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Canadian outdoor giant targets trans community in marketing campaign

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Canadian outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is trying to tap into the hearts and wallets of the transgender community, which is often neglected by mainstream advertising and marketing. 

It’s a smart move to bring in more customers but it could backfire if the campaign seems inauthentic, marketing experts say. 

“It’s a positive step forward for them, but if they’re going in this direction, they need to do more than simply write a blog. They need to re-organize how they’re merchandising online and in store,” said June Cotte, a marketing professor at the Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont.

“You can’t just have a lip service blog and a very binary-focused retail model.”

Amil Reddy, who works for MEC’s strategic partnerships and community investments department in Vancouver, BC, recently wrote a blog post featuring gift ideas for people who identify as neither male nor female. 

“There’s a social and moral imperative to be a part of creating social change, and reflect the people who we are trying to serve, but there’s also a business imperative,” Reddy told CBC News.

Reddy, who is transgender and uses the pronouns they/them, wrote the “Gift ideas for them” blog, which is being promoted on social media sites such as Facebook. MEC also has other lists including “Gift ideas for him”, “Gift ideas for her” and “Gift ideas for the friend who is always cold.”

‘A cooler built for two’

“Folks like myself have really great purchasing behaviour. You see ‘Gifts for him’ and ‘Gifts for her’ and it really leaves a lot of folks out of the conversation,” said Reddy.

“As a trans person of colour, I really feel it is important that diverse lived experiences are reflected. Even though it’s just a marketing list, it ends up being super reflective and celebratory, because you’re being seen for the first time.”

The items on Reddy’s list include a cooler, cozy slippers and a backpack. The descriptions underneath are gender non-specific and tongue-in-cheek. 

“For the couple in your life that’s ready for the big commitment of a cooler built for two, right down to theirs-and-theirs handles on each side,” the description on the cooler states. 

Amil Reddy works for Mountain Equipment Co-op. (Supplied)

It’s a good first step to making transgender people fully accepted in the mainstream, according to Aaron Devor, the chair in transgender studies at the University of Victoria. 

“We usually see advertising that are directed to people on the binary and MEC has put out this idea that they’re being inclusive of people who are non-binary,” Devor said. 

“There’s a tremendous number of people who might be men or women but are not interested in items that are specifically targeted to their gender.” 

Companies have become much more willing to use positive LGBTQ portrayals in their advertising, with brands such as Absolut Vodka, Ikea, and Microsoft embracing the market. 

You can’t just fake it. If it looks like you’re just trying to tap into another market, it will backfire– Nick Hall, marketing and brand expert

But it can’t come off as fake, said Nick Hall, the founder and owner of Human, a London, Ont.-based marketing and branding firm. 

“Brands are about a feeling. They have a cache in people’s minds,” Hall said. “It just naturally has to fit, because that will resonate. You can’t just fake it. If it looks like you’re just trying to tap into another market, it will backfire.” 

Not leaving anyone out

Reddy said, for MEC, appealing to people outside the male/female binary is just one step in a larger strategy. 

“If we are reflective or inclusive, then people will feel they can be part of the co-op, they can feel a sense of safety and inclusion,” Reddy said. 

“For queer folk who walk into a store knowing they might have to use a bathroom or a change room to try something on, you want to know that there’s an acknowledgement of your experience.” 

But the retailer’s website is still divided into men’s and women’s sections, as are the bricks-and-mortar stores, notes Western University’s Cotte. She said MEC has to be ready to change everything. 

“If they’re really serious about this, they have to have a broader approach to their whole retail sector,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of risk of it for them.”

Including gender non-binary people in its advertising and marketing is part of Mountain Equipment Co-op’s recent acknowledgement that it has not been diverse enough. 

The company pledged to reflect people of different colours, sizes, shapes and abilities using the outdoors, and that includes making sure transgender people are also reflected, Reddy said. 

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Real Estate

Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Real Estate

Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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