s.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2020, 12:22 pm 
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cheryl wrote:
they should have stuck with their original mandate as a Niche store.


This is definitely where they went wrong in my opinion as well. As soon as I saw bikes in there I knew this was going to happen... Unfortunately, the staff are also not knowledgeable anymore because they cover to wide of a range of topics. I had a question about a liquid fuel stove the other day, mind you it was pretty technical...., but nobody could answer me.

It's really unfortunate to loose a Canadian company like that but MEC did make management mistakes by moving away from being a niche store.... And as an outdoorsmen I, unfortunately, haven't been recommending MEC much because they lack the expertise they use to have and WHY would you buy any MEC brand anymore.... They don't honor their warranty anymore and they are just as expensive as big brand companies who makes, in my opinion, much better equipment.

My two sense I guess haha

cheers everyone!

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2020, 7:54 pm 
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true_north wrote:
Re your reference to:
Quote:

Arc'teryx is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation, since 2019 owned by the Chinese group Anta Sports,[3] with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Sports Tracker, Salomon, Precor, Suunto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc%27teryx

Nostalgia and fantasy are not what MEC needs to survive in the 2020s.


I did not know this about Arc'teryx... or Salomon or Suunto....... certainly moving production overseas didn't reduce Arc'teryx prices....


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2020, 7:09 am 
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ameaney wrote:
true_north wrote:
Re your reference to:
Quote:

Arc'teryx is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation, since 2019 owned by the Chinese group Anta Sports,[3] with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Sports Tracker, Salomon, Precor, Suunto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc%27teryx

Nostalgia and fantasy are not what MEC needs to survive in the 2020s.


I did not know this about Arc'teryx... or Salomon or Suunto....... certainly moving production overseas didn't reduce Arc'teryx prices....


Farmers market: eggs @ $7.50/dozen. I asked why not $6.50/dozen and undercut the competition? "People don't want $6.50 eggs - they want $7.50 eggs. At $6.50, they think the quality must be inferior."

Sick.


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2020, 7:30 am 
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scratchypants wrote:

Farmers market: eggs @ $7.50/dozen. I asked why not $6.50/dozen and undercut the competition? "People don't want $6.50 eggs - they want $7.50 eggs. At $6.50, they think the quality must be inferior."

Sick.


Where can I get some of these $7.50 eggs? They sound much better than the crappy $6.50 eggs I've been buying!!


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2020, 7:54 am 
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If you've ever used the phrase "you get what you pay for," you are probably over 40.


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2020, 2:21 pm 
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The notion that there is some golden age somewhere in the past when MEC was a niche store and that this is where they should go back to is a piece of fantasy. “Niche” always seems to include all the stuff purchased by the person arguing that they should go back to this point in the past.

And where is that? Is it …

before they started selling high-end Arcteryx clothing (again)
before they started selling a full range of bicycles
before they started selling yoga pants
before they started selling Nova Craft canoes
before they started selling running watches
before they started selling ____________________ (fill in the blank with the product line that told you they had lost their way.

MEC stopped being a niche market store 45 years ago when they moved away from the tiny original group they were catering to - i.e. the 100 mountain climbers in Vancouver interested in harnesses, ropes, carabiners, and pitons. Their original logo tells you all you need to know about their “niche”.

I remember frequent visits to their Toronto store when it opened in the mid-1980s on Front Street. I would wonder just what all that exotic climbing equipment was for and who was buying it. However, I was sure glad they also stocked the stuff I was looking for - i.e. the hiking and paddling and cycling-related items, as well as the clothing, MEC-branded and other, that allowed me to develop my “urban camper” look.

Their reach grew more impressive over time - more MEC-branded items, as well as Nova Craft canoes and more recently top-quality bicycles, as it changed with their customers and with the times and made an effort to remain relevant.

It would be interesting to delve into the financial situation of R.E.I., the Seattle store which inspired the founding of MEC in the late 60s-early 70s. What sort of shape is REI in and, if better, what can MEC learn from it - if they haven’t already? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recreatio ... pment,_Inc.

