MEC eliminates 200 positions as pandemic drags on

The outside of a Mountain Equipment Co-Op is seen in North Vancouver on Mon. Dec. 9, 2017. The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s foremost outdoor retailer is making 200 frontline layoffs permanent as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on the economy.

A spokesperson for Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) says it had to “transition some staff from temporary layoffs to permanent layoffs,” but didn’t specify where in Canada the cuts are coming.

The company announced more than 1,300 temporary layoffs to thousands of full- and part-time store staff in March, when it closed all of its 22 stores. All but seven of those stores have since reopened.

The co-op says the closures are temporary.

Click to play video: 'Mountain Equipment Co-op losing money for first time'
Mountain Equipment Co-op losing money for first time

“The declaration of a public health emergency, the various public health recommendations, federal and provincial government-mandated restrictions on gatherings, the need for social distancing, the considerable economic impact, and the impact of COVID-19 generally has had a significant impact on the retail industry, MEC and our teams,” said the co-op in a statement.

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“After experiencing the effects of COVID-19 for approximately four months, we have a better understanding of MEC member needs during this global crisis at our open stores and therefore have had to adjust staffing levels accordingly.”

Earlier this spring MEC was forced to tone down the grand opening of its new Vancouver flagship store in the Olympic Village over COVID-19 concerns.

Click to play video: 'MEC decides to stop carrying products linked to gun manufacturer'
MEC decides to stop carrying products linked to gun manufacturer

MEC has also halted its equipment rental services, clinics and community events.

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MEC, which launched in 1971 with six members in Vancouver, is currently the country’s largest co-operative, with five million members across Canada.

It it has run into economic difficulties in recent years.

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The company lost $11 million in 2018 on sales of nearly half a billion dollars and brought in new CEO Phil Arrata in mid 2019 “to address … financial challenges.”

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