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May 04, 2009

Comments

Stephen Albinati

This is great news! We have tried to do research into the bicycle industry, but as you mention there is nearly no information about their CSR performance. Good luck on shaking up the industry.

Christian Bergeron

One solution?
Buy a locally-made bike.
Canada and the US still have good to top-of-the line bike manufacturers. DeVinci, Rocky Mountain, Cannondale, Trek and others produce bikes made in Canada or the US, so presumably under the control of laws ensuring a greener product. And while parts will always be coming from Asia, at least you can make sure the frame and the assembly of your next bike will have been made under "correct" conditions.
Will MEC bikes be made in Canada? Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to that.

HC

Hi Christian,

Most frames and forks of performance bikes are moulded/welded in Asia (specifically in Taicheung, an industrial city not far from Taipei) and parts of China. Almost all components and accessories are made in Asia.

Most bikes are designed locally (in conjunction with Asian manufacturers) and are assembled in local dealers, warehouses or distribution centres.

Are there ANY performance bikes truly made in Canada or the US? Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to that. If anyone out there knows better, please correct me.

Kevin Barlow

I'm not a sport biker. But I gave my car away and love getting around the city on my retro mountain bike. It looks like a 1980s flash back... grey and splatters painted in various colours. Most bike repair shops will refuse to fix it... I'm told that it would be cheaper just to get a new bike.

Then I found the "bike joint" on Harbard st. I rarely have to pay over $50 and the guy knows that I use my bike just to get around the city- nothing fancy.

Thus, another approach is to build a network of people who respect crappy bikes so so you don't have to buy a new one. Plus, there's no stress with bike theft.

Laurent

@ HC

I think Marinoni, Balfa and Raleigh are all made in Quebec bikes...
Here's what I found:

Marinoni and Balfa (2004)
http://www.geocities.com/velonouvelles/articles/04/juin/P6C.html

Balfa (2003)
http://www.geocities.com/velonouvelles/articles/03/mai/J3.html

Raleigh: at the bottom of that page, it's written that they make 80% of their frame here (in Ontario or Quebec)
http://veloptimum.net/velonouvelles/8/ART/3mars/P22p.html


All those links come from that site:
http://veloptimum.net/Velop/industrie.html

HC

Hi Laurent,

Thanks for the great info. It appears that Canadian manufacturing of bikes is on a downward path.

Balfa was bought out a few years ago and no longer exists.

In terms of the other brands, it is unlikely that they would produce bikes for MEC and have MEC brand them under its own label. We will be competing directly with them in the domestic market.

Cheers.

Dave

Allo,

Been riding a Supercycle that has it's frame manufactured in Quebec. It is strong and heavy.

Someone mentioned once the frame might have been welded by Corrections Canada prisoners under a skills learning program. Still reconciling that ethics of that scenario; it is healthy to learn but it is mean to make people work for not as much as the private sector.

Perhaps this is only hearsay, and rides well regardless.

Pierre

Hi Dave,

re: work by prisoners - I work to put bread on the table, why shouldn't prisoners do the same, especially if they're doing something useful.

Pierre.

Chris

Hi Pierre,

I guess it depends on how profitable it becomes to keep people in prison. The taint is not from a moralistic repugnance of prisoners themselves, but from the proffiteering of their forced labour. Forced labour is the same if you are an immigrant having your passport withheld ("for safekeeping") by the factory you labour at, or if your legal incarceration is looked upon as a basis for industry.

Kevin Barlow

Interesting... I guess prison labour depends on if the labour is expected or voluntary re: ethics. But then again, the level of corruption in some prisons would make one question cohersion. I'll tell the next supercycle rider I see.

Tess

"This is controversial not because of the manner in which the bikes are made but rather in MEC's competitive model". Okay, so when do we hear about the controversial piece? I know that this is the biggest quesion on my mind...

HC

Hi Tess,

Bike retailing in Canada (and the US) is traditionally run by independent dealers who typically buy from distributers. They are small and local operations.

The controversy is MEC is not small and local. In some ways it's similar to a big box operation in terms of its impact on small local out door retailers. It's for them to compete with MEC.

