THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM
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$200 running shoe
Will it ﬂy at running specialty? Turn to page 20 to ﬁnd out. The On Cloudace hits retail shelves on June 21.
Also Inside ... • Retail on the Road • Recruiting Practices • Insight Into Amphipod
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Retail on the Road: Messin’ With Texas Our intrepid cross-country walker continues his Amercan odyssey. / By Tom Griffen
ack in my racing days, my favorite distance was a trail 50-miler. I loved the challenge of an event that exceeded marathon mileage yet didn’t require night running. Something about low light messes with my sense of equilibrium. I can pretty much count on a fair share of “trail love” while striding in the wee hours, but I’m not a fan of tumbling into a bright green patch of poison oak or smashing my face into a sleeping rattlesnake. Assuming I had effectively prepared physically and mentally, all races ranging from a 5K to 100-miles played out in a similar fashion. I became intimately acquainted with my ebbs and flows and could predict when they’d occur. Take a 50-miler, for example: I knew the first 15 miles would disappear in a blur. I knew at mile 20 I’d get sluggish and at 27 I’d question my entire running lifestyle. But things would swing upwards at 35, probably because I could smell the barn. By 45 I’d feel fresh again and kick myself for not pushing the pace earlier. As I crossed the finish line I’d consider pre-registering for next year. It was literally the same thing every time. And it would break down respectively for shorter events. Lately I’ve been comparing this walk across America to one of my 50-mile events. And if I’m being honest, the past 600 Texan miles have been my mile 20. Yes, I’ve been making progress, but the mental rollercoaster ride caused by the state’s never-ending landscape has weighed heavily on my psyche. I’ve questioned my motivation. Grown weary of the scope of miles to come. I’ve been lackluster. Grumpy. And I’ve definitely felt sluggish. But my upcoming destinations, San Antonio and Austin, helped push me past this (necessary yet frustrating) hurdle. Like enthusiastic aid stations popping with upbeat music and cheering volunteers, these two cities were beacons of hope propelling me forward. Moving me slowly, further east. Fleet Feet Sports, San Antonio, TX
Garrett Sage is the operating partner of the two Fleet Feet Sports locations in San Antonio. He is also just months away from opening another door in the Austin market with Ari Perez, long-time industry professional, who will serve as the general manager. Like most entrepreneurs, Garrett is fueled by a challenge — and especially so when that challenge has potential for growth. His innate drive, however, is not limited to business. Proof: he took up skateboarding two years ago at age 28. Who does that? RUNNING INSIGHT ® is a registered trademark of Diversified Communications. © 2018 all rights reserved. Running Insight is published twice each month, is edited for owners and top executives at running specialty stores and available only via email.The opinions by authors and contributors to Running Insight are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Articles appearing in Running Insight may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the publisher. Divesified Communications, 121 Free St, Portland, ME 04101; (207) 842-5500.
The Walk USA cart makes a brief stop at Fleet Feet San Antonio.
Had it not been for Roger Sage, Garrett’s father, Garrett might be the fourth generation to run Baxter Sales, the family business. Instead of selling specialty running gear, he’d be slinging toilet paper, plungers and other janitorial supplies. But with players such as Amazon taking over the marketplace, ma and pa suppliers such as Baxter Sales were getting the squeeze. So Roger encouraged his three children to explore other options. Sort of ironic, then, that Garrett’s first job out of college was with Amazon. Interesting too is that (as an economics major) he beat out a roomful of logistics majors for a position putting him in charge of managing logistics. How did he do it? Candidates were given a math problem to solve and explain. Garrett’s always been good at math.
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KEEP IT SPECIAL. PERFORMANCE RUNNING GEAR
Retail on the Road (continued)
Garrett Sage (left), operating partner Fleet Feet San Antonio, with the author.
At Amazon he managed 500 people and was responsible for shipping one million units per week. And though Garrett found this numbers game to be fun, it was missing something. Garrett didn’t like the inability to interact with customers or hear their feedback. But he was, however, learning a lot about servant leadership from an influential supervisor. “Rather than get on people, he’d try to destroy barriers,” he says. “Asking, ‘what can I do to make you more successful?’ and then remove any obstacles keeping them from success.” So how did Garrett get into the run business? First off, he
was no stranger to the sport. His dad was a runner (a 2:45 marathoner, no less). Plus, Garrett ran D1 cross-country, steeplechase and the 5K at the University of North Texas. As a young man he had experienced specialty retail in action at Luke’s Locker and at The Trailhead in Buena Vista, CO, (while summering as a white water rafting guide). Garrett saw great promise in the challenge of specialty and was attracted to the idea of franchising. Hence his interest in Fleet Feet Sports. Though neither Garrett nor his wife Lauren are originally from San Antonio, they have quickly become locals. Her position as a city planner in the office of
Ready To Run staffers Drew Soucy and Mac Allen and store manager Jen Hall.
