Friday, 5 August 2011

Mountain Equipment Co-op turns 40

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MEC grows from 6 to 3.5 million members; embodies 'active outdoor lifestyles'

VANCOUVER, August 2, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Forty years ago today Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) officially opened for business, when it incorporated in British Columbia as a retail co-operative. Membership in MEC was open to anyone and you could join by buying a $5 share in the enterprise. Mountains, climbing and gear for it were at the heart of the deal.

The business began with six founding members who were active in BC's early outdoor scene, a tiny store in downtown Vancouver and gear focused on climbing. Since then, MEC has grown to more than 3.5 million members, fourteen destination stores in six provinces,, some 1,500 employees and a product offering that continues to grow and evolve in step with active outdoor lifestyles in Canada.

"MEC was founded by a small group of climbers who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit, a keen sense of adventure and a deep love for the outdoors," said CEO David Labistour. "These qualities live on at MEC today, helping guide our service to members, the quality and value-laden products we aim to provide and our desire to serve today and tomorrow's generation of active Canadians."

Providing members clothing and gear for backcountry excursions to wilderness destinations shaped MEC's early product offering. Demographic changes within Canada and the trend toward 'front-country' recreation (close to home for short time periods) has led to the evolution of what is now MEC's expansive outdoor product offering.

Like mountain biking and white-water kayaking before them, trail running and stand-up paddle boarding are two relatively new activities rising in popularity that MEC supports as outdoor recreation evolves.

Stores in Vancouver and Calgary and a relatively small membership mainly within Canada's two western-most provinces largely defined MEC's growth in its 15 years in business. That changed in 1986, when the outdoor retailer opened a store in Toronto. Now Ontario has four MEC stores and over half of the co-op's total membership resides east of the Manitoba-Ontario border.

Supporting Canada's outdoor community and well established sustainability programs are integral to MEC organizational culture. Since 1987, MEC has contributed over $19 million in community grants toward outdoor recreation and environmental conservation projects across the country. MEC's sustainability efforts include formal programs in the areas of product sustainability, green building and ethical sourcing.

The cost to join MEC remains unchanged - a $5 share provides an individual lifetime membership. Membership is open to anyone.

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