July 19, 2016 11:54 am
Updated: August 4, 2016 4:14 pm

Mountain Equipment Co-op to open 2 new Calgary stores amid economic slump

WATCH ABOVE: Many Albertans have been cutting back spending according to a new report, but that’s not stopping one retailer from launching a major expansion in Alberta. Global’s Mia Sosiak reports.

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Outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has announced plans to open two new stores in Calgary over the next three years, despite Alberta’s current economic downturn.

READ MORE: Alberta’s unemployment rate jumps to 7.9%

The first of the new stores will be located in the Seton Urban District in south Calgary and will be 30,000 square feet in size. It’s anticipated it will open in the fall of 2018.

MEC said the store will feature an assortment of products for activities like camping, climbing, hiking, cycling, running, fitness, yoga, paddlesports and snowsports. Services will include a full-service bike and ski tech shop, as well as equipment rentals and bike fitting stations. Like the main Beltline store, a community room will be available for use by local outdoor clubs.

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The second of Calgary’s new MEC locations will be located in West Calgary, within the Trinity Hills development being constructed adjacent to Canada Olympic Park. It will provide access to more than 17 kilometres of hiking and biking trails within the community and the City of Calgary’s new regional park on Paskapoo Slopes.

The store, which will be 27,000 square feet in size, is expected to open in 2019.

MEC credits the new developments to an “unprecedented period of growth,” saying sales topped $350 million for the first time in 2015, while membership grew by more than 225,000.

“We have very deep roots in the Alberta market, and especially Calgary,” MEC regional manager of operations for western Canada Jerry McGillivray said. “We’re bucking the trend to a degree in Alberta, where our sales – in both Edmonton and Calgary – are actually up over last year.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s economic downturn will be longest since early 1980s, deeper than 2009

Midway through 2016, McGillivray said sales remain strong.

“We’re really having some good years, for sure.”

The announcement comes the same day as new numbers from the payment company Moneris, which show consumer spending in Alberta in the second quarter of 2016 was 2.9 per cent lower year over year.

Spending in all other Canadian provinces was up 5.3 per cent on average.

The report is based on credit and debit activity tracked by Moneris.

Debi Andrus, an associate professor of marketing at Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, said reduced spending outside Alberta is likely on the horizon. She said people in other provinces are starting to feel the effects of low oil prices, but may not have reached their credit card limits yet.

“The jobs are lost first in Alberta, and then across the country — there’s the ripple effect from the economic situation here in Alberta,” Andrus said.

“We don’t know what per cent of that credit card debt is being paid off every month.”

When asked why he thought Albertans were still quick to spend money at the retailer in the midst of an economic slump, McGillivray said he felt Albertans are “still willing to invest in things they feel very passionately about.”

“Albertans, southern Albertans, are very passionate about recreating outdoors and being active in the outdoors.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s economy doing worse than expected, TD report warns 

According to MEC, the additions of the south and west Calgary stores will provide approximately 160 jobs through a mix of senior staff, full-time, part-time and casual positions.

“These two new stores, Calgary South and Calgary West, promise to support many more adventures in the future, and be more accessible to members who live in those areas of the city,” MEC CEO David Labistour said in a Tuesday news release.

One in six Albertans are MEC members, according to the retailer.

– With files from Mia Sosiak

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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