historic preservation marries nicely with the store’s monthly Historic Run Crew. Last month the group met at a mid-century gas station, now a bar, then ran to an art museum housed in the original Lone Star Brewing facility. Garrett says if it wasn’t for Lauren he’d spend his down time at home. They have one rule for their outings — get there on their new bicycles. Most folks who visit San Antonio typically head straight to the Alamo or the River Walk. But Garrett says if you want to get a feel for the real San Antonio, go instead to the Pearl District and mingle with locals enjoying an unforgettable lunch or quality espresso. Then visit the Missions National Historic Park and imagine the city’s early days. Garrett insists that San Antonio’s running trails are incredible. Unsung, yet vast and plentiful. And while you are at it, throw in a visit to one of Garrett’s Fleet Feet stores, too. You might catch him fitting shoes, training for another marathon, building his timing company or maybe out front mastering an ollie or a backside pop-shove it. Like his dad, he’s a guy who wants to stay busy. “But not too busy,” he says. “It just excites me to grow something.” Ready To Run, Austin, TX
As I passed through Austin, I stopped by Ready to Run in the New Hills neighborhood. I was meeting with Jen Hall, fiveyear shop employee and current manager. She had tried to link me up with owners Scott and Karla Hippensteel, but their jobs at Lockhart High School and the Texas attorney general’s office made a group meet-up tough to 4
wrangle. Jen first showed me their fresh remodel: a new wall that increased space in the stockroom and reinvented their shoe wall. When Karla asked Jen to design the layout and oversee progress, the stunning outcome opened Jen’s eyes to a previously unknown skill set. “Phase Two is the ceiling and lighting,” she says with wide eyes. “We’re doing it in chunks.” Back in 1993, Scott worked part time for Paul Carrozza at RunTex. When they closed their final store in 2013, Scott worried the community might dissipate. So, after getting a blessing from his long-ago employer, Scott and Karla opened Ready to Run. It was a no-frills sort of opening, too. No costly up-fit or build-out. Their fi rst goal was to ensure the space met the needs of local runners. They figured they’d modernize later. Well, that later is now, and Jen’s at the helm. Jen hails from Indianapolis. She’s the first in all her extended family to leave the area. “I needed a change of scenery,” she says. “Plus the weather!” Jen’s introduction to specialty came from a stint at the Colorado Running Company in Colorado Springs. “Initially I thought I knew everything about the sport,” she says. But it didn’t take long for her to change her tune. “There are so many diverse ideas, goals and ability levels,” she says. “Most customers are first-time runners and now they are my favorite sort to fit.” Jen is inspired by the opportunity to help. Which is exactly what Ready to Run has come to represent. Ready to Run eschews setin-stone processes. In fact, this organic approach is pervasive © 2018 Diversified Communications
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Retail on the Road (continued) across their business. Not only do they start from scratch, so to speak, with each new customer, but they do so with new hires, too. Rather than focus on what the business wants to accomplish, the team puts attention on the other person’s needs. “Defining the customer’s or new employee’s starting point is first priority,” Jen says. Ready to Run, like every shop, feels the pressure of the online marketplace. So they spend a lot of time thinking about how to differentiate themselves. “We can’t just have quality product and catalog knowledge — those aren’t differentiators,” she says. “It’s individualized service that makes us stand out.”
This sort of strategy requires trust, and trust is a big part of the Ready to Run model. It starts with the leadership. Even though Scott and Karla are mostly offsite, they are not your typical off-site owners. “They are here every weekend to contribute to the upbeat tone,” Jen says. “Plus, all big decisions run through them.” As always, the proof is in the pudding. The shop’s eclectic team of seven staffers isn’t troubled by turnover. Folks stick around. Which makes for a familial atmosphere. Like so many devoted employees, Jen hasn’t taken a vacation since starting her position as manager. But that changed when
SORBOTHANE ® PERFORMANCE INSOLES EXCLUSIVE
Karla insisted she make a plan. In June she’s embarking on her first-ever non-relocating road trip. On the agenda: Durango, Zion, Albuquerque, White Sands, and Carlsbad Caverns. As I was leaving, I asked Jen the origin of the store’s name. “When Scott begins cross-country practice, he asks everyone if they are ready to run,” she says. Turn that question into a declarative statement and that’s what you’ll find at this funky little shop. A dedicated group of industry pros who are, in fact, ready for anything. n Tom Griffen is a storyteller with a long history in specialty run. Since January 2nd he’s been
walking across America. He started in Los Angeles, headed to Phoenix and El Paso, passed through San Antonio, Austin, and Little Rock, and will eventually hit Huntsville, Chattanooga, and Asheville before reaching the Atlantic Ocean somewhere on the coast of North Carolina. Along the way, he’s stopping at run shops within range of the route. Getting to know the staff and then including the visit in a Running Insight article celebrating the shop’s story. You can follow his journey at www. mywalkinglife.com, on Instagram @tomswalkacrossamerica, or listen to his podcast, My Walking Life, on iTunes (or wherever you podcast).
