The Big Read

A mountain to climb: MEC was struggling before COVID-19. The pandemic threatens its survival

A woman walks past a Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) store in Vancouver in March 2018. The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

In early June, three weeks before MEC’s annual general meeting and hours before scrutineers were set to tally the votes for the new members of the co-op’s board, the organization made a surprise announcement: it was delaying the vote-count and postponing the AGM until December. The rationale, said MEC’s leadership: it needed more time “dealing with the acute challenges stemming from COVID-19.”

While many organizations have deferred their AGMs because of the pandemic, in MEC’s case it means a tense wait for staff and members—its de facto shareholders. The Vancouver-based organization was set to update members on its financial standing following a year punctuated by record losses and mass layoffs never publicly disclosed, and its plan to face a pandemic that threatens the future of retail. “For the same reason they’re saying they want to delay the AGM, it’s really important that we have the meeting,” says Stephen Jones, a longtime MEC member and board candidate. 

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