Mountain Equipment Coop Introduction Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a Canadian outdoor consumer operative. In 1972, “We help people enjoy the benefits of self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation,” became MEC’s first ever mission statement. MEC started with a niche market approach, adopting a focus strategy. Unsurprisingly, to adapt and maintain competitiveness, the organization’s business strategy has slowly shifted; since then, MEC has transitioned from a focus strategy to a growth and cost leadership approach.
Nevertheless, the fundamental corporate values that gained MEC’s success, such as brand association to outdoor lifestyle and environmental sustainability, remain seen today. MEC continues to grow and evolve to over 15 retail locations across Canada, exceeding $270 million in annual sales internationally(MEC, About MEC). Business Strategy MEC was once viewed as a specialty store for outdoor enthusiasts; as the market transforms and consumer behaviors change, MEC is evidently becoming a cater-to-all business.
Today, MEC’s mission statement reads “Mountain Equipment Co-op provides quality products and services for self-propelled wilderness-oriented recreation, such as hiking and mountaineering, at the lowest reasonable price in an informative, respectful manner. We are a member-owned co-operative striving for social and environmental leadership. ”. From the new additional key words and phrases in the mission statement like “such as hiking and mountaineering”, “lowest reasonable price”, it suggests MEC is looking to target a bigger market outside outdoor fanatics at a cost competitive price point. A growth strategy. A cost leadership.
MEC implements its organizational strategy in many ways. For example: 1) MEC seeks cost approach method such as outsourcing manufacturing to Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India… etc; interesting, MEC does so with complete transparency (disclosing supplier’s geographic and business information)(MEC, Factory List). Through this, MEC effectively conveys important points both externally and internally, such as using sustainability materials and methods, furthering worker’s right, and promoting best sourcing practices; aligning business practice precisely to its corporate vision and values. 2) New market and products development.
Once a mountaineering and climber specialized store, MEC now markets to other healthy living lifestyle market segments like running, yoga, water sports… etc. It has developed over 20 product lines catering to all ages. MEC has grown its traditionally focused target market to a much broader and wider audience. (MEC, MEC Shop) 3) Differentiation. MEC continues to put tremendous effort in upholding and creating its corporate values. It proactively promotes sustainability practices and active lifestyles. This unique proposition creates brand loyalty and emotional benefits as the market shared similar values.
According to MEC, 97% members recommended MEC(MEC, Sustainability). This differentiates MEC than its competitors and enables MEC to continue to grow even within saturated markets. Company’s Customer Value Proposition MEC offers any healthy lifestyle related products, to anyone, at a competitive price, and to answer any questions, all in an environmentally sustainable manner. MEC has discovered long ago Canadians are outdoor adventure enthusiasts; yet, the market never had its own provider for all the gears, apparels, and gadgets that go with these outdoor activities.
MEC commercialized this opportunity and became the largest Canadian manufacturer and supplier of outdoor equipments. For a long time, MEC dominates the mountaineering and hiking gears market segment; but MEC doesn’t stop here, it leverages the membership program, high traffic retail locations, and customer loyalty to develop more products and diversify in additional market segments. 4 P’s & Customer Value Proposition Product MEC has grown from being a retail distributor/reseller, to establishing its own product brand and manufacturing; which made sense as MEC was striving to grow.
It also strategically decided to outsource most of its productions overseas; allowing MEC to be competitively priced and slowly move to the vision of “catch all” rather than the traditional segmented focus strategy. Mentioned previously, although MEC outsources its productions, it puts a lot of effort to convey their ethical and sustainable sourcing standards and best practices. This meshes well with their corporate value of environmental sustainability and supporting human rights. MEC is constantly developing new products to diversify their business and market.
They now offer a wide range of products that covers all the active lifestyle markets. This ranges from gears, clothing’s, supplements, to books and DVDs for cyclists, runners, kayaker and all outdoor active hobbies. Again, this is testimonial to MEC’s growth strategy and value proposition of offering products to all healthy lifestyles markets. Price MEC prides itself with the ability to manufacture sustainably and minimize eco foot prints while maintaining a competitive price point. It aspires to create products that are affordable and of good value to all consumers.
While MEC carries other product brands, its core strategy revolves around its own unique brand. This vertical integration allows MEC to leverage its retail distribution strength. It effectively competes with all the other brands via a lower price point at a similar quality. Place MEC’s main channels of distribution are its own retail locations and MEC’s direct online store. The retail locations are across Canada, all high exposure high traffic areas. This “available everywhere” approach is crucial to MEC’s value proposition of offering its products to the mass market. Promotion
MEC promotes active lifestyles, outdoor activities, and sustainability: socially, environmentally, and economically; Events such as “MEC Paddlefest”, “MEC Snowfest” and “MEC Bikefest”, are some of the biggest national annual events. It promotes all levels of participation; concurring with MEC’s values. Many similarities can be found between MEC’s brand and its targeted market segment; allowing MEC to grow with the market. Also worth noting, MEC highly advertises their knowledgeable and helpful customer service team through advertisements, websites, and even promoted in their mission statement.
This implies that anyone, from a beginner cyclist to a seasoned kayaker, is welcomed to come in and ask questions. This “we will answer your questions” approach again ties in to their corporate value of catering to the masses. Conclusion MEC’s success can be summarized in three short points. 1) Effective business strategy. 2) Strong value proposition, and perhaps most importantly; 3) Strong alignment of both throughout the organization and consistent communications internally and externally.