mec.ca

Resources

« Israel, Apartheid and Boycotts Part 3 | Main | Ups & Downs - Our Contract Factories »

May 04, 2009

Comments

gromit

when will mec expand by building a store in the fraser valley? Langley/aldergrove/abbotsford would be ideal.

HC

Hi J

I've forwarded your email to the guy who heads store operations.

thanks.

Leo T

I'd like to write in support of MEC doing as its membership pleases.

To the small bike retailers: I love what you do. But for many of you, your days are numbered. This has nothing directly to do with MEC. It has to do with the expansion of other, larger operations. I grew up in Canada but now live in the US. Here we have [Editor's note: company name removed], a big box bicycle retailer. They have stuff for cheap. But you know what? I don't feel like I can trust them. They market their bikes saying "free adjustments for life," which sounds great, but is just a way to get you back into the store. And if you just ask for the free adjustment, they are awfully surly.

MEC, by contrast, is a ray of honesty in a darkness of routine business marketing spin. I actually have faith that they believe in existing for the sole purpose of serving their members, the customers, with no spin or inauthenticity. I can't think of any other business that does this, with the exception of a handful of short-lived independent vendors (and they're short-lived because, if you're not a co-op, you're always going to be out-competed by a dishonest merchant).

C'mon guys. You are taking MEC for granted. There's no other company like it in North America. [Editors note: the remaining section of this paragraph was removed for libel reasons. The author made a comparison between MEC and another named company]

MEC is the best retailer in Canada, if not the world. It should not and cannot be lumped in with other "big box" stores, because it is absolutely nothing like them. MEC's entrance into the bicycle market will make it more competitive and more honest. And this is a good thing for nearly everyone.

HC

Hi Leo,

Thanks for your thoughts and support. For the most part, I'm a big fan of the market place. Customers will decide where to spend their bucks if they feel the product is good, priced right and the seller has integrity. If MEC slips on any of these fronts, customers will go elsewhere. To date, the opposite is happening.

I've had to edit your comments to remove the identification of industry peers or competitors for libel reasons.

Ken Power

MEC is a business. It makes a profit. Like all businesses, MEC reinvests that profit back in to the business to grow the business in order to increase its sales and compete with other businesses. However, MEC is a business that currently doesn't pay income taxes and because MEC doesn't pay income taxes, MEC and it's employees and members have reneged on their moral responsibility to support Canadian social services. So MEC not only competes unfairly with legitimate, responsible, tax paying Canadian businesses, it also has shirked its responsibility to pay for the same social services which its own members and employees rely on.

HC

Hi Ken,

Thank you for your perspective.

I wish working for MEC would mean not having to pay my income tax, payroll tax, GST/PST, municipal tax, car battery tax, solvent and paint taxes, tire tax, license plate and car registration tax and etc., Given that I pay all of these taxes, I seriously doubt I've reneged on paying my share of all the money spent on roads, schools, welfare, health care, defense, and etc.,

Cheers

Bret

Yeah, got to say, it would have been nice not paying taxes for those years that I worked at MEC. Having worked in retail in other countries in outdoor stores, I have to say that MEC is great in the way that staff treat the members. The other retail stores that I worked in were all about the sale, and the money, it didn't matter if the person needed that or no, it was about selling them the most expensive product. I couldn't stand that and it lead to me quitting out of moral outrage. Living overseas now I miss MEC.
If you own a business and think the Co-op is getting away with not paying taxes, make it a co-op, then you won't have to pay taxes (you won't get all that profit though either). And yes, I have recieved dividend cheques from MEC, 2 of them, one whilst working, and one after leaving (which went straight back to them in the form of a new bag). Yes MEC is changing, yes the stores are catering more and more to the general public, why? Because the membership is now moving closer and closer to the general public.
All in all, MEC is great, I love it, and miss it, and everyone who visits me from Canada gets a list of things to bring back from MEC.

HC

Hi Bret,

Thanks for the support. I've been to some great bike dealers where they've really been interested in what I need versus getting me to buy. Regrettably, I was stupid enough to let a bike store on Queen's street (Toronto) sell me a bunch of components I didn't really need. I will never go there again!

I like many other shoppers will go to the retailer, which offers great products at competitive prices with good service. When MEC slips on any of these fronts, it's membership base will go elsewhere. Thank goodness it's been growing year after year which is one testimony it is resonating in the minds of shoppers.

Cheers

Kel

I to am a long time, and for some time disappointed, member of MEC. I prefer to express that dissatisfaction by buying less at MEC (soon to be none) and keeping my purchases, as much as possible, local (West Kootenays).

Many hard working, community based retailers, who contribute much to our local rural communities, find they are driven to match MEC prices, a difficult situation when they don't enjoy they tax status or purchasing power MEC does.

MEC's endless pursuit of growth in expanding numbers of massive stores, and though catalaog and on-line shopping, is much more akin to the savage retail strategies of Big Box retail then to the co-op values it once engendered. And MEC contributes nothing to our local communities, or local employment while it sucks the money out of them, contributing to the undermining not only of small, local businesses, but of communities. There is an ethical question in this aspect of MEC;s business that the Board and membership should consider.

