When COVID-19 rocked SAIL, the outdoor banner did more than just stand up. It has done a complete overhaul to propel itself into an “omnichannel” future where consumers come before products. Glance at a rebound that has only just begun.

Well known to hikers, campers, fishermen and other free spirits, SAIL made a late arrival in e-commerce, but quickly caught up. After being equipped with an integrated management software package (ERP), it invested in 2019 in a state-of-the-art warehouse dedicated exclusively to online orders, with an automated inventory tracking system and 700 feet of conveyors: things that do not appear on the home page of an online store, but which make all the difference for a customer who is waiting for his package.

When the pandemic arrived, the volume of online business, although growing strongly, was not sufficient to compensate for the losses resulting from the temporary closure of its stores. After more than two months of confinement, SAIL therefore had to do as many other non-essential retailers: it filed for bankruptcy protection and carried out a financial restructuring, involving the closure of six stores. including the four of its Sportium banner. That eight in Quebec, four in Ontario – and one in the cloud.

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It was all set to absorb demand when Quebec consumers realized that restrictions on domestic activities and travel were here to stay.

From the summer of 2020, SAIL was able to take advantage of the growing popularity of the outdoors thanks to its pre-pandemic investments, which have proven to be judicious, as well as the support of trusted partners including the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, which financially supports and accompanies the banner since 2005.

Ultimately, her online sales growth kept her afloat, and even taken to another level.


SAIL’s good fortune is not due only to market forces, but also to the strategic vision of its leaders who have doubled their focus on digital and the so-called “omnichannel” approach.

Several improvements and optimizations have been made to the online store, such as the addition of new payment methods; the possibility of paying in four installments; affinity product discovery tools, all supported by the addition of new channels to quickly get traffic to the site.

Also, in order to optimize performance behind the scenes, new employees joined the distribution center; new carriers signed contracts; the store inventories were integrated with that of the warehouse; and pick-up was made possible.

For the Quebec company, COVID-19 was finally the accelerator of a transformation that had already started. In other words, the backward step from early 2020 was followed by two steps forward towards 2021.

Interview with Nicolas Gaudreau, Chief Marketing Officer, SAIL

Source: CQCD || The Quebec Retail Council