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Dru

Serratus RIP

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Serratus is going out of business and closing the factory.

 

If you need a new Genie or whatever buy it NOW cause soon there will be no more.

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What happened?

another driveby victim of the world economy. i guess bc hippies just cant compete with chinese prison labor.

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Part of an email from serratus.

 

Unfortunately it is more than a rumor. We will be closing our plant down in the New Year. We are still making our products until our closure. You will be able to purchase our products at MEC until they run out. We are all quite sad about this news at Serratus & have started getting e-mails saying how disappointed our Serratus customers are with this news.

Cheers, Serratus

 

New Genie for Christmas!

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I have heard that MEC will continue to make many of the popular Serratus products (genie included) after January 2005. But I did buy another one just in case the rumour turns out to be false.

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Maybe if MEC starts making them in Vietnam the price will go down.

 

Maybe they will even make a 50L Genie to go up against that silly GoLite pack with no lid.

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I have heard that MEC will continue to make many of the popular Serratus products (genie included) after January 2005. But I did buy another one just in case the rumour turns out to be false.

 

So is this actually a decent pack? Why? Should I have known already? Don't spare. Tell me! I could use one pack right in the nitch that the "genie" falls. wave.gifwazzup.gif

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If you need a new Genie or whatever buy it NOW cause soon there will be no more.

 

Crap. And I was in MEC last week and they didn't have standard size Genies (not that size matters that much given there's no hip belt, but you gotta save that 3rd of ounce).

 

drC

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There is a hip belt, but there is no sternum strap.

But MEC will take over the Serratus design copyrights, and probably make a cheaper Genie overseas.

I like Genies. Pretty much no frills super light daypack, stuff it into a little ball and carry it in a overnight pack, weighs nothing to carry up a route too. I accessorized mine with some bungi cord, ice axe holders and gear loops on the waistbelt.

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True. But the waist belt is not load bearing so it doesn't really matter if it's not exactly the right torso length.

 

drC

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Here is some more info on the closure of Serratus - an open letter from the Chair of the Board.

 

------Letter from the BoD----------

 

Dear Friend,

 

For the better part of a year, the Board of Directors has been wrestling

with the future of Serratus, a small MEC-owned manufacturing operation in

Burnaby, BC.

 

We acquired Serratus in the early 1980s at a time when we couldn't get

quality packs from other suppliers. Over the years Serratus attempted to

make other products, including outdoor apparel like windsuits and

fleece. These ventures did not succeed. By the early 1990s Serratus was

still making expedition packs and had added PFDs and bicycle panniers. By

the mid-1990s its business had begun to soften as member demand for

expedition packs declined and competitors began offering a growing array of

high-quality alternative products at prices we could not match.

 

In 2001, Serratus revenues began to decline, and have declined every year

since then. During the same time period, however, member demand for

MEC-brand products has grown strongly. MEC-brand products now represent 54

percent of our sales; Serratus-brand products represent 2 percent. MEC's

future lies in the MEC brand.

 

Could we retire the Serratus brand without retiring the Serratus plant?

Unfortunately not. Basically it's a small assembly operation which simply

can't produce products of the high technical quality and low price of a

number of large, state-of-the-art manufacturing operations, most of them

offshore. Plus, it is increasingly difficult to source raw materials in

North America, which adds to Serratus' cost structure. MEC-brand products,

if made in the Serratus plant, simply wouldn't be able to compete in quality

or price with goods made in overseas plants.

 

Running a manufacturing plant is not central to our mission of providing our

members with quality gear, at fair prices, made in a way that can make them

feel good about owning and using it. Like it or not - and most of us don't -

MEC is too small a player to reverse the global trend toward manufacturing

outdoor gear and clothing offshore. Therefore, the Board decided to wind

down the Serratus facility by January 31, 2005.

 

We believe in encouraging made-in-Canada products. Before making this

decision we carefully studied every alternative to closing the Serratus

plant including selling it and targeting new markets. The Board took pains

to examine every facet of this decision and to ensure that we got it

right.In the end the only option that made sense was closure.

 

All Directors, except one, Chris McNeill, supported this decision. Chris

disagreed and has resigned his seat. In a democracy, honorable people can

honorably disagree.

 

MEC has been and always will be a leader in assessing the social and

environmental practices of suppliers that manufacture MEC-brand products,

both in Canada and abroad. Last year we inspected eight potential suppliers

of MEC-label products and pursued business relationships with just five. We

enforce our standards.

