Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) provided another glimpse into its strategic repositioning last week when it unveiled a new logo and branding campaign designed to make the venerable outdoor retailer more relevant to the country’s increasingly urban population.


The retailer’s new logo removes the jagged icon representing the mountains as well as the long form of its name. In their place, it substitutes the initials “MEC.” While some may find the change underwhelming, it marks the first time in company’s 42-year history that its logo has not included a graphic or verbal reference to the mountains.


“This is not an incremental change,” wrote MEC Design Lead Dianne Semark in a June 19 blog entry, “It signals something new. When you see it, you realize that MEC isn’t tiptoeing toward the future, we’re jumping in with both feet.”


MEC remains headquartered in Vancouver, BC , but 9 of its 16 bricks-and-mortar stores are now located in the eastern half of Canada, including in such cities as Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto. Under CEO David Labistour, the company has been moving on several fronts in the last year to appeal to a more urban consumer. It put a much bigger emphasis on running and biking by expanding its selection of gear and introducing “Meet Ups” that encourage customers to gather at its stores for group runs and rides. Every MEC store now hosts timed races with $15 entry fees to encourage runners. MEC also expanded its selection of slacklining, yoga and stand-up paddling gear and beefed up in-store clinics on camping and other backcountry topics. This fall, its revamped apparel line with a more fashion-forward look will hit store shelves.


“We are living in a time of rapid and profound change,” Labistour wrote on MEC’s blog June 18. “Canadian society is increasingly urban, connected through technology, and becoming an attractive market for US and global brands. To remain relevant and responsive to members’ needs, we have expanded our product assortments and the activities we support – moving from mountains, to oceans, and spanning every landscape in between.”


In September, MEC will roll out new imagery online and in its stores and advertising to illustrate its slogan “It’s in us to move.” Video and still images shown last week included many shots of mountain sports, but also included people running and biking on paved surfaces. One image shows a women leading two men in a run down a sidewalk in what appeared to be a downtown location. The imagery will coincide with the opening of renovated stores in Montreal, Toronto and North Vancouver.


“We know that for some members, the mountain in the MEC logo is a familiar touch point,” Labistour wrote in his blog post. “All of us who work at the Co-op today feel honored to be the stewards of a loved and trusted brand. And while we have a deep respect for our heritage, we know that we cannot be complacent. We must be willing to venture outside our comfort zone.”