Customers are back in-store and web sales are stabilizing or even declining, say retailers, who claim that the proverbial “bricks and mortar” is definitely not dead. Faced with this change in shopping habits, Altitude Sports, which is making its mark in the sale of clothing and outdoor items only online, is considering the idea of ​​​​a possible return to stores.

Between March 2020 and March 2022, Altitude Sports’ turnover almost doubled, confirms Maxime Dubois, co-president of the company, during an interview with La Presse. However, recently, although growth continues, it is not as strong as at the beginning of the pandemic, he acknowledges, adding in the process that he and his team are living for weeks “on a rollercoaster”.

“There is a certain conjuncture that is different. I, too, see that there is a return in store,” he said. According to him, consumer behavior is currently very difficult to predict. Late spring and supply issues for Chinese-made camping gear and Vietnam-designed running shoes, for example, also play into the equation. We have a rise, but not as high as if we had all the stock. »

Banking on e-commerce, the company, which seemed to have given up on physical stores after closing its last store in Mont-Tremblant in 2019, is now opening the door to the possibility of reconnecting with a branch concept. where customers could come to shop. “Yeah, we’re looking at that. We are looking at what the possibilities are, ”says Mr. Dubois, who had nevertheless dismissed the idea out of hand last year when he was questioned about it.

Altitude Sports uses a 160,000 square foot warehouse with 32 foot high ceilings. Located in the borough of Saint-Laurent, it stores running shoes, sweaters, strollers and other climbing equipment before they are delivered directly to customers, the same day in Montreal and next day in 2,000 cities nationwide.

“That’s how we come to erase the line between the instant gratification of a physical store versus e-commerce,” explains Maxime Dubois.

“Of course, if we open a store, it won’t be a big box,” he says. A 160,000 square foot warehouse where everything is tightly packed, you can’t carry that to a big box store. The Altitude experience in terms of selection is unmatched in any physical store. Even the biggest is not going to have a third of our selection. »

Also in the outdoor industry, La Cordée, which opened its sixth store in Quebec in April, does not “see the day” when physical stores will disappear from the landscape, according to its president, Cédric Morisset. Another La Cordée location will also open in Montreal in the fall.

“We are in the experience, in the knowledge,” he says. People who want to buy a bike, a kayak or a tent, you can find them on the internet, but it is very important to have advice in store. »

Still, Morisset says every retailer these days needs to have a “strong website.” At La Cordée, online sales represent approximately 20% to 25% of turnover. “That’s our business model, we’re not Amazon. »

Co-owner of 10 Mode Choc stores across Quebec, Jessika Roussy admits that right now, “it’s more difficult to increase online sales.”

“But during the shutdown period, they saved our fiscal year,” she points out, however. His company continues to look at different strategies to develop this niche, without giving up on stores, where traffic has been increasing since the beginning of the year.

“We will continue to open more,” says Ms. Roussy. The next branch, with an area of ​​28,000 square feet, will be located at the Méga Center Sainte-Foy. It will welcome its first customers in March 2023.


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