On the positive side MEC is owned by its members, it brings better pricing to it's cutomer base and all the profits less operating costs goes into community and environmental grants. One day some of this money will go to improving working conditions in the factory.

Thanks for your email.

Bob

To answer your question, Litespeed, Merlin, and Seven are all performance bikes and made in North America.
How does selling bikes fit into the model of being a Co-op?

Evan

Yes! please tell us more. I am having a hard time finding any really informative articles or reports on the labor conditions within bicycle factories. Sweatshop watchdog groups are mostly focused on the garment industry.

HC

Hi Bob,

How does selling bikes not fit into the model of being a Co-op?

Bob

Hey HC,

I know it is not against the law, but MEC entering a marketplace where items are available at a low price and in many areas seems against the idea why MEC was created in the first place. Vancouver has dozens of bike shops. So why does MEC want to enter this marketplace? I understand that quality climbing goods where hard to come by and MEC filled a void but there is no void here.

HC

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the clarity. Yes, MEC emerged from the need to sell/provide gear to Canadians at a time when trek or climbing equipment was unavailable.

Now with the exception of few and very select gear, most stuff can be bought elsewhere or on the web.

One of the reasons why MEC is getting into bikes is because our members are asking for it. Another reason is MEC's goal of getting more Canadians outdoors.

At the end of the day, MEC is a co-op retailer. It provides quality products at reasonable prices. It is not a human rights organization, an environmental NGO or retailer of last resort (eg., filling product gaps in the market place). It's a retailer co-op that reinvests its gains into its operations, the local community and socio-environmental initiatives.

The impact on local bike stores may be real. And if they do happen,

J5

HC,

Quote: "One of the reasons why MEC is getting into bikes is because our members are asking for it."

Well... I'm a member and I'm not asking for it. I'm getting tired of the 'Big Box' way the co-op is going. I used to shop at the hole-in-the-wall co-op down on the river in Calgary, great service. Then the massive shop opened up lost its specialty appeal for me.

Winnipeg had a few great shops before I moved there, now a mini co-op moved in and created hype but the staff lacked training and no-one had any expertise.

Now I live in Victoria and I'm saddened by the price bullying that has affected some of the great local shops here; Particularly within the local paddling scene.

Now bikes? I'm starting to wonder what will stop MEC from going into every category and every city. Just like all the other Big Box stores.

Quote: "In terms of the other brands, it is unlikely that they would produce bikes for MEC and have MEC brand them under its own label. We will be competing directly with them in the domestic market."

Doesn't that last statement reflect the issues brought up by other members here? Why buy bikes from MEC if they offer nothing but 'competitive' price and so-called one stop convenience ... the same 'no-name' generic appeal as Superstore.

I know that MEC CAN do better. Source out Canadian! There is no excuse. Even if it means selling a north American product non-MEC brand. Someone has to stand up and why not a co-op?

As a member that's what I want.

HC

Hi J5

Thanks for your thoughts. You do touch on a number of controversies surrounding MEC such as Big Box, dislocating local stores and etc.,

MEC's membership base is evolving and the Canadian population is too. More and more members are not hardcore climbers or paddlers. They are casual users with a more urban lifestyle and they want product a bit different from the hardcore and traditional MEC member.

As MEC evolves, it loses its appeal to some members. It's unfortunate and troubling but it's reality. It's impossible to be all things to everyone. You rightfully want a small and run down store yet other members want a broad assortment in a big shiny store.

As I've told dozens of unhappy members, if you feel MEC has gotten off track get yourself elected on the Board or contact the Board member closest to you.

Thanks for your legit view.

J5

Thank you for your reply.

Just to be clear, I have no issues with the nature of the store. In that I don't mind shiny new stores, particularly stores that are refurbished older buildings with recycled/enviro materials.

For me, I see the co-op taking the price, mass consumer, market driven approach instead of the high road ~ethically (beyond limited UN standards), locally sourced and manufactured (as much as can be found and/or CREATED), socially viable (meaning not entering markets that clearly have enough quality retailers and product) putting smaller operations out of business. I see the move to selling bikes as a striking example of this paradigm.

