Hi, all --
A friend recently moved to Vancouver, BC (Canada) and I thought of getting him an REI membership as a house-warming gift. Yet -- I'm not seeing any REI locations in Canada! Is this right? If so, what is the REI equivalent in Vancouver?
@Noonyiez you are seeing it correctly - at this time, we do not have any REI locations outside of the United States. Although you probably won't find a retailer that operates in the same way that we do (consumer-owned co-ops are pretty unique!), you might look at MEC for an outdoor retailer in Canada.
With that said, you might still consider an REI membership for your friend - we do ship to Canada (with a few brand restrictions), membership is lifetime for only $20, and we definitely have Canadian members who will visit our Bellingham REI store for in-store shopping, pick-ups, and returns!
Re MEC, it originated as a co-op in the early 1970s after college students in Vancouver who had been going down to REI in Seattle to get outdoors gear got the idea of starting a similar co-op in Canada. While MEC recently ceased being a co-op, membership is still required. But now it's free: Membership | MEC.
I am a long-time member of MEC and REI. Like many MEC members, I was shocked and dismayed by the dismantling of our co-op by the Board. This has created a vacuum in Canada that we would love to have filled by “REI North” stores or simple warehousing and delivery in Canada. I recently happily paid the premium to buy and ship from REI in the US rather than continue to shop at what used to be Mountain Equipment Coop.
@ColonelM - as an ex-pat Canadian from Van-groovy, I used to love going to MEC and was also really saddened to hear that they ceased being a co-op.
As a long time member (60+ years) I can assure you that you don't have to have an REI near you to enjoy the benefits of REI membership. For almost half of that period, I never saw the inside of an REI, but still used and benefitted from their products'
Today there is an REI 5 miles distant in one direction, and 35 miles in the other.....
As a long time member (60+ years) I can assure you that you don't have to have an REI near you to enjoy the benefits of REI membership.
The challenge for Canadians (and I would assume others internationally) is the border. We can order online from REI but then:
I know all of this from personal experience. As a result I now only buy from REI when I can have the product shipped to a friend across the border or to an REI store when I'm planning a trip nearby. But even that's not practical for many people and has been virtually impossible for over a year now during the pandemic.
There are ways that REI could use to deal with many of these issues. Some US retailers offer a much better experience for Canadians who order online. But that would take some commitment by REI to set up the appropriate infrastructure.
Incidentally MEC was originally established in the 1970s by a bunch of UBC students who wanted to make the products REI was carrying more readily available to Canadians. It would be ironic if REI and/or someone in Canada now worked cooperatively to bring back their vision.
Yes, I believe MEC was a some of its members more than a brand. Need to dust off the virtual VW bus and find a way to distribute from REI without the delay, Canada post and additional duties. I have a friend who probably would know how to do this (was head of marketing for a online furniture company doing $100m+ biz per year).