Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), which operates 21 stores across Canada, has laid off a number of retail employees it formerly furloughed as it faces challenges managing during the pandemic.

In an e-mailed statement sent to media outlets, MEC said the layoffs were a “last resort.”

“Parting ways with employees and terminating roles due to the impacts of COVID-19 is not taken lightly,” MEC said in the statement. “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.

“We are committed to moving forward in the best interest of our organization, employees, and members during this global crisis.”

MEC said the affected employees represented “less than 200 front-line staff” across Canada.

On the MEC website, seven locations have been listed as “closed until further notice,” while the remaining 14 remain open for business.

The outdoor retailer previously announced layoffs at its headquarters in April, stating it was “experiencing severe cash flow issues as a result of COVID-19.”

Photo courtesy Canadian press