 

We will continue to seek out Canadian products wherever possible. 57 percent

of MEC-brand products are currently made in Canada.

 

Be assured, MEC will treat the 28 Serratus employees generously and offer

them every possible assistance in finding new employment.

 

Please feel free to contact me, or any Board member, to discuss any

questions you may have about this decision.

 

 

Linda Bartlett

Chair, MEC

 

 

Mountain Equipment Co-op Remote Sales

130 West Broadway

Vancouver BC V5Y 1P3

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[WARNING: SEMI-IDEOLOGICAL RANT...]

 

In a follow up to the open letter from the Chair (posted above), see below for a letter I sent to MEC in reply. The CEO has emailed asking to chat some more about this issue.

 

For those who don't want to read the entire text, the gist of my argument is that MEC is increasingly focusing on selling Starbucks-urban-outdoor-chic wares - a focus that is contrary to their mission. I suspect that closing Serratus makes good sense, but I suggest in my letter that it is symbolic of the deeper problem - the disconnect between MEC's current business plan, and its Memorandum of Association (the legal document governing the co-op's purpose).

 

For climbers and the like, MEC's move away from its traditional purpose spells bad news in the long run. For all those who shop at MEC rather than REI, here is a tip: MEC is quickly becoming REI. Albeit, this may be better than many other retailers, but it isn't nearly what it could be and has been in the past.

 

MEC is a member driven cooperative, and many may disagree with my perspective on this, but I just wanted to get my comments on the record with MEC's leadership. Add your comments and send them to MEC if you want, as well.

 

Flame away. (I will let you know what the CEO has to say after I meet with him on this)

 

----Letter to MEC Board----

Dear Linda,

 

I read, with interest and concern, your open letter sent earlier this month concerning the Board's decision to close Serratus products.

 

I recognize and applaud all of the great and innovative, progress work that MEC has done to date. And I very much respect your volunteer commitment to the position. I write this letter to continue challenging MEC to remain a leader not only in the retailing field, but in Canadian business as a whole.

 

I appreciate that you and the Board spent considerable time deliberating over this decision. You had access to financial, production and HR information to support this final decision. I know that armchair quarterbacking like I am doing is frustrating. However, I believe that the

Board’s decision demonstrates a growing disconnect between MEC’s leadership and its Statement of Values and Memorandum of Association, the latter of

which is the legal charter for the organization.

 

There are 13 pages of packs in your Summer 2004 catalog. Many of them are clearly designed to be sold for use exclusively or primarily in the city (for example, see the MEC Dragonfly - "designed for the urban assault

specialist"; or the MEC Darwin, Socrates and Ridgemont; or the Pod SlingPack and Blurr Phantom; or the Blurr Agent; and finally, all the travel packs...and this list doesn't even include the non-technical fashion

clothing that typically fills more than 30% of each store's floor space).

 

You say in your letter that members are no longer buying expedition-sized packs like they once did. That is not surprising because your marketing and product selection caters strongly to those who would be interested in gear

like that described above. I am sure this strategy is financially sound; however, it marginalizes the traditional member engaged in self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities, and more importantly, violates your Statement of Values and the “Cooperative’s Purpose”, as described in

MEC’s Memorandum of Association.

 

In your letter, you also state that Serratus brand products are not competitive with other, off-shore sourced offerings. Certainly, compared to MEC brand goods they are not competitively priced. However, MEC brand goods are typically a step down from Serratus in quality and design. Compared to Gregory and Arc'Teryx, more appropriate comparatives, Serratus enjoys a

30-40% price advantage. Admittedly, Serratus doesn't come with the brand recognition – and hence sales potential – that Arc'Teryx or Cloudveil but this should not be a driver of decision-making at MEC. MEC was founded

because name brand climbing equipment was either too expensive or poorly designed. Although the design and selection of name-brand technical outdoor gear has improved exponentially, prices are still high, and there is still room for much improvement in design (witness the superiority and uniqueness of the Genie, embraced even by sponsored climbers such as Steve House and

Joe Josephson).

 

In your letter, you say that "running a manufacturing plant is not central to our mission," and that this fact contributed to your decision to close Serratus. Perhaps you need to re-read MEC's Memorandum of Association.

Manufacturing is detailed as a core purpose of the co-operative. Certainly, engaging in manufacturing where the goods produced meet the other tests of your in Memorandum of Association and Statement of Values seems like an eminently supportable activity.

