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Seven in 10 executives believe a large, Canadian-based retail sector is important to the country – and even more believe digital disruption is poised to threaten that sector "severely".

This quarter's C-Suite survey asked business leaders to think about the future of retail. They're worried. Nearly three-quarters of them believe foreign competition is a threat, slightly more than that believe Canada's retailers aren't getting into e-commerce fast enough.

There is, however, some optimism: Most believe that the Canadian sector can grow if it aggressively adopts digital strategies and embraces e-commerce. The country, three-quarters of them say, is actually in a good position to do so, thanks to its work force and adoption of technology. And they don't see the closure of Sears Canada as a bellwether for broader Canadian competitiveness – they believe it's a unique case, driven by its own circumstances and management.

Executives believe the No. 1 way to make Canadian retailers more competitive is to increase their e-commerce presences. Next comes an increased understanding of consumers – something the leadership of Mountain Equipment Co-op knows well, having expanded their offerings earlier this decade to accommodate more urban adventures.

"I think the organizations that will survive will be those that continue to meet the needs of the customer," says Sandy Treagus, MEC's chief financial officer.

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