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2020, 11:12 pm 
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For my part, the sad reality is that MEC used to be my destination store. It no longer is. They simply don't stock what I need any longer, and if I'm mistaken about that, the sales staff is of no help finding it.

I had no issue when they introduced bicycle gear - they were adapting to the needs of a changing market (and I am an avid cyclist), and one of the many things Star Trek taught me is - those who don't change... die. I had no issue when they axed the entire hunting&fishing section (did they ever sell hunting gear?). They were located primarily in large cities where demand for that product was (and still is) low, compared to their competitors.

I may not be able to articulate it - but they just don't ever seem to have what I'm looking for any longer. Sure, if I'm in the area, I'll stop by. But less and less often I find myself actually purchasing anything there. They seem to concentrate on either big ticket, high markup product (think cookware), or high volume, low margin product (think yoga fashion). If you ask me, they should pick one or the other and excel in that specific market. Their overconcentration on having something for everyone has left them in a place where they no longer stock what has drawn people to them from the beginning - the otherwise hard to find stuff. My quintessential example is that I don't even bother looking at MEC for bear spray or bangers or flares any longer. They rarely stock them, and when/if they do, the sales staff knows precisely squat about them.

It doesn't help that when they came onto the scene they were the only game in town, whereas now they're competing with Sail, Bass Pro/Cablea's, REI (online), and hell, Amazon, not to mention all the very well known more local retailers (I can think of Chaltrek in Thunder Bay and Wild Rock in Peterborough to name just two, as well as Canadian Outdoors in Port Credit). The world changed, and like Microsoft, they didn't change with it.

In a nutshell, I don't think they know who their customer is any more. They lost their way years ago and I'm not brokenhearted to see them go.

I will, however, defend them on at least one front - they still have the best warranty in the business, at least if you buy MEC branded products.

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PostPosted: October 18th, 2020, 8:13 pm 
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Very sad situation but as others have articulated it is the sign of the times. Most of our gear is now bought from cottage companies these days although I wish more of them were Canadian. I remember back in the 90's the MEC brand items like their high end gortex jackets being ahead of the curve over major companies integrating things like waterproof zippers on pit zips at a price point several hundred dollars less than the name brands. I remember buying primeloft at MEC before anyone had primeloft insulated gear.

Imagine if that same innovation continued to this day in items like like single wall dyneema tents and and dyneema backpacks that are only now starting to find their way into the name brand labels like BigAgnes. MEC could have been there 10 years ago if they followed their early models of seeking the best materials and making great designs at affordable prices.

Still there is something to be said about a brick and mortar place and I hope they continue to stay open and sell some quality gear. If it is any consolation, REI in the US has went a parallel route as MEC and the two almost seem to have the same catelogues anymore....just a small step above cabellas. I'll still patron these places for what items of use they still sell...Indeed, I was in London's store last Thursday and bought some pants.


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2020, 9:34 am 
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It would be interesting to delve into the financial situation of R.E.I.


The numbers may be out there somewhere for REI, easier is to find the performance of Johnson Outdoors, a publicly owned business (they issue stock that anybody can buy through a broker)... the business is worth about $800 million and has been profitable over the past few years, growing profits at about 5-10% each year. 2020 has been a poorer year due to COVID but they should survive. JO has been buying up smaller businesses in the past, like Eureka, Old Town, Ocean, Necky, Jetboil, Carlisle, etc... all adding up to bigger-picture business growth.

The products marketed are used for fishing from a boat, diving, paddling, hiking and camping... so I would see the overlap with MEC being there, except for the upscale clothing.

Interestingly the watercraft division resulted in sales growth so far in 2020, unlike fishing, camping supplies and diving, which saw decreased sales. Profits have been good enough for JO to raise the dividend by 27%, a good sign that they are not experiencing difficulties.

With these outdoors products selling well enough to keep this company afloat (sorry, couldn't resist that)... the MEC problems can't be attributed to poor demand for outdoor gear since it is there in the numbers above. There are probably news reports on why MEC failed but I haven't had time to dig them out wherever they are.

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