RUN WITH STABILITY & COMFORT
THE NEXT GENERATION SORBOTHANE INSOLE ®
12/14/17 1:15 PM © 2018 Diversified Communications
Hiring Help The eternal search to find quality running store employees. / By Daniel P. Smith
Whenever an opening arises at Charm City Run, the retailer looks to its customer base for quality candidates to fill its need for dedicated and motivated employees.
rae Hoepner confesses he’s having a tough time. Over the last two years, Hoepner, who co-owns Wisconsin-based Performance Running Outfitters with his wife, Jessica, has struggled finding qualified sales associates for his four Milwaukee area running shops, particularly staff available and willing to work nights and weekends. Hoepner has broadcast openings to his stores’ running groups, posted openings on the company’s social media channels and even incentivized current staff to recommend prospective employees. Those efforts, however, have largely failed to bear fruit. “Finding quality help has become an increasingly bigger issue, especially so as the economy has improved, ” Hoepner says. Other running store operators say finding quality staff has been a consistent challenge, not merely the reality of contemporary times 8
and a U.S. unemployment rate now hovering near a historically low four percent. In fact, Eddie Johnson, owner of the four-store A Snail’s Pace chain in southern California, calls staffing “the most difficult aspect” of his job. “It always has been and, I imagine, always will be,” says Johnson, whose company will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019. Staffing challenges have compelled many to look beyond the traditional means of soliciting employees. Operators who might have once hung out the “Help Wanted” shingle or leaned on a job-search website like Indeed are now soliciting help in more novel, strategic ways in an effort to land mature, capable and dependable employees they might bring into the fold. That said, what follows are five employee recruiting tactics that have proven successful for some running specialty retailers.
1. START WITH CURRENT EMPLOYEES
A company’s standing with its current staff is undoubtedly one of its greatest employee recruitment assets. When staff members feel they work in an enjoyable, respectful environment, they often encourage others they know, like and trust to apply. “Our current employees know our culture and know what we’re looking for, so they’re always a valuable starting point for us,” says Patrick Gould, general manager of the Boston-based Marathon Sports chain. Though some stores incentivize staff to give referrals – offering a monetary bonus if a candidate is hired and/or meets specified employment criteria – many others say creating a dynamic, fun environment with opportunity and the ability to work with likeminded souls often proves enticing enough. At A Snail’s Pace, Johnson shows a path to upward mobility by promoting from © 2018 Diversified Communications
Hiring Help (continued)
The staff at Performance Running Outfitters has benefitted from some aggressive hiring policies.
within and even creating new positions that cater to an individual’s strengths or passions, such as running club director or even accounting assistant. A Snail’s Pace also offers its full-time staff members health insurance, paid vacation, free race entries and more.
“That’s always our first go-to when we have an opening,” Dvorak says of reaching out to customers. “We know we’ll get a lot of interest and good leads. Ultimately, we want people who have a passion for the sport we’re selling.”
2. TURN TO YOUR BASE
Marathon Sports general manager Patrick Gould regularly taps into Boston’s abundant colleges and universities for talent. This past spring, for instance, Gould presented a footwear clinic lecture to physical therapy (PT) graduate students at Boston University and subtly sold Marathon Sports employment as a great way for the students to gain a deeper understanding of gait analysis and add real-world context to their studies. That clinic alone produced two hires. Similarly, Hoepner has found some high-quality employees over the years by tapping into
Whenever an opening arises, veteran operators like Josh Levinson of Maryland-based Charm City Run and Scott Dvorak of the five-store Charlotte Running Company chain in North Carolina look to their customer base, specifically the store’s training groups and customers. Levinson, in fact, calls “training programs and customers” the best employee resource pool, while Dvorak sends out a notice on the store’s social media feeds or an email through the store’s 40,000-person database to solicit applications. 10
3. STRATEGIC TARGETING
students enrolled in the PT and pre-PT programs at Marquette and Carroll universities. These students, he notes, have a vested interest in learning about biomechanics and the human body. Hoepner says most students he’s hired from these programs stick around for two or three years, only leaving when their in-depth coursework intensifies. When they become working practitioners in the field, many remain loyal to Performance Running Outfitters and funnel customers to the store. “That’s an added bonus,” Hoepner says. 4. ALWAYS BE OPEN
It’s been said that small business owners should always be taking applications and even interviewing potential candidates regardless of current staffing levels. By consistently soliciting applications and entertaining interest – even with something
as simple as an “apply now” link on the store’s website – operators create a deeper pool of potential candidates. Dvorak, for instance, maintains an ongoing list of those who have expressed interest in working at the Charlotte Running Company. When an opening arises, Dvorak and his co-owners then have a list of candidates they can approach. Operators might also consider introducing their store to upbeat, service-minded individuals they encounter throughout their own daily travels. While certainly mindful of not poaching employees from other businesses, handing a business card to a particularly personable barista, gym employee or race-day volunteer can spark mutually beneficial opportunities, particularly in light of the old “hire for personality, train for skill” adage. 5. DON’T OVERLOOK THE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
As the school year winds down, running stores might consider connecting with local high school or college coaches, some of whom might have graduating seniors without a clear plan for the year or two ahead, but earnestly interested in exploring unique opportunities in a particular area of interest. Johnson, meanwhile, regularly combs the ranks of retirees, some of whom were past customers employees of A Snail’s Pace. His current employee roster includes two retired high school teachers, a retired postal worker, a retired IT specialist and a retired aerospace engineer. “They are all active, experienced runners who simply love the sport and helping people,” Johnson says. n © 2018 Diversified Communications
Hiring Rockstars The future of your store depends on culture, not process, so you need to start now to communicate it.
