Full Speed Ahead
Run shop owners share their biggest challenges, and greatest opportunities, for 2020.
Run shops have a lot to look forward to in 2020. A surge of fresh technical product, the summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo catalyzing consumer interest, and product growth at the premium side of the shoe market are all opportunities for growth and connection.
But like most independents, run shops see hurdles ahead. Pricing uncertainty, product shortages and competition for key styles, and a consumer always willing to look online for a better deal are vexing issues.
With that in mind, we asked running shop owners across the country to share what they’re thinking about for 2020. Here, they sound off on the biggest challenges they’re seeing for 2020 — and yes, the biggest opportunities they’re aiming for.
Brad Brown, Complete Runner, Flint, MI
“I feel the biggest challenge is one that continues to change the way small retailers do business and that is e-commerce and online shopping. Customers are becoming so accustomed to instant gratification by ordering product with no risk and at a significant discount that we have to continually evaluate how to keep customers coming in our doors, rather than shopping from their computers and phones. Brands are doing a better job to protect us retail partners, but they have a long way to go. The biggest opportunity is the cross training market. I am always amazed by how many people participate in CrossFit, Orange Theory, and HIIT and are naive about good shoes and gear. I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to educate and cater to those customers.”
John Benedict, Playmakers, Okemos, MI
“I think the biggest challenge for Playmakers in 2020 is how we curate the best products for our customers. I believe there is too much product in the pipeline, too many vendors producing good, and in some cases, great product. Our buyers have many great buffet offerings — but they can’t overeat! We need to pick the best products for our customers and say no to more products to make things less confusing for them.”
Justin Craig, RUNdetroit, Detroit, MI
“I foresee continued product shortages from some brands. As product improves, I think everyone will be chasing sales, creating a shortage of product. Ultimately, I think this is a good thing and becomes an opportunity. I’d love to introduce customers to new products or brands and challenge them to try something they may not have otherwise been exposed to. I’m having talks with more brands about creating a stronger omni-channel between dealer and brands. We know a lot of research is done online before a purchase is made in store. We’re having conversations beyond the current Locally options, to bridge the gap between the brands dot-com and the brick-and-mortar experience: think in-store exchanges and sharing customer databases to drive traffic to events.
Mark Jimenez, Red Rock Running Company, Las Vegas, NV
“The biggest challenge will be how we continue to grow in uncertain economic times. Tariffs and other events loom over us and could affect our business. The biggest opportunity will be how we react to the challenges ahead.”
Jeff Anderson, Kelley’s Pace, Mystic, CT
“Who ever would have anticipated the collapse of the Brooks distribution system and the downward pressure that put on availability of shoes from many manufactures? But it also created an opportunity to move out older product and pull shoes our staff may not have normally pulled. We are most excited about the many new shoes manufacturers are bringing to market [with] carbon fiber plates and new cushioning systems. The community aspect of running continues to grow, and we find our fun runs continue to attract more people, bonding runners together.”
Mike Shuman, Idaho Running Company, Boise, ID
“The biggest challenge will always be the online purchasing. People compare what’s in front of them at the store to what is online and want price matching. We, of course, do our best to accommodate, if it’s the same product — the biggest opportunity is provide the best customer service to keep that customer coming back for life. Being one-on-one with a customer can provide some of the best conversations and learning for us and the customer. The customers drive our business and we love to go over the top for each one and to make them feel like they are walking into a very welcoming atmosphere.”