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Mountain Equipment Co-op is Canada's premiere outdoor store. Based on the same cooperative ideals as REI, it has gained a firm foothold in the marketplace by selling 'real' outdoor equipment at competitive prices. Product lines include big names like MSR/Cascade, Gregory, Black Diamond, Scarpa and Keens, and a growing list of their own products.
However, in the last couple of years there has been a disturbing trend away from their core group of 'Mountain' products, first to include peripheral 'outdoor' activities like urban cycling (as well as mountain bikes), canoeing/kayaking, and car-camping (big tents and coffee-presses). The latest additions include big sections on 'Run and Train', 'Travel' (swimsuits, luggage and alarm clocks), and (horrors!) 'Yoga', and a heavy emphasis on 'looking the part' by offering an extensive clothing line in every area. Looking for cool clothes to wear to the gym, or a jacket to look sharp in while walking around town? Try MEC for Patagonia and Prana.
While they still carry some climbing gear, tents, sleeping bags and backpacks, the store, when asked, justifies the marketing changes as being meant to appeal to an 'active lifestyle'. Unfortunately that means that professional equipment is being replaced by yoga pants, and that backpacks are being steadily squeezed out by commuter bags and laptop cases. Already some important professional gear is being left by the wayside, apparently to make room for more consumer-oriented products.
Mountain Equipment Co-op has been a Canadian institution for a couple of decades, and while this is just a rant about its decline, it's sad to see the store morph into something so far from its roots. If it's all about making money, nothing I say here will have any effect, but I had hoped it could stay more true to the people and products that got it there. Not much point is just another 'Urban Equipment' big box store.