very retailer wants to hire good people. But not just good people, good people who can also do highquality work. Too often we find candidates with one of these traits or the other, rather than a glorious balance of both. Sometimes we find a great personality, but ho-hum selling skills. Or maybe we hire someone who’s socially awkward but can move our dustiest inventory with ease. Then, on that rare occasion when find a diamond in the rough who can knock it out of the park both interpersonally and with UPTs, we assume we got lucky. Maybe that’s true – maybe we did get lucky – but we shouldn’t have to depend on good fortune to draw them in. When it comes to hiring, retailers traditionally spend too much time trying to perfect the hiring process. Spending too much time on inventing newfangled interview questions to weed out bad prospects. They expect a tweak here and there in the overall dance will magically unveil the next game-changer. But they are barking up the wrong tree. If specialty retailers genuinely want to attract high-quality staffers, they must look deeper within. They need to put their vision, mission and overall environment under a microscope. They need to scrutinize what might make their shop attractive to the best people out there, not only to folks who saw the “We’re Hiring” post on Facebook. More than anything else, retailers need to be harvesting folks who fit into the their culture. So if you’ve been hiring duds, I encourage you to ask yourself two simple questions: First… Are you one staffing problem away from a disaster? Because if you’re working with so lean a staff that one employee’s departure puts a hole in the stern, you probably have hired out of desperation. And desperation attracts desperation, not top-quality. Second… 12
What’s your level of energy and enthusiasm? You want people excited to work at your store, right? Well then, you need to be excited to be there, too. If you are stressed out or less-focused on what makes your store amazing, guess what your floor staff will embody. You guessed it. They will embody your vibe. A staff is always a reflection of the leadership. Store culture is your number one hiring tool. So take a close look at yours and decide if it’s luring the sort of people you want on
your team. It’s like that line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Culture may seem emotive (and as such, immeasurable), but emotion is what defines it and makes it appealing. Maybe it’s time for you to look inward and raise your bar a bit? Maybe you need to stop relying on a killer process for answers? Dial in your culture and you’ll attract people with similar beliefs and ethics. And sure, have a good hiring process, too. But don’t rely on it to find your rockstars. n
© 2018 Diversified Communications
RUNNING COMPANIES MAY LIE. RUNNING DOESN’T.
So many shoe companies. Dishing out so many marketing claims. It’s exhausting. But we don’t
make promises, we make shoes. For runners. And runners need shoes that actually perform. Which is where our foam comes in. Don’t believe us? Try on a pair, and let the running do the selling.
The Pod Keeps Growing! Amphipod co-founder June Angus talks about the company’s commitment to running specialty retail. Let’s talk about Amphipod. When was the company founded? And what was the driving inspiration behind it? June Angus: The company was incorporated in 1997, with first sales in 1998. After my husband Keith and I got married we frequently ran after work. On a run around Greenlake in Seattle we found ourselves talking about the hassle of carrying stuff. Do you remember the tiny pockets sewn into running shorts? They were too small for car remote fobs or credit cards, among other things you might need to take on a run. After searching running stores and polling our running friends, it quickly became obvious that hardly anyone was using those tiny pockets. Instead, people were running with stuff in their hands, “hiding” keys in the bushes or on top of their car tires, carrying credit cards in their bras or in their socks. There was no ready-made solution. The most practical, if not the most elegant, idea at the time: take a zip bag, roll it up and safety pin it to the inside of your shorts. Keith and I have different but complementary experience and backgrounds. Keith came from the engineering program at Stanford then worked for clients like Apple, Nike and others. I started as an athlete at UC–Santa Barbara and ended up in sporting goods product development and marketing at Prince and later Raleigh bikes. For many years, I worked with factories and traveled with our salespeople and distributors visiting specialty sport stores in the U.S. and abroad. Addressing the challenges of running accessories was a perfect fit. We spent a number of months discussing, brainstorming and then building and testing hundreds and hundreds of prototypes. I left my job to start Amphipod, while Keith continued 14
model for Amphipod’s growth. With our first product, we earned the attention and trust of runners and specialty run store owners. They have been enthusiastic, supportive and have continued to demand new innovative solutions to improve customer experience. By devoting design, engineering, development and testing resources on the smallest details, we’ve been able to truly innovate on behalf of runners, securing over 100 granted patents.
