Why e-commerce is eating the world, with Louis-Dominic Parizeau
2020 has been a really challenging year for outdoor retailers. We've seen the closure of several independent shops, and the sale of some of the biggest players. Despite general downturn, we're seeing Montreal-founded e-com brand Altitude-sports.com declare 30 to 35% annual growth. More impressive, is the 80-85 % growth they've seen since April. Yeah, you read that right.
We sat down with Louis-Dominic Parizeau, Vice President of Marketing to find out the recipe to this success.
Origin: First off, for those unfamiliar with Altitude Sports, can you give us a quick history of the brand?
Louis: Of course! Altitude Sports started off as a small brick-and-mortar boutique in Montreal in 1984. In the early 2000s our current co-CEO Alexandre Guimond got a part-time job at the boutique to support himself during his university studies. Around this time, Altitude Sports was actually the first outdoor retailer in Canada to launch their own website. Alex quickly became interested in e-commerce while it was still in its infancy, and heavily involved in the growth of the new altitude-sports.com site. He persuaded his longtime friend Maxime Dubois to join the company as Marketing Director. At this point, they both realized the enormous growth potential of e-commerce.
In 2011, they decided to buy the company, became majority owners, and poured all their efforts into developing a world-class e-commerce platform. Their goal was very clear—they wanted to become Canada’s e-commerce leaders in high-end, technical outerwear by 2015.
Today we are a 100% e-commerce business. We carry over 400 brands in the urban, camping, travelling, cycling, running, and skiing categories. We have 250 employees and will grow to 400 during our peak Black Friday season. We have our own distribution centre in Montreal that is 160,000 square feet, and we will ship one million packages this financial year.
Origin: What was the motivation behind the launch of the 24 hour delivery in Montreal (and next day for Toronto)? Were you finding this was a common customer ask?
Louis: Shipping and delivery have always played an important role in our business strategy. We have led studies and gathered data that show quick delivery is integral to e-commerce shopping. We've been known and appreciated for our dedication to fast shipping and delivery. We wanted to go one step further and offer our customers the opportunity to take advantage of the ultimate convenience. Being able to give our customers what they want and when they want it has been game-changing, and has actually increased customer loyalty. We’ve seen that customers who use the Same Day/Next Day Delivery experience are actually more likely to repeat-order because they enjoyed the experience so much.
Same Day/Next Day Delivery is the future of e-commerce. I think we will see the service offered more and more as customers are beginning to demand quick delivery times. Offering Same Day/Next Day Delivery is a huge milestone for e-commerce platforms that historically had to compete with the immediacy of brick-and-mortar stores. Merging the convenience of shopping online with the immediacy of receiving your package on the Same Day/Next Day levels the playing field for online-only retailers. We’re actually seeing real cases of Same Day/Next Day Delivery saving the day. For example, if one of our customers has a camping trip planned and realizes they’re missing a headlamp, they can receive it on the same day without having to run out to a physical boutique at the last minute.
Same Day/Next Day Delivery is especially important in today’s climate, when you don’t necessarily want to head out to shop and risk getting sick during the current pandemic.
Origin: Tell us a bit about the explosive growth you've seen since the start of the pandemic. Do you feel it's largely because lock down forced more people to shop online? Or, were there other elements at play?
Louis: We’ve been witnessing a steady growth in online sales for the last few years but the pandemic has definitely accelerated it. People are spending more time inside and have to find new ways to shop for safety reasons. We’ve seen many individuals try online shopping for the first time during the pandemic. They then realize how easy it is, and end up actually enjoying the experience. My mom calls me every week to tell me how excited she is to receive a package in the mail. It’s a new experience for her! I think there are many others out there who never considered online shopping, but who now do. Jacques Nantel actually said customer behaviour has jumped five years ahead due to the pandemic.
The nature of what we sell has been really important to our success during the pandemic. We sell items that encourage people to get outside, get active, and take care of their physical and mental well-being. We saw a huge increase in categories such as running shoes, cycling, and camping during the warmer months, and we expect to see an increased demand in cold weather clothing and accessory categories as well.
Origin: During summer, we saw people more interested in local outdoor activities. There was a re-discovering of camping, hiking and biking. What do you expect the coming winter will bring?
Louis: That’s a great question. We saw a huge rediscovery of outdoor activities by Canadians this past summer. We were basically sold out of tents by June! For this winter, with new sanitary rules and the possibility of second or third waves, we’re expecting to see an increase in solo outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, fat biking, winter running, snowshoeing, yoga and other home-related workouts. In fact, the outdoor industry is predicting quick sell-out times for all outdoor sports and gear this winter. Get your gear now, at the risk of being left out!
Origin: I absolutely adore what you are doing with Alti-Action and the idea of raising money to help those at risk of homelessness, and youth in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. Can you tell us what prompted you to start this program, how you chose the organizations you raise funds for and how the program is working out?
Louis: Thank you! That’s always nice to hear.
After the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, and the subsequent unveiling of the severe racial injustices in our society, Altitude Sports made a promise to become allies and help out in whatever ways we could. We knew it was our duty to lend our voices to the movement and to refuse to stay silent. That’s when we decided to partner with organizations that help open up access to children from the Black community to outdoor activities
Twice a year we run a program called Alti Action. It allows our customers to donate $15 to an organization and receive $30 Alti Dollars in their account.
This edition we partnered up with Pour 3 Points, Sun Youth, Zero Ceiling and Colour The Trails. All four organisations allow BIPOC and youth to try physical activities in safe, structured environments. We raised $53,925 with over 3,500 donations. The organizations were blown away by the support from our customers and employees, and are grateful that these donations will help make impactful changes in the upcoming months.
Origin: Anything else you can share with us about the future of Altitude Sports?
Louis: Yes, absolutely! You can expect Next Day Delivery in more markets across the country. This is something we’ll continue working on and are very excited about.
We’re also always on the lookout for cool brands and onboard new partners every season. This season we’ve had the opportunity to onboard new brands such as Picture, CLAE, Bogner, J. Lindeberg, Goldwin and more.
And last but not least, we launched the Altitude Sports Marketplace last year. We source products directly from our partners’ inventory, and are looking forward to expanding that in the next few months. You can expect to see more products from cool brands worldwide!