Op-Ed: Altitude Sports' Pandemic Success is 6 Years in the Making

Op-Ed: Altitude Sports' Pandemic Success is 6 Years in the Making

Alessa Leblanc-Michel
Publié le déc. 07, 2020
Alessa Leblanc-Michel
Publié le déc. 07, 2020

Disclaimer : this text is based mostly on my perception as a client, not based on actual sales numbers or any understanding of their relations and exclusivities with suppliers.

When the pandemic hit and the outdoors seemed the only safe place to be, it seemed like a great opportunity for outdoor clothing and gear retailers to grow and capture new consumers. However, over the past few months, we've seen closures and buyouts from multiple local players : MEC, La Cordée and SAIL (Sportium) to name a few.

As an avid consumer of all things outdoor gear and clothing, I've often shopped at these stores and on their websites. But although I still shop there for specialized gear, I’ve recently shifted a lot of my spending towards a website that I've grown very fond of : Altitude Sports.

Altitude Sports (AS from here on out) made the switch to become an online-only store many years ago. They opened in 1984 on St-Denis street in Montreal, launched their ecomm website in 1999 and became online-only in 2014. Ever since they’ve been focused on building a great online shopping experience with the consumer in mind; easy-to-navigate website, easy returns, a blog to help you choose the right items, great customer service, etc. But today, I wanted to focus on three initiatives I find particularly insightful.

1. Their partner website; The Last Hunt

The Last Hunt is a website where you can find discounts on past seasons' articles from brand names all through the year. Why do I think this is brilliant? Because they can liquidate their old items without weakening the image of their main brand and they can benefit from a larger pool of customers to retarget and cross-promote.

2. Their membership

Being an AS member, like many other membership models out there, has its advantages. In exchange for a one-time fee, members benefit from a 5% discount at all times, free returns, are the first to hear about promotions, have access to exclusive deals, etc. It also benefits AS by creating a strong customer database.

In the past year, they added a new feature that I think is very smart for both them and for their members. After making a purchase, they ask their members to leave a review about the purchased items in exchange for store credit. In other words, the customer gets money that they can spend on more items (and let’s be honest here, they’ll most likely spend more than they get from that review) and AS gets more reviews about their products. Why is this necessary? Because buying online can be a nerve-racking thing: not being sure how the clothing fits IRL for example. The more reviews an item gets, the more people are confident about buying it online.

3. Same-Day Delivery

Whilst other companies have been struggling to get orders out in a reasonable delay with their shipping partners, especially with the effects of the pandemic, AS recently introduced same-day delivery in certain areas. Other than the fact that getting your item fast is a valuable benefit for customers, this taps into a key differentiating factor between ecomm, and brick-and-mortar channels. Before, you could only get your item on the same day if you went in store – a big disadvantage to an online retailer like AS. But now, with same-day delivery, that’s not an issue anymore.


As I mentioned before, AS does not offer certain specialized items that other retailers such as MEC or SAIL do. But for all these new consumers coming into the market (due to changing habits or to the pandemic), they offer the essential.

When the pandemic hit, they were already in a better position than most, having long ago ended brick-and-mortar operations. But that’s not all. They’ve evolved with time. They’ve kept up with their consumers and always keep the customer experience in mind. Is it too late for our other local retailers to turn their ship around? I certainly hope not. But one thing is for sure. As we’ve learned from Darwin, in order to survive, you must adapt. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true.

PS : for those wondering about their media buying, all I can say for sure, from a customer standpoint, is that they focus a lot on strong SEM and programmatic.

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