working his “regular” job to pay the bills. While I worked on a marketing plan, lined up production and wrote a utility patent, Keith moonlighted to engineer injection molds and four-slide die parts. Many months later our first product, the Micropack, was born. It’s a pouch that locks inside the waistband of your running shorts so there is no bounce. I took our first pre-production samples to Super Jock ‘n Jill in Seattle and that was our first sale. Perhaps fittingly, that store is just across the street from Greenlake, where we worked out many of the initial product details during our runs. With a firm initial order, we were able to manufacture the product and began shipping it in 1998 out of our garage. That initial product became the
Tell us a little about your backgrounds and how you came to the business? “I grew up in a small community north of Los Angeles, catching the entrepreneurial bug early when, at 12, I started selling avocados doorto-door out of a dented wagon. I’ve been a runner since my early teens and was a competitive athlete. After attendingUC–Santa Barbara on an athletic scholarship, I moved to Germany to work as a tennis pro, teaching tennis at a military rec center south of Munich. Upon returning to the U.S., I moved to San Francisco to join Ketchum Advertising in the media department. From there I went to Prince Manufacturing in New Jersey, where I ultimately became a global product manager for tennis, badminton and squash racquets. It was at Prince that I was able to integrate my experience as an athlete with my interests in product design and development, materials hard and soft goods manufacturing and marketing. I spent much of my time in our Asian engineering and development offices, in factories and traveling with sales reps and distributors. It was part of my job to visit specialty sport stores, and test and collaborate with engineers to help create and introduce products for the premium specialty sporting goods.
© 2018 Diversified Communications
2-Time UTMB Champion Rory Bosio
RUNNING SOCKS 2018
artwork: Dennis Mukai
THE BEST SOCKS ARE
MADE IN USA
Amphipod (continued) Keith Willows: “I grew up on a marine biology lab in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. My background is both in mechanical engineering and product design. I went through Stanford’s school of engineering being fortunate to have both David Kelly, founder of design firm IDEO and Stanford’s current Design School director, and Bill Burnett as mentors. When I graduated I was hired by Lunar Design in Silicon Valley. Engineering for two of the top Silicon Valley and later Seattle-based design firms, I worked with in-house design teams on a wide variety of products. My background and experience in industrial design and mechanical engineering are integral to Amphipod brand’s minimalist and hybrid design approach: our products need to not only look great, but fit well, exceed utility expectations and be manufacturable consistently with great quality. We make every business decision with the highest standards for design and product quality in mind. We decided early on that we wouldn’t let the desire for short term sales and distribution gains undercut our core standards and we’ve stuck to that approach. It’s not a coincidence that I’ve also been a life-long runner, as running has provided a creative space for idea generation and solving problems. Product development and innovation are two of the hallmarks of your company. Talk about the process and maybe take us through the steps of one of your recent products from idea to development to bringing it to market. Since we started Amphipod, we have always devoted significant – and, more importantly, the right – resources in design, engineering, materials and testing on the smallest of details. Our goal is to solve problems for runners and create running accessories that significantly improve the running experience. At Amphipod we have the team, tools, experience and manufacturing partners to produce not just 16
good but exceptional running gear, efficiently and, to respond quickly to the changing needs of runners. Over the years, as the things runners carry have evolved so have running accessories. Now people run with much more than they used to. Today, a runner might carry a cell phone, energy gels, electrolyte drinks, maybe even an inhaler or EpiPen. Starting with our first product, Amphipod has earned the confidence of runners and running store owners and buyers by innovating and adding value. One reason is that we’ve made a habit of listening to our customers. Every Amphipod product “seed” started with a conversation with a running store owner, buyer or individual runner/athlete. For instance, one of the biggest issues for runners is hydration. Before Amphipod started working on hydration gear runners were strapping on round cross-section bike bottles (designed to fit a bike not a person) carried in what was essentially a vertical beer cozy around the waist. We heard over and over from runners and store owners, “there’s got to be a be a better way to carry water!” A seed was planted.
