Trends & Features

“Adapt or lose – Winning behaviours to run with”

“Adapt or lose – Winning behaviours to run with”

From those early days it was clear to me the success of retail lays in people and culture. Customers, team members and brands. Run retail is no different, we crave the connection with like minded individuals in our network creating and harnessing relationships and working collaboratively achieves the best results. This has not changed over the years, it has become more important – understanding the role individuals play in the bigger picture helps us all understand how to get the best out of our teams, retailers, brands, event relationships and most of all our customers.

Specialty run retail is unique. The majority of us are passionate runners, cyclists and triathletes. All loving the fact we get to talk about our hobby daily, test the newest and greatest kit on the market and introduce this to our passionate and friendly communities (customers). The challenge many find is that there isn’t the retail skill or experinece to go with the passion. A previous boss, now mentor and friend said to me once… “retail isn’t rocket science, it’s bloody hard work, driven by people and processes and when you get it right it is exceptionally rewarding”. This is very true, it is a balance between an art form and science, achieving this balance is the path to success.

Customers make purchases within specialty retail through need and emotion, when this is understood and utilised we add value to people’s lives through the products we have in our brand portfolios and shop floors. Running footwear has always been the focus in the industry, no surprise. My curiosity has always led me to the ‘other’ products. Running footwear accounts for 40% of space in our retail stores, maybe less in some cases, so what about the other 60%? Why do we have it? What do we do with it?

Less is more for sure in these categories, yet from a retail perspective I have seen these categories grow in volume, not in sales, and I have seen products on shop floors that are several seasons old. Having a clear strategy for clothing and accessories ranges and a customer service process in which to sell them adds pounds and percentage margin in tills. From a brand perspective it’s no different – why divert from your core? If it’s a brand growth strategy then invest in the best human capital to ensure you deliver. One thing I love about runners and cyclists is that they are opinionated. If they don’t like your product or it doesn’t meet their expectations they will tell you!

Clothing and running accessories (wearable tech, carriers, injury prevention, socks etc.) are hard categories to crack yet they add considerable value to your customer experience, retail sales. Brands can and have shown if done well they can cross populate categories and benefit from brand equity growth and sales. It comes down to identifying the need and purpose.

Obviously the industry has been hit hard through the last 12 months and will likely be for the next 6 to 8 months. That said we have seen businesses thrive, those that are agile, forward thinking and innovative have created sales and acquired new customers. The run retail industry needs more of this. Retailers, brands and innovators working together to build on the excellent foundations of the network of independent and multiple door retail.

Brands and retailers can grow by working together and take a more holistic view of the industy, like it or not there is a symbiotic relationship. It hasn’t always felt this way and in some corners of the industy I know there has been feelings of an ‘us and them’ relationship. If brands think more like retailers and retailers got their head up and thought about their business as a brand then there are many ways the relationship can work better and to greater effect. We have a responsibility to each other and to the millions of runners that depend on our knowledge and expertise.

The development and focus on ecommerce is a lasting trend. The growth in 2020 was accelerated and we will not see this drop off in 2021. Ecommerce adoption, integration and being good at multi channel is essential for specialty retail and brands. The growth of brands adopting a DTC model pre covid is an example of business protection and growth strategies. Some adopted it more than others. I would suggest given the shifts in the retail landscape brands will build on this this strategy. I would urge them not to lose sight of the need for retail and the importance our run retail store network has on building the grass routes running communities we all benefit from and continue to work on the partner retailer relationships.

The future is exciting (no point saying it’s going to be tough, that’s a given), we will see a greater incorporation of digital and ecommerce. We will see growth of good quality B&M retail, those that are innovative and agile and take on new fresh, up to date strategies. Sustainability will no longer be the elephant in the room. The next 10 years is critical to life on the planet, how we change our use of natural worlds resources and interact with it. This will impact brands and retailers, it is a time to reflect and make changes. Those that adopt this early will have a competitive advantage. Naturally as runners we crave to explore that natural world – we need to start making a contribution to sustaining it, to sustain our awesome industry and communities.

Ben Lee
Channel Manager : Run Sports 2Pure

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