 HC

Hi Kel,

Thanks for your opinion. MEC has both a positive and negative impact on local communities, which is talked about throughout this blog and elsewhere.

To be honest, I support your "shop according to your conviction" perspective even if it means not buying anything from MEC (and paying my salary). It's legit and I do the same with some of my shopping habits around Vancouver.

What I've noticed is that the world is changing fast around MEC, the outdoor trade and the Canadian market. MEC has adapted to that change and guess what, more members are joining, sales are up and more dollars are returned to the local community or to preserving Canada's natural heritage. This is not an in-your-face rebuttal. Rather its more an observation that as much as many/some of MEC members don't like the direction MEC is going, the majority do.

The heart of ethical sourcing is shop according to conscience. You are, which is great, in an ironic way.

Cheers

John Barber

I was agnostic when I went to look at the new bikes yesterday but now Im not. If MEC doesnt want to pollute the planet, how does it explain that prominent rack of ridiculous "fixies" with the blue wheels it is selling? You could have done something original and important. Instead you're just jumping onto the bandwagon with the same trendy crap the most cynical corps are peddling -- about three years after the trend peaked. The rest of the line is less embarrassing but uninspired. Pure commodity stuff. It's sad. At least Wal mart is cheap.

 HC

Hi John,

Thanks for blogging. You're right, retailing bikes and just about everything else has pollution after-effects.

MEC's line of bikes may not suit you. That's OK. The most important thing is that you're doing your bit with your fav bike to reduce our overall dependency on carbon based transportation.

MEC's bike line will appeal to some. And whether we buy a MEC bike or not, each time we cycle, we're winning the war against global warming.

This is the battle MEC wants to fight. And this is the war WE need to win.

Final note: if anyone thinks a discount chain bike is comparable to a MEC bike please think twice. Check the components, frame and performance. If the ride, quality and durability of the bike MATTERS, you will be pleasantly surprised with MEC. And if you ain't having bought and ridden the bike, you can always return it. Now tell me - What does the discount chain offer!

NJC

I have been MTB shopping for my 10 yr old daughter for the past ~4 months and have been sorely disappointed with local (Surrey/Delta) bike shops. Their prices are high and selection sparse for kid's 24" wheel bicycles. So MEC's 24" Ace kids MTB was a very welcome sight and I've already ordered one.

The local bike industry does have a protectionist feel IMO. So the reaction to MEC carrying bicycles is predictable. Note to local bike retailers: stop nickel and diming for small items/parts, and I may drop in more.

 HC

Hi NJC,

Thanks for the feedback and support for MEC bikes.

cheers

Ian

Hi HC,

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

MEC bringing in bicycles does not make sense! I live near a small bike shop and get all my parts and repairs done at this place. I won't be supporting MEC decision on creating this new department. Why does MEC feel that they need to diversify into this sector?? It doesn't need to be happening.

I agree with J5,

" as a member that's what I want "

Drew

I was raised in Vancouver as an MEC member, though in my childhood we didn't shop there exclusively. 3 Vets, Taiga, and a small group of other retailers in the same area were all great shops offering good quality (this is not to suggest that we did not also shop further afield!). 25 years later, I have my own shiny MEC membership yet I still shop around. Dollars are my voting ballots in the STV system of marketplace life, and mandates are rather short-lived.

I'm also not happy with the direction MEC has chosen, but I have to weigh my options. As has been illustrated in previous responses from HC, the price disparity between MEC and other retailers is often a gaping void. I don't mind a small difference in pricing, but the bike tube comparison remains a valid point. What consumer gladly pays a 50% premium for knowing that their dollars have gone to support local business? I won't, and as a consequence the majority of my minor bike fixes are done with MEC parts. For serious work, I head to a specialist.

This isn't meant as a "shut up and vote with your $$" kind of rebuttal to the overwhelming negativity on this blog, rather it's to point out that MEC is not going to knock over every bike retailer in the country. There will be sad losses, others will re-tune their models, and all of this will take place according to the ebb and flow of the consumer ballot system.

It seems sadly hypocritical for many folks here to love their small retailer, and indeed the small-guy history of MEC, while they flay the current image of MEC. Should we not celebrate the successes of a once-small company which has grown, through the ballot system, into a healthy and vibrant national retailer? And certainly, as criticisms do arise, they can be put forward with a touch of perspective - MEC isn't the only nasty, predatory retailer to have discovered the internet.

 HC

Hi Drew,

I appreciate your views.

There are big challenges ahead for MEC. It's traditional membership base (affluent, educated, active and largely anglo/franco consumers) is aging while its future/potential membership base has become less white, less outdoor focused/more sedentary, and more urban oriented. What this means is if MEC doesn't evolve it will become irrelevant.

Before joining MEC, I worked for Canada's largest retailer. You know it. It's been around for 350 years and was privatized by an American. Anyways, this retailer dominated the market until the 1980's. After that it struggled for relevance (and profits).

This is a clear lesson for MEC, which is being understood internally.

Thanks again.

James

I was wondering if MEI had plans to expand into the Okanagan region of BC ?

