It looks like we are going to be seeing some major changes in the coming months at Canada’s largest outdoor co-operative retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).
CEO, David Labistour announced this morning in the Co-op's blog that they will be undertaking a massive brand revitalization program. The announcement is a little vague but there are a couple clues scattered throughout:
What they said: Starting this summer, we’ll begin to roll out a revitalized brand platform. It begins with a new version of our logo on MEC products released in July. In September, you’ll see a shift in the style of photography and the design of store interiors, elements that will complement the freshness of our product lines.
What it likely means: The familiar mountain logo is gone and replaced with something less "rough and tumble mountainy". This will allow them to cut their ties with the past as the place to get only mountain gear and give them the ability expand into new outdoor sports down the road.
This also means that the old way of how they did things and the decisions behind types of gear they sell is finished. It’s clear at MEC is feeling the competition from big box stores like Bass Pro, Sail and some Canadian Tire stores that they need to change or become quickly irrelevant.
So what does that mean? My guess is that they are going to be making very hard choices to what they will focus on. Hard choices mean that money losing departments like the rock climbing section will probably be cut back drastically (or moved out of the store and available online only) making room for more urban activities like expanded cycling or running departments.
I think we are also going to see a subtle shift in the clothing line-up away from purely wilderness designed clothing (ugly but functional) over to more lightweight “outdoor lifestyle” clothing to compete with the clothing departments found at Sail and Marks (which is owned by Canadian Tire).
Are all these changes bad? Nobody likes change so the knee-jerk reaction is to think the sky is falling but I think this could be a good opportunity for MEC to get themselves out of the corner they have painted themselves into.
As much as we like to think that Canadians actually do stuff in the wilderness; we don’t. We have two weeks of vacation and typically too busy to do anything more than a quick weekend adventure somewhere. Canadians are interested in being active but not interested in being outside for long periods of time and our buying purchases reflect that in everything from yoga pants and running shoes to stand-up paddling and recreational kayaks. The problem is that if you only sell expensive gear aimed at the shrinking market of hard-core adventure kids you will be out of business quickly.
The nominees for the annual Canoe & Kayak Awards have just been announced and who do we find buried in amongst a wave of whitewater paddlers? Why none other than fellow Paddle Canada sea kayak instructor and Hurricane Rider, Rowan Gloag.
I don't want to tell you how to vote but when checking the radio button for your favourite, don’t forget, his name is Rowan Gloag.
You can vote here: canoekayak.com
Image credit: thrrowan.blogspot.ca
California Kayaker Magazine is changing its name over to California Paddler Magazine starting with the Summer, 2013 issue.
By changing the name from kayaker to paddler it will allow them to branch-out into new content and cover all of paddlesports. “Canoes and rafts have somewhat limited retail markets in our geography, so likely will only be covered from time to time,” said Peter Donohue, California Kayaker Magazine’s Editor, “but with this change we do plan to have stand up paddleboard (SUP) content in each issue, reflecting its fast growth and popularity.”
More info: calkayakermag.com
For those who haven’t seen Dragons Den before the idea is simple. Business owners (and weird inventors) come on the show and only have a few minutes to pitch their big idea to a group of investors (called Dragons). The Dragons decide on the spot if they are in or out. If they like your idea they make a deal and invest in your company. If they don’t like it, you get the old walk of shame... In the US you might have seen a similar version of the show called Shark Tank. Here in Canada it's promoted as Canada's most popular unscripted show with 1.3 million people tuning in each week.
This is a pretty big deal for Seaward so they have been preparing like mad for this Saturdays taping for several months when they first auditioned for the television show. “I’m president for our local Toastmasters club so the members are absolutely sick of hearing my pitch.” says Doug Godkin, General Manager of Seaward Kayaks, “That being said, the group has been great at pretending to be the Dragons and asking the tough questions to find holes in my pitch.”
Nobody at Seaward wanted to give the spicy details away about the upcoming proposal but did say that Seaward is looking to expend their kayak line into new areas and take the company to the next level.
Doug feels that they have a decent chance of attracting the attention of at least one of the dragons. “We are very proud of the fact we are an established company and all of our kayaks are built here in Canada. There is always pressure to take the cheaper way out and start production overseas but we feel strongly about keeping the manufacturing here. For that we are looking for outside investment.”
The plan is to tap the episode this Saturday (April 6) here in Toronto and it should air sometime in the Fall. “The producers haven’t given us an air date yet. In fact, there is the possibility that we won’t even get on the air. It all depends on how well the taping goes.”
I wish the best of luck to Seaward Kayaks. With 1.3 million Canadian’s watching, this is easily the biggest audience the little company will ever have so showcase their products. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to introduce kayaking as a healthy and fun activity to Canadians.
I will post an update when we know more details about an air date and all that good stuff.
More info: cbc.ca
Photo credits: cbc.ca and Seaward Kayaks.
Back at the end of January I had the pleasure to be invited to attend a strategic planning meeting for Paddle Canada. I got invited because I’m the Chair of the Sea Kayak Program Development Committee. The goal of the weekend meeting was to develop a 3-year plan and it already had a catchy title: Float Plan for Success.
The reason for the meeting came about because the Board of Directors felt the organization was just about to enter a new phase in the life of the Organization. For those who studied the long and sometimes weird boring history of Paddle Canada will remember several years ago when the Organization had major financial trouble that left it hanging on for dear life. Thanks to good leadership at the top who made some tough choices, Paddle Canada has come back stronger than ever and is now ready to tackle some new projects.
Overall the weekend was a lot of fun (as fun as strategy development can be I guess) and filled with lots of fellow paddling policy wonks nerds like me who were happy to chat the days (and evenings) away talking about how to turn all Canadians into paddlers.
A couple of days ago Executive Director, Graham Ketcheson posted a finished report about some of the changes you will see over the next 3-4 years. If you are bored already the short summary is that the new strategic plan isn’t ground breaking but it is a change in direction for the organization.
Here are a couple of highlights:
1) New Vision and Mission Statements
The new Vision and Mission Statements have a stronger focus on the development of its paddling instructional programs and the development of complementary partnerships with other organizations.
2) Strategic Priorities and Goals
After hours of brainstorming as a group we boiled down the ideas into four major categories which are Public Awareness & Membership, Youth, Partnerships and Instructor Development.
That does this all mean for Paddle Canada?
There are a couple of advantages to formalizing a strategic plan. As I mentioned earlier, none of these were ground-breaking revelations or direction changes. What it does do is to make sure that the members of the Board of Directors are on board with the new plan and everybody has bought in. The second (and more important) outcome of it is that the Board has developed a clear set of “marching orders” for the Executive Director to take and figure out how to implement over the next 3-4 years. This gives him a lot more freedom to work with people and grab the opportunities as they come along without wondering what the board thinks about this new direction.
What does this mean for you as a member or instructor member?
It means that there is going to be a whole lot more work coming down the pipe for the volunteers so we will need your help. If you have 10 minutes of free time on your hands and are interested in helping out, get in touch with Graham and he can set you up.
More info: paddlecanada.com