Several new products from brands such as Nike, New Balance and Castelli have already hit MEC stores, with more to follow in the course of the year. MEC has traditionally focused on apparel and equipment for outdoor hobbyists.
David Labistour, chief executive officer at MEC, said the product expansion had been in the works for two years. He said the decision to compete in a wider range of active-lifestyle categories was influenced by research indicating that most MEC customers engaged in some form of urban training apart from their outdoor activities.
“People are coming to our stores for certain things and we’re sending them away because we’re not acknowledging their full lifestyle needs,” said Labistour. “[Adding more products] is just a matter of being more relevant to that full spectrum of needs for the skiers, the climbers, the runners and the cyclists that are coming to our stores anyway.”
Labistour said that in the short term, MEC will promote its broader product line directly to customers primarily through in-store and grassroots initiatives, events and social media communication.
However, Labistour said MEC plans to introduce a new brand platform in the fall. MEC sent out a request for proposals last month in an effort to find an agency that could perform a “brand audit” and provide strategic branding insight. Thus far, the request has yielded pitches from agencies in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
“Today’s communications and marketing has to be complete through all channels,” said Labistour. “We’re in the process of restructuring and rebuilding the team to be able to do that.”