Our team stepped back and brainstormed on the basics of hydration. It may appear to be a simple product, but designing a water carrier for running requires a lot of thought and consideration. After weeks of sketching, crude prototypes, testing existing product and talking with dealers and runners we felt like we had a good understanding of the basics of the problem. Because water is heavy and hard to control on a runner’s body we knew we needed to start with a strong but flexible foundation and build from that. We needed the perfect vessel for controlling fluid, a seamless way to interface with the body, simple access on the run, easy cleaning, it needed to address sweat and hotspots, weigh as little as possible, and carry other items. That’s a long list of things to think about. Over a period of about a year our team tested vessel shapes and concepts. The initial shapes were the result of organic curves and surfaces pulled from runner’s bodies through plaster castings. We digitized those shapes so we could reproduce and modify them. We sculpted foam and plasticine prototype vessels to fit all different body types and also different size hands. We sewed, cut and stapled together hundreds of iterations of ways we could interface the vessel concepts with the body. We ran with water-filled test prototypes strapped in various positions and to various body parts. After refining our initial direction and doing blind test runs, our team began creating forms using CAD, 3D printing, plaster molds and flexible resins. We tweaked and tested hundreds of iterations and thousands of micro-iterations — taking a tenth of an inch off here or there, adding material, changing a curve, manipulating an angle, flattening a surface. This allowed us to get very refined user feedback, to discern exact weight and how fluid would slosh and move within the vessel, to test accessibility and comfort.
© 2018 Diversified Communications
Amphipod (continued) And concurrently through a similar process we sewed, formed and molded 3D spacer mesh, CoolMax, stretch denim and other breathable and technical fabrics to hold the vessel concepts in place. At the end of this process – during which we worked in parallel with our factory partners to make sure we could manufacture the design cost effectively and retain the original design intent) – our Hydraform bottle, Hydraform handheld and Full-Tilt body-formed pack were born. If our development process seems exhaustive, it’s because we know if we make enough prototypes and test enough different ideas and iterations, that with enough information we can get a bell curve that captures what will ultimately be the best solution. Within that reforming, that back and forth of prototyping and testing, reformulating and prototyping and testing and unbiased measurable feedback the result is a product that is better – usually much better – than the status quo. From the hundreds of prototypes, testing and retesting, we know without any doubt that most runners will find the final product nets out a significant improvement over existing solutions, and ultimately a better run experience. You feel strongly about supporting specialty retail. Talk about why and elaborate on some of the programs you have in place for retailers? We have grown up with our specialty store partners. We share a common passion and purpose with them: to help people improve their health and meet their goals through running and fitness. Coupling a great store experience, staff expertise, local training programs, service and community support with comfortable and effective running gear delights customers and encourages them to come back. Running shops are reserving the lion’s share of their accessory wall for elevated products and brands that offer 18
unique solutions, premium customer value, controlled advertised pricing and limited distribution. They’ve come to rely on Amphipod for our commitment to innovation, quality, differentiated product technology and great service. Our programs and policies are all aimed at making us the best partner we can be for our specialty run store customers. We offer the widest range of accessories in every category, stringent UMAP protection, intentionally limited specialty distribution, high feature-toprice product value, same-day shipping, no minimum order size, and in-stock product availability. Our innovative, quality products help separate specialty run store partners from other channels, driving new and repeat customers.
You are very diligent about your patents. Why is that? We’ve focused from the beginning on providing run channel-separating products and innovation that supports our specialty store partners. We’re committed to defending our IP, as we are to protecting our UMAP policies and limited specialty distribution. This diligence isn’t just vital to us but to the entire channel. It is more important than ever that specialty stores carry accessories with a unique technology story, high quality and real functional benefits that differentiate them and the channel with end consumers. With an on-going stream of new innovation, Amphipod now has over 200 product styles and 100 patents granted, with many more in process. After the Micropack lock-on essentials carrier, Amphipod engineered the first lowprofile and breathable fanny pack for runners, the first low-profile ergonomic water bottle (and the introduction of Amphipod’s signature green bottle color), the first bounce-free and lateral water bottle pack, the first modular and fully-customizable hydration belt system with single-handed bottle access, the first ultra-minimalist visibility vest and more. What’s next for Amphipod? Amphipod’s core competency in the accessory product segment, diligence in maintaining great quality, a premium product line and clean distribution has resulted in high demand internationally along with exciting global expansion and brand partnership opportunities that will fuel Amphipod’s next stage of growth. As a specialty running brand, we’ve built our foundation on relationships with running specialty store staff and owners, with great products as the structure that further elevates the brand and the channel. By continuously rolling out innovative products, we’re working every day to put truth and confidence into the specialty message. n
© 2018 Diversified Communications
The Tale of Two Bills What does the $200 running shoe mean for specialty retailers? By Daniel P. Smith
ootwear walls in U.S. run specialty shops are currently hosting someth ing once considered unimaginable — running shoes priced at or above $200. The Mizuno Wave Prophecy 7 rings in at $240. The Asics Metarun hit the market at $250, as did Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly 4%. On June 21, meanwhile, On will release the $200 Cloudace. The $200 running shoe has become reality and many anticipate more models crossing the $200 threshold in the years ahead. “Think of the first $100 running shoe
back in the 1980s. People were shocked at that and they sold. That seems to be where we’re going with these $200 models,” says Boots Boutillier, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Rochester, NY. Unveiling $200 Running Shoes
To be certain, $200 running shoes remain rare. According to Sports Marketing Surveys, $200-plus footwear represented less than one percent of run specialty sales in 2017. Such slim sales, however, haven’t stopped running shoe manufacturers from entering the rarified air.
