MEC opening two new Calgary stores as it explores new opportunities amid recession

MEC opening two new Calgary stores as it explores new opportunities amid recession

July 19th, 2016

Meriko Kubota, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Investment for MEC and Jerry McGillivray, MEC's regional operations manager based in Calgary were photographed in the company's downtown Calgary store on Monday July 18, 2016. MEC has plans to open two more stores in Calgary over the next three years.

Meriko Kubota, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Investment for MEC and Jerry McGillivray, MEC’s Regional Operations Manager based in Calgary were photographed in the company’s downtown Calgary store on Monday July 18, 2016.  MEC has plans to open two more stores in Calgary over the next three years.  GAVIN YOUNG/POSTMEDIA

 

While retailers across Alberta suffer from declines in consumer spending, Mountain Equipment Co-op continues to increase sales in the province and will expand its reach with two new stores in Calgary over the next three years.

The outdoor gear retailer, which hasn’t grown in Calgary beyond its downtown location, formally announced Tuesday its move into the city’s suburbs with new stores in the southeast community of Seton and in Medicine Hill, a new west side neighbourhood.

“Although it’s tough times within the market, we still see a very high level of interest for people to get outdoors and be active in close proximity to where they live,” said Jerry McGillivray, regional operations manager.

Retail sales in Alberta have generally been in a slump as the province grapples with a recession triggered by low energy prices. Still, sales rose to $6.3 billion in April, a modest 0.7 per cent gain over volumes reported the same month last year, ending a 15-month streak of year-over-year declines, according to an analysis by the provincial government.

Meriko Kubota, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Investment for MEC and Jerry McGillivray, MEC's regional operations manager based in Calgary were photographed in the company's downtown Calgary store on Monday July 18, 2016. MEC has plans to open two more stores in Calgary over the next three years.

Meriko Kubota, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Investment for MEC and Jerry McGillivray, MEC’s Regional Operations Manager based in Calgary.  GAVIN YOUNG/POSTMEDIA

 

It was the first increase since December 2014.

“(The downturn) has had some effect on us,” McGillivray said, “but overall both in the Edmonton and Calgary markets, we’re still out-performing the Alberta average for retail.”

The Vancouver-based co-operative said its new Calgary locations are part of an “unprecedented period of growth,” with sales topping $350 million for the first time last year. Its camping, climbing and hiking departments have seen double digit sales growth across the country in the past two years or so.

Existing members have shown renewed interest in the backcountry while there has been considerable growth among new Canadians and young families looking to explore nature, McGillivray said.

Mountain Equipment Co-op, which opened its downtown Calgary store in 1977, has been challenged for market share by the likes of Cabela’s Canada, which opened its first Calgary store at the northeast Deerfoot Mall last fall.

The Winnipeg-based retailer of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear is also expanding with a new store in Abbotsford, B.C. in May and another planned for Ottawa later this year as it explores opportunities in additional markets.

“We’re always mindful of that,” McGillivray said of competition, “but we try to focus on our own business and what we do in the market.”

Alberta’s recession has been a major drag for many retailers who haven’t seen conditions this bad for more than a decade, said Lanny McInnes, the Retail Council of Canada’s Prairies director. Still, McInnes said some retailers have been able to avoid significant pain by having reliable customers whose spending isn’t as affected by the downturn.

“I would expect we’ll see more announcements in terms of expanding in the Calgary market,” he said. “It’s still an attractive market, and the expectation is that the economy will bounce back.”

Consumers may have reined in their spending on big-ticket items, such as overseas trips, McGillivray said, but as many opt for less-expensive staycations they’re often willing to update their camping gear or buy a new bike.

International tourism has been another source of sales revenue for Mountain Equipment Co-op. While the low Canadian loonie has hurt many retailers that import materials from the United States, the co-op has reaped rewards from American and European tourists who find their dollar stretches farther buying outdoor gear in Canada, McGillivray said.

The Seton store, expected to open in the fall of 2018, will be close to a growing residential community off Deerfoot Trail, which McGillivray sees as a gateway to outdoor adventures across southern Alberta, from High River to Crowsnest Pass.

The west Calgary store will be in Trinity Hills’ new development called Medicine Hill just east of Canada Olympic Park. Once it opens in 2019, the store will offer access to more than 17 kilometres of nearby hiking and biking trails.

The co-op’s new south Edmonton location will open this fall while new stores will open later this year in Laval, Que. and North York, Ont.

Courtesy of the Calgary Herald, Reid Southwick

Published on: July 19, 2016.