Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is the largest retail co-operative in Canada, and a retail leader in social and environmental responsibility. With stores in 15 Canadian cities, MEC is Canada’s largest supplier of outdoor equipment. In Quebec, MEC operates three stores, including Montreal, Longueil and Quebec City. www.mec.ca is also a fully bilingual e-commerce website.
As MEC started preparing for its Quebec entry in 2003, the co-operative opted to view Quebec’s complex language and cultural landscape as an opportunity, rather than a barrier. With the support of the team at Francisation InterGlobe (then employees of MEC), the co-operative dedicated significant resources to adapting its communications to reflect Quebec culture and to emphasize the common values shared between MEC and its future Quebec clientele.
Linguistic Marketing Strategy
Francisation InterGlobe’s Louise Arbique and Marc Blais counseled and supported MEC in the development of a positive relationship with the Quebec Office of the French Language (OQLF) and with negotiations ensuring that they conformed to relevant Charter requirements. They advised the co-operative as to the precise French language or bilingual strategies to be used in Quebec stores and other French-speaking areas throughout Canada. They also prepared a linguistic marketing strategy that leveraged MEC’s French language investment as a promotional opportunity. That strategy differentiated MEC from its competitors by emphasizing the importance it places on the use of French.
Less than two years after its arrival in Quebec, MEC’s sales surpassed those of the local Quebec-based retailer, its main rival. Within four years, MEC grew from 75,000 to 350,000 members in the province. MEC received a number of prestigious awards for the quality of its French-language materials and earned significant media coverage for those efforts valued at well over $1 million dollars.
The input and counsel from Louise Arbique and Marc Blais provided a significant contribution to Mountain Equipment Co-op’s arrival in Quebec. Their deep knowledge of Quebec and Quebecers helped create a strong connection to MEC while ensuring a quality of French above and beyond expectations. And, as indicated by a member of the Quebec government, Francisation InterGlobe helped Mountain Equipment Co-op become the most Quebecois of English Canadian companies. As a result, the number of members in Quebec grew quickly along with their sense of belonging to the cooperative.
– Patrick Tremblay, Store Group Manager, Mountain Equipment Co-op
Mountain Equipment Co-op photos © M. Lamarre