Mizuno VP–business management for running Chuck Couch says Mizuno created the Prophecy’s eye-catching Infinity Wave design amid rising interest in “mechanical fashion.” The company’s R&D team viewed the Prophecy much like automobile manufacturers look at concept cars — that is, to create a truly visionary, unique product. That the Prophecy now tops $200, a price point driven by intense engineering and tooling requirements, stands a secondary concern. “This was all about pioneering a new shoe,” Couch says. Though Switzerland-based On Running
The Mizuno Wave Prophecy 7 retails for $240.
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The $200 Shoe (continued) “Think of the first $100 running shoe back in the 1980s. People were shocked at that and they sold. That seems to be where we’re going with these $200 models.” BOOTS BOUTILLIER FLEET FEET ROCHESTER
has made inroads in the run specialty channel with footwear models priced $130-$180, it hasn’t yet ventured above the $200 mark. That will change on June 21 – the longest day of the year – when the Cloudace drops. The Cloudace is On’s first shoe to combine the company’s two patented outsoles, Zero-Gravity Foam in the heel and Rebound Rubber in the forefoot. The shoe also includes precision-molded 3D heel pads, a technical mesh designed to both vent the forefoot and provide added stability, no-sew tape to ensure midfoot stability and an extra-wide Speedboard to stabilize the foot throughout the gait cycle. “Our ambition was not to develop a $200 shoe, bur rather to take our unique technology up a notch and deliver the best experience to our customers,” On co-founder David Allemann says. “When you do these things, this was the price point we needed for such a high-tech shoe.” For other brands playing in the $200 category,
a similar story emerges. Nike, for instance, created the Vaporfly 4% to challenge the perceived limits of light, responsive and cushioned technical running footwear. Welcomg the Shoe at Retail
“By and large, I think the manufacturers view many of these models as concept products souped-up with every bit of technology possible,” says Brooklyn Running Company footwear buyer Wil Cramer. “They’re a showcase for what’s possible. They’re not mainstream, but they aren’t trying to be, either.” And many running retailers welcome the distinct – albeit pricey – footwear to their shoe wall. “We always want some excitement around the store and new shoes with this level of technology bring that,” says Boutillier, who carried the Metarun and Vaporfly 4% at his Fleet Feet outpost and will soon welcome the Cloudace into his inventory.
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The $200 Shoe (continued) “By and large, I think the manufacturers view many of these models as concept products souped-up with every bit of technology possible.” WILL CRAMER BROOKLYN RUNNING COMPANY
There is a growing segment of consumers willing to plunk down big money at their local running store. Sports Marketing Surveys reports that running footwear priced $150 and above now represents approximately 10 percent of the market. Though the $150 price point is still a long ways away from $200, the data underscores rising consumer willingness to pay for premium running footwear. But Are They Selling?
Cramer points to Newton, which brought the $175 price point mainstream a few years back. “Newton shoes looked different, but it was easy to understand the performance story and people were willing to take a chance on something clearly out-of-the-box,” he says. “The lesson [with Newton] was that there’s a market for running shoes at high price points, but the shoes need to have a story behind them.” To wit, Cramer reports the Brooklyn Running
Company sold out of the Vaporfly 4% and has done well with the $220 Adidas UltraBoost ATR as well. While the Vaporfly 4% appealed to the performance-minded technical customer, a reality spurred by Nike’s marketing muscle and limited distribution that created an aura around the shoe, the UltraBoost ATR invited a more fashion-conscious customer into Brooklyn Running Company. “There was willingness and demand for both,” Cramer says. “We’d have a problem if half of our shoe wall was $200 or more, but these outliers are presenting something truly unique that has people coming in and specifically asking for these models.” At Fleet Feet Rochester, Boutillier says he would “gladly take” more pairs of the Vaporfly 4% if Nike had them available. “I’ve got a list of people who want the shoe,” he says. “It’s that in demand and there are a lot of people willing to make that investment because
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The $200 Shoe (continued)
The On Cloudace hits retail shelves on June 21.