 

In your letter, you say that “MEC is too small a player to reverse the global trend toward manufacturing outdoor gear and clothing offshore.” Yet, MEC has spent most of its life fighting to reverse trends in retailing,

product source labeling, retail building construction techniques and so on. The MEC website proudly states that MEC wishes to become a “leader in social

and environmental responsibility.” Where is the leadership in your statement that “MEC is too small a player?” MEC has done better in the past, and I

think it can continue to do better in the future. And maybe that includes reversing “the global trend toward manufacturing outdoor gear and clothing offshore.”

 

You and others may say to my diatribe, "sour grapes, if you don't like the decision, either run for the Board and change it, or shop elsewhere." However, I don't want MEC to change. I want it to remain true to its legally

and morally constituted purpose which is to design, manufacture, purchase, sell and rent products for self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities. Your statement of values, and even more seriously, your

Memorandum of Association, both refer to MEC's purpose as "designing, manufacturing, purchasing, selling and renting products for self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities" I should not need to run for

the Board to protest a Board decision because I believe in MEC's purpose, and the Board should adhere to the principles of its purpose.

 

I became a member of MEC because I believed in its Statement of Values and its legally described purpose as set out in the Memorandum of Association, and how these guide then the product offerings. I vote for Directors who I expect to adhere to the Statement of Values and Memorandum of Association.

 

I am disappointed by the Board’s decision because of what it means to MEC’s mission. I am worried that MEC is turning into the Walmart of outdoor retailing, a Canadian REI, where fashionable goods are designed, marketed

and sold predominately to members who do not participate in self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities. I am worried that MEC is

actually feeding, rather than counteracting, an increasingly consumerist, image-conscious society where form wins over function, and where more equals

better.

 

I am worried that the Board and senior Management either no longer believe in, or are no longer even aware of MEC’s history, legal purpose or the needs of its traditional membership. I am worried that this issue was not publicized to members – a cooperative is based on transparency with members – either during the Board’s deliberations (of one full year, by your description), or after the decision was made.

 

I challenge you as Chair, and the rest of the Board and senior Management, to think carefully about the purpose of MEC. There are other directions to choose from, ones which include Serratus but which may require slower or no growth in sales, revenue or product offerings. MEC was founded to fill a market niche by doing business completely differently.

 

Selling more goods that are made by the lowest bidder, in more styles and colors, from more stores or from a fancier website is not much different than the way Europe Bound or Coast Mountain Sports run their respective businesses.

 

Let’s try doing it a little differently again. And maybe that includes retaining ownership of a quirky manufacturing facility in Burnaby, BC.

 

Sincerely,

 

Michael Buda

Member #263186-9

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Excellent response Michael. It really seems like they have lost sight of the original premise that MEC was established for and now are looking at the almighty dollar as their purpose to exist.

Let us all vote for what is right at the next AGM and get some fresh, young blood in.

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Well put Mike; I think you hit the nail on the head for many folks.

 

As I understand it, the current MEC plan is the result of an avowed need to remain profitable after becoming a little too extended in the 90s. The current selection has not only become more "pedestrian", but MEC has reduced product designers, so instead of continuing to develop innovative mountain gear while pursuing "urban life" lines, they have let the techincal end of things die off. Serratus RIP seems a predictable end point of this pursuit.

 

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the introduction of the crappy house brand MEC packs helped kill Serratus, but it was also the introduction of arcteryx and Gregory when they could have put more money into building Serratus up.

 

IMO they missed the boat about 3-4 years ago when they departed from being a competitor in innovative gear; soft shells, 2.5 layer hard shells were developed by all the others while MEC did not have the product designers to keep pace. I don't know how the hell they manage to keep screwing up the synthetic sleeping bag lines, but a new fill material seems to get cleared out each year!

 

You are right to paint this as a betrayal of MECs ethical and legal roots. I suppose they would respond that the primary duty to members is to remain profitable rolleyes.gifcry.gif

 

- just the rant of a sad gear whore

bigdrink.gif

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Serratus made some shitty packs a few years ago and it lost them customer support. The Ibex and Alpine or whatever the other one was called...they cost the same as a Bora but weren't nearly as good. The older packs were so well made younever need to buy a new one...

 

Basically it goes to show if you scrimp on design you end up sucking.

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Yeah the alpine 60 or 80 I think? the price difference to an Arc'teryx bora pack (similar size/etc.) was minimal and thus = a Why the heck would I ever consider it? from me.