Also, I disagree that the membership is changing. I think the store is changing and attracting the price shoppers. Creating a hyper-rationalized model of consumption over quality and responsibility.

The high road has always been an option. Maintaining strong memberships that require the best product with the best social/enviro story and service.

I thought speaking on this MEC Ethical Sourcing forum was a way to for me to express my views to the board. I assumed that they (board members) might be interested in what I (we) have to say. As becoming deeper vested in the company and its bureaucracy is not something most of us have the time to do.

Thanks again.

HC

Hi J5

It would be disingenuous of me to claim that MEC doesn't have big box and mass consumer characteristics. In my opinion it does. Finding the balance between a well run retailer and a socio-environmentally bent organization is challenging. There are many tug of wars internally.

In terms of the membership base changing. It has changed in some respects as I've described before in terms of more day trippers versus hard core out door types. As much as some members want MEC to remain the same it can't. Here's why.

Health Canada projects fewer and fewer Canadians being active in the years to come. Which means the outdoors will be under utilized and under appreciated. This impacts MEC in terms of its membership base and future revenue.

Second, MEC is predominantly a "white" membership base run by a "white" board and management. (This is not leading to some us versus them ethnic rant). Canada is increasingly less white. Which means MEC's future potential membership base is changing and will dramatically change in the near future. Most people of colour are not heavy outdoor people. "They" approach trekking and camping much different from MEC's traditional membership base.

MEC must understand this demographic reality in order for it to survive in the future. Immigration and birth patterns are changing Canada and the marketplace.

As a socially progressive organization, MEC is incredibly ethnically insular. As I alluded to above, it is an organization run by one dominant ethnic group. Is there something wrong with that? Well is there something wrong with a university that only has male professors or a profession that only draws one economic bracket of people? The answer is obvious. The organization is much poorer for it and less legitimate to the excluded groups.

MEC is changing and it must change to be relevant to Canada's changing appreciation for the outdoors and evolving ethnic demographics. I personally embrace that change not only because I'm a person of color but because I find the economics of retailing and the market place quite fascinating.

Cheers

Leslie  Grice

I joined MEC in 1978 when I lived within walking distance of the outlet. It catered strictly to dedicated outdoors enthusiasts. The mission statement still reflects this but the current image and reality do not. MEC has now gravitated to and arrived at Big Box status. There is no turning back. There is now a glaring opportunity for a new version of the original. Additionally,there are enough bicycle shops in most parts of Canada to supply the need. A significant number are marginally solvent without the recession and while I applaud MEC's commitment to cleaning up the industry, I personally think it would be more unethical to put many existing bike shops out of business. If you're determined to open something new perhaps you should reestablish the mission statement with a "Back to Basic Essentials" department instead.It would cater strictly to the dedicated outdoors enthusiasts who are harassing you for this service.
Les

HC

Well said, Leslie.

There is an inherent conflict between MEC's original purpose and it's big box state.

I don't think there is an ideal state for MEC. It would be very hard for MEC to survive if it went back to the basics. The market and consumers have changed considerably. Selling the absolute minimum/essential or only filling in gaps where other retailers don't dare enter, in my mind, is a path to financial suicide.

There are so many ways to get climbing gear and other stuff that MEC has to be able to compete at all levels and in a wide range of commodity groups. Anyways, I hear you there is an inherent conflict as you describe.

Thanks.

Jeffrey

the parts will always be coming from Asia?
Why? I see that cannondale has the ability to innovate and research because of their "high volume discounts" on materials. Where does this come from. Who is making the sacrifice for cannondale's success?

HC

Hi Jeffrey,

The product manager who is leading the charge for MEC comes from Rocky Mountain Bikes. He's done all the technical design in Vancouver and in a few years he and the other bike accessory managers with other MEC technical designers are going create an integrated feel and function to MEC bike clothing and gear. The Marketing team is designing all new logos and outreach strategy for this line. It's funky. Design is done in Vancouver.

I've been to the factories (note plural) which will likely be "awarded" MEC bikes. I witnessed and touched Cannondale frames coming off the same production line.

Thanks for your input.

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