has found particular success in major markets across Florida, New York and California. In Brazil, meanwhile, Mizuno sells some 400,000 pairs of the Wave Prophecy each year. “We don’t write our checks off the Prophecy, but it is a way to show people what’s possible,” Couch says. Opportunity or Albatross
With many industry insiders forecasting the continued appearance of $200 running footwear, what does it mean for specialty retailers? “It means constant innovation and adding more value to running,” On’s Allemann says, noting that highly differentiated
product can help run specialty stores expand their market, particularly when the uniqueness justifies the price point. “Remember, there are people out there spending $600 on footwear,” Allemann continues. “If not run specialty, then who else can offer this to demanding runners? We see this as an opportunity for run specialty.” Cramer agrees, especially if manufacturers limit distribution and allow running retailers to “get in and out” with modest investment. “If we can talk about these models and share their stories, then they can be an addition to the channel,” Cramer says. “It makes us a part of the
conversation where the future of running shoe design and construction is going.” While Boutillier acknowledges that the $200 price point isn’t for everybody, he says there will always be consumers willing to stand on the cutting edge of running technology. “There’s always going to be a premium customer who wants the newest and best,” he says, adding that the challenge for running retailers will be to make savvy, strategic bets based on their customer base. “We need to be able to execute this effectively and be confident that we have a customer willing to invest in this or else we could be left sitting on some very expensive product.” n
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of its performance.” Though the Metarun was “a little slow moving” for Boutillier’s store, it nevertheless allowed Boutillier to showcase the latest and greatest technology from a leading running footwear brand. “As a retailer, I want to be in front of trends and developments,” he says. “Plus, it’s good to be building excitement around new technology and new models.” Couch, meanwhile, calls the Wave Prophecy a solid performer in the Mizuno lineup precisely because of its differentiated, high-tech look and, to an extent, its striking price point. In the U.S., the Prophecy
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running shorts VF Completes Alta Acquisition
VF Corp. recently completed its previously announced acquisition of Altra from Icon Health & Fitness for a reported $135.0 million. The brand is now a wholly owned subsidiary of VF Corporation. “The Altra brand provides VF with a unique and differentiated technical footwear brand and a capability that, when applied across VF’s outdoor footwear, direct-toconsumer and international platforms, will serve as a catalyst for growth within the outdoor and performance segment,” VF said in a statement.
Hoka Adds Wilson
Liz Wilson, a former senior sales executive
at Brooks, has joined Hoka as senior regional sales manager for the Western Region.
Albert Joins Lily Trotters
Lily Trotters has expanded it U.S. sales team with the addition of Jen Albert as territory manager for New England. Albert has spent more than 20 years in retail with a dedicated focus on buying, sourcing, inventory management and selling apparel for large department stores and outdoor, athleisure and running chains and small independents.
Ikea Teams Up With Adidas, Lego Footwear and apparel brand Adidas is teaming up with Ikea with plans to introduce new products for the home. At Ikea’s recent
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running shorts (continued) Democratic Design Days, Adidas showed a video highlighting the challenges faced by at-home exercisers, from cramped spaces to overly participative toddlers and affectionate dogs. “We want to make it easier for people to explore sports in their home environment,” says Josefine Aberg, VP–design, training at Adidas. “Many people prefer working out at home, says Marcus Engman, Ikea’s head designer. “It’s cheaper, and most people have a lack of time.” That pressure seems to be felt more by women, and he says one of the possibilities is “a collection by women, for women.”
Eneslow Offers Pedorthists Course
A comprehensive four-day Refresher Course for pedorthists is being offered July 15-18, 2018, at the Eneslow Pedorthic Institute in New York. The course will offer up to 32 ABC scientific continuing education points to pedorthists, orthtists, prosthetists and C.Ped Tech. Space is limited to 20 attendees and the cost to attendees is $595 for one day and $1995 for the full course. While students are encouraged to bring two pairs of their own shoes to modify and fit, Enselow will provide the tools, equipment and materials. For more information and to register: www.eneslow.com/epi
On Supports Don
On has partnered with director Andrew Hinton to produce a short documentary that chronicles the comeback journey of three-time Olympian, Tim Don. Don, a former triathlon World Champion and Ironman World Record holder, survived a near-fatal road accident just days before the Ironman World Championships last year. “The Man with the Halo,” which was released on May 28 at ManwiththeHalo.com – a date that commemorates the one-year anniversary of Don’s world record-breaking performance during the 2017 Ironman South American Championships in Brazil. The short follows Don’s efforts in early 2018 following three months of physical recovery resulting from a broken neck. Don set his sights on his first comeback race – competing at this year’s Boston Marathon in April. Six months after the accident, he finished in two hours and 49 minutes. “At On, we take pride in sponsoring not just athletes, but their human spirit,” says Olivier Bernhard, co-founder of the Swiss sportswear company. “Tim’s unwavering optimism in the face of adversity is a natural extension of our brand values.” n 30
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