It seems that Kelowna would be an ideal location in lieu of the number of outdoor activities being offered and the hundreds of thousands of visitors/cyclists/campers/boaters/outdoor enthusiasts to the region each year.

James P.

I have a few questions regarding MEC's bike sales:

Does MEC do retail sales of components that it purchases at manufacturer prices? As I understand it, there are lower prices available for manufacturers than retailers/distributors and it is fairly easy to sell these components at retail instead of on complete bikes.

How does MEC purchase their bicycle accessories? Is it through the same channels of the local bike shops (distributors) or is it manufacturer direct or something else?

Not bike related, but the taxes issue is troubling to me. MEC is a all grown up now (revenues are significant, and a large portion of the marketplace in many of it's sectors), the membership required is a bit of a token gesture to the co-op ownership model (umm, pay $5 to save $20 -OK!) - it's time to stop shirking your contribution to the canadian safety net (not to mention competing fairly with the other retailers).

I thought it would be out of support that I revoke my membership, but this tax issue may be it. I can't really support an retailer that doesn't contribute to the tax base and local economy.

MT

Yes they do. MEC has been talking for years about opening stores in Kelowna, kamloops and Prince George. They have discussed this at their AGM's. The models mentioned in the past have been catalogue stores (like the Sears model) or satellite stores like North Van.

If there is money to be sucked out of a market, MEC will be there.

They need to start thinking about ethical selling!

MT

To answer some of your other questions re bike and accessory purchasing at MEC.

No, MEC does not buy all of its accessories through the same channels and distributors that regular bike stores do. There are authorized distributors for most of the product that you see on bike store shelves. Those distributors generally have exclusive rights to sell that product in Canada. Those arrangements come with responsibilities for warranties, achieving certain sales volumes, marketing, warehousing and so on. All of that, creates and keeps, jobs in Canada.

Many of these distributors choose not to sell to MEC because the product is meant for the independent bike shop market (not big box) that can offer the type of expertise needed to sell that type of product. So, what MEC does, is an end run around the Canadian distributors and retailers and buys that product from "grey market" distributors (unscrupulous distributors in other markets not authorized to sell in Canada). This of course undermines what the Canadian distributors do, piggybacks their marketing and costs Canadian jobs.

But it doesn't end there. MEC then uses the brand name product that it sources through grey market channels to further undermine Canadian distributors and retailers by discounting that product. Why? To drive the sales of their own brands in other product categories like MEC clothing and MEC bikes. Just like in the grocery store with cheap milk and eggs (always at the back of the store) they use the well known branded product to convince you of their lower prices and then charge more for the product that carries the MEC logo that carries high profit margins. Nice eh?

As far as bikes go, MEC buys those direct from third party factories in Asia. MEC hired a guy that used to work for Rocky Mountain. That guy "designed" (read chose frames out of a catalogue) picked parts to hang from those frames and then had the factories make those "custom" MEC bikes.

So unlike other bike companies at MEC there is no engineering department, no industrial design department, no graphic design department, no product testing lab, no bicycle advocacy department, no factory, no marketing department, no dealer service department, no customer service department, no warranty department, no racing teams etc etc.

Virtually all of the things that go into making and supporting a great bike are missing at MEC. Except of course, they have that guy that used to work at Rocky Mountain that picked some frames, hung some parts off them and then had them made in the same factories that some other brands are made in.

So, you should all be asking yourselves, why then, without all that overhead, without a distributor and marketing, why are MEC bikes so expensive? They cost about the same as name brand bikes yet in many cases the name brand product is lighter and better equipped.

So, at the end of the day, we are getting bikes made in the same factories as other brands without all the engineering, testing that go into other bikes and paying about the same price.

Not really the warm and fuzzy industry game change that MEC was promising is it?

 HC

MT,

Interesting comments. Probably the best way for consumers to figure out what's real is to visit a MEC store and test a bike for themselves.

If anyone finds that a MEC bike is really just slapped together by a guy (and retailer) with a pretty face then DON'T BUY it. I certainly won't and no one at MEC would expect you to either.

However, if you find the bike rides well, priced right, great components and solid service and support, then buy it. And if you're happy it's because a lot of talented people worked on this from concept to manufacturing to retailing and after sales support.

Happy shopping in finding the right bike for yourselves.

Cheers

MT

Always interesting how comments here are re framed by the moderator to advance your agenda. No one said MEC bikes were slapped together by anyone.

The point being made was that hiring a guy from Rocky Mountain to order up some bikes from Asia is a lot different than what real bike companies do.

It is folly to assume that a retailer (any retailer) can build a decent bike brand without any of the infrastructure needed to design, engineer, test and develop a bike. Sourcing a bike out of the Taiwan Bike Guide is a hundred miles removed from what a real bike company does and that is why those "real" bikes, to an informed consumer, will always deliver better better value, performance and enjoyment.

The issue for members should be, why, since MEC bikes are created with none of the design, engineering etc overhead and costs involved with delivering a name brand bike to market, are the bikes the same cost?

Just because it has two wheels and pedals, doesn't mean a bike will perform like any other.

The comments to this entry are closed.