After being purchased by Los Angeles-based Kingswood Capital Management a couple of years ago through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) is in growth mode.
The company’s plans for 2023 include a large, newly built Western Distribution Centre plus further retail expansion and renovations of several existing stores across the country.
“MEC is on a strong and sustainable growth trajectory, and we remain focused on the core foundations of the business – people, product innovation, DE&I and value for money,” said Eric Claus, CEO and Chair of MEC.
“A good example of our commitment to growth and innovation is implementing new systems that allow member experience improvements like our recently launched two-hour in store pickup window. This all means that we can continue to provide a best-in-class omni-channel experience that our members expect from Canada’s most trusted outdoor retailer.”
In 2022, MEC added over 300 employees nationally, fuelled by investment in its in-house brand, MEC Label, and its partnership with Hudson’s Bay that saw the retailer open three premier shop-in-shops in the Greater Toronto Area. The company’s recruitment drive will continue, with further retail expansions and refurbishments slated for 2023.
MEC was first founded in 1971. The company has 21 standalone stores plus the three locations within Hudson’s Bay.
Peter Hlynsky, Chief Financial Officer, said the new distribution centre will be 212,000 square feet in Surrey, BC near its current facility, which will close with the opening of the new DC.
“It’s in an up and coming area called Campbell Heights that has a lot of distribution centres being built in it right now. We’re pretty excited. It’s close for all existing employees that we really value and it’s also a LEED certified building so it meets our criteria of reducing our carbon footprint. We’ll be reducing our energy by 20 per cent and it meets our scope to greenhouse gas emissions standards that we’re trying to hit,” said Hlynsky.
“The way we’re going to lay this thing out it gives us the flexibility to really grow. As we continue to expand, we’re going to have a larger square footage overall. We currently have about 70 people working in our distribution centre. We’re going to add between 30 and 40 people to the distribution centre.
“The layout and the configuration and hiring more people will really allow us to grow both from an ecomm perspective and from a store fulfillment perspective.”
The company said the new facility will improve speed to store and online delivery.
“It elevates the game,” he said.
“Right now we’re actually working with our broker to identify other new stores for us in addition to HBC. We have communication with HBC about new stores and then we’re looking for our own right across Canada. We have a list of call it 25 locations and we’re saying look if an opportunity comes up in one of those markets we’re going to jump on it, we’re going to move pretty quick.
“When we got here, we got to a business that had gone through bankruptcy. We weren’t quite sure what it was going to look like and we realized very quickly we had a very powerful business here. So we spent the last year kind of rebuilding the strategy of growth and that’s really where we’re focused right now. How do you grow the business? How do you expand? And for us really what we do is the expanded footprint really helps your online omni-channel experience because for us our customers buy from us online and then want to return in store or they want buy online and they want to pick up in store. And they want to have that omni-channel experience. Being able to be in more locations across the country and not just in the locations of the cities in the markets we’re currently in, we view that as a real advantage to expanding our omni-channel footprint and really growing the business.”
Recently, MEC opened three shop-in-shops at Bay stores in the Yorkdale and Square One Shopping Centres, and in the flagship store on Queen Street in Toronto.
It also debuted nationally on TheBay.com.
“We anticipate working with the Bay to find other locations. They’ve been a very good partner to work with and it’s been a good relationship so far. The stores are doing very well,” said Hlynsky.
“We continue to work with them to identify locations and I would anticipate next year we would continue to open more in connection with them.”