Running Insight 7.27.23

Page 1

MARCH 16, 2020 A DIVERSIFIED COMMUNICATIONS PUBLICATION THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM SUMMER 2023 Happy Anniversary An issue that celebrates some very special times in run specialty in 2023. Technology and the running retailer. Page 46 Page 44 SPECIAL SUMMER 2023 DOUBLE ISSUE!



First comes the Anniversary Issue section, highlighting important milestones in the business among retailers, brands, events, associations and even some products themselves.

Senior writer Danny Smith has spent the first half of 2023 researching and compiling important dates within the run specialty business and the result is a look at more than 60 special occasions being celebrated industry-wide. From Brooklyn Running to Running Soles marking a decade in business to celebrations such as half a century since three iconic run specialty retailers opened their doors – and from Saucony’s 125th milestone to Swiftwick’s 15th – Smith has it covered.

Undoubtedly there are other anniversaries being celebrated in 2023 and we apologize if we missed any this time around. Feel free to contact Danny Smith at and we will surely include you in an upcoming issue of Running Insight+

And, of course, we will be doing this all again in 2024, when an entire new collection of anniversaries will be marked. Let us know who you are — we will love to celebrate with you.

Let the party begin!


Part 2 of our Double Issue begins on page 46 and is a conversation over the role of technology in run specialty retailing. On the one side there are the proponents of the human element, the ability of a store associate to connect with new and experienced runners alike and offer the personal touch that sets specialty retail apart from the big boxes or online retailers.

Then there are the men and women who embrace and rely on what the latest and greatest technology brings to the shoe fitting and selling game.

This issue aims to bring them all together in one big happy, technically advanced and customer-friendly family. The best running stores already know they have to marry both concepts –making sure their associates are adept at whatever foot scanning technology they have invested in while at the same time knowing how to connect with a customer by asking the right questions and actually listening to their responses.

Running Insight strives to live in both worlds – connecting monthly digitally and personally at retailer visits and especially at The Running Event