Trends & Features

Battling the internet and educating customers – all in days work at Runnersworld

RunnersWorld looks to offer their customers a service that sets them apart.

The first store was set up in 1989 in Rayners Lane, in the London Borough of Harrow.

After being situated there for 20 years, and with the lease on the store coming to an end, they opened their Eastcote store – doubling the size of their original one – in Field End Road.

Part of the holdings of BS Sports, there are now four other franchised stores in Chelmsford, Colchester, St Albans and Watford. Director, and manager of the Eastcote store, Phil Talbot said: “I started with the trade in 1991 when I took redundancy from Lloyds bank.

“I did it as a stop-gap and then bought into the business. And I have been here ever since – as you do.”

To attract more people to the store RunnersWorld offers an array of services from gait analysis, setting up gadgets to treatment and advice.

They have a therapy room in store where sports massage therapists and coaches Sharon Dooley and Gary Telford can help people with their running and injuries.

The sports massage and sports clinic are available by appointment on the premises.

Phil said: “The service we offer kind of sets us apart.

“The gait analysis we do is more in-depth then most people. We have just started putting all the information down on a form and emailing it to the customer along with a video of them running on the machine, just a little report on what they do. We try and offer a service to those people who don’t know what they need really.

“You can’t get it in Sports Direct – you come in here and we can help you with your running technique and all that kind of stuff.

“A lot of what we do is fire fighting these days.

“A lot of people haven’t got a clue about their running, they just go out and run so almost when they break is when they come here and we have to sort them out.

“That’s why we had the therapy room done – that now helps as well because Sharon and Gary are both therapists and coaches.”

However, Phil has discovered that offering such things as gait analysis and gadget set-up must come at a price.

It’s no good giving away all the expertise the shop can offer if the customer then goes away and buys their shoes off the internet.

Phil said: “Gait analysis is free if you buy the shoe from here, and all that goes with it, but if you just want us to do the analysis we charge £15 – we then give the customer a receipt which they can bring back at any time and get it off a pair of shoes.

“The biggest challenge is getting people to appreciate that we have a value – we are not just selling you a tin of beans.”

In an effort to stop customers using the shop as a demonstration zone, Phil doesn’t offer refunds any more – they now issue store credit. They had seen an upsurge of people buying shoes on a Saturday and then bringing them back on the Monday – after surfing the web to find cheaper prices – saying they had changed their minds.

Phil said: “If someone is being really genuine we are flexibile – we will swap it change it, different colour, different size but your not going to get a refund and we are not legally bound to give one either – we put it on the bottom of the till receipt now, we have to.

“We genuinely do try and give people a service.”

And that is the ethos behind RunnersWorld, it’s all about the shoes and what’s best for the customer. Phil said: “We select our stock first on quality, they have to be good.

“The main focus of our stores is footwear – we don’t have a brand we push as such because we try and give the customers what they need.

“We do the main running brands – Brooks, Saucony, Asics. “We even do the ultra one as a by product as well as trail shoes like inov-8.”

The store does operate it’s own website but they like to see it as driver for people to come in store and learn about their running.

Phil said: “Going back a long time we were turning over a quarter of a million on the website and now last year we did six grand – we can’t compete on price and we refuse to try.

“We are in premium places in the south of England which costs a lot of money to be in.

“The focus is on where the stores are and what they are trying to do, rather than selling.

“You can buy on it if you want but it is at full price so you might as well go to the store and do it.

“We are trying to push the stores – describing the product, technical features, then say where to buy from giving the addresses of the stores and their telephone numbers.

“We are trying to encourage people not to buy online but go into the shops and get it.

“The thing is customers might think they know what they need. “People can come in and say ‘have you got one of these’ . We ask them what they want it for and we can then offer them alternatives that can be better for them and explain why.

“We are runners and we know what’s what because, on the whole, we have used these products.”

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