 

However, their light, stripped down alpine pack was around $160, or $180 CDN and was quite a bargain for the size and performance.

 

Well, Serratus had a good run, hopefully MEC uses the odd good designs under the "MEC" brand.

 

I think MEC's idea into make all it's own gear is to

popularize it's own LOgo and recognizition to future markets.

i.e. Instead of seeing serratus everywhere, you see mec packs everywhere

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Maybe to do with US exchange rate. A good time to buy Camalots - when the dollar falls back to 68 cents, they will cost more!

 

Anyhow, it does seem a bit weird.

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Hi All,

 

I’m going to start by saying that I work for MEC. That may introduce a bias, but it should also clear the air of a bit of the silliness above.

 

I own 4 Serratus packs: a Genie, an Aladin, a prototype 60L Aladin and an Alpinelite. I think I know their products.

 

I agree the genie is a useful pack. Given the option of building it out of better fabrics with an updated design, and selling it at a lower price, I suspect most would pick the less expensive option if offered a choice. Finishing details would also improve.

 

Dru wants a 50L Genie. It was called the Serratus Aladin.

 

One of the core arguments discussed is MEC’s position that fewer people are buying big packs. The industry term for the phenomena is “activity based car camping”. People have discovered that you can day-trip 2 peaks in two days, or ski Cerise and Steep Creek in the same weekend. It adds flexibility and enjoyment to schedules dominated by long hours and a possible mortgage (part of the aging process). It really is happening. Go to Zion. Go to Banff. Go to the Enchantments. Not everyone goes for a long walk on the Alaska Panhandle.

 

An argument is made that Serratus enjoys a 30-40% price advantage over, among others, Gregory. A Serratus Alpine 60 runs at 269.00, while a Gregory Reality is 229.00. An Alpine 85 is 295.00, while a Gregory Palisade is 289.00. Am I missing something? As for Arc’t pricing in 04, their sales against Gregory reflect the success of their pricing strategy.

 

Mike would seem to write that sales potential should not be a driver of decision making at MEC. Having watched 54 of some of the best and brightest of my co-workers get the chop due financial stresses, having worked under a wage freeze, and still working under a hiring freeze, I’m going to politely suggest that there are some of us in the building who will choose not to subsidize someone else’s purchasing whims with our own pay-cheques.

 

I agree that it is painful to see manufacturing moved offshore. One has to realize however that until people step up to the plate and state their positions with their wallets, that isn’t about to happen. On a positive note, moving offshore gives access to much higher levels of production technology so new products can be stronger, lighter and better. One only has to look at the new Osprey offerings to realize the possibilities.

 

Jordop argues that our lines have become more pedestrian, we’re failing to keep pace, and that we’ve cut back on designers. That ignores our introduction of a 450g 3 layer gore jacket, a 225g offering that’s in the pipe, another 500+ gram option aimed at hard alpine climbing, completely new climbing specific gore pants, bibs and softshells. We planned to have our Hybrid softshell out for fall 04 but the program was stalled when a fabric supplier refused to sell the W/B to us for political reasons. It’s now an F05. We’re presently working on the introduction of 4 models of packs aimed at alpine climbing. Last year we introduced 7 models of down bags and three years ago introduced our Hybrid sleeping bag. In terms of designers, two quit to start their own businesses, while one moved to Germany because her husband landed the top design job at Puma. That leaves three stressed folks, and if you know someone with a solid industrial design background, get them to send us a CV.

 

I am confused about comments made regarding sleeping bag fills. We introduced what we call “Hyperloft” in three models as a test in about 98. That proved successful, though we bumped the binder content from 12 to 18% for even more durability, and moved it to most of our line the next year. Each step of the way results were tested at KSU. No other insulation changes were made until this year, when we replaced the 1.8oz PL1 in our overbags, with a well-tested 100g variant of our other insulation.

 

As for the System glove being disc’ed, well, they weren’t selling. My wife owns a pair. I recommend getting them at the reduced cost.

 

Cheers,

 

GB

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I disagree that the Aladdin was a 50L Genie. I know you loved your but it struck me as more of a less adjustable Nozone.

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Dru,

 

Sit down and drink beer with the designer. Look at the Aladin 1 on page 33 of the W2000 catalogue. Think about the name.

 

Cheers,

 

GB

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Name aside the Aladdin had a lot of weight-adding features that a scaled up Genie would lack. Not to mention I found that the lid blocked head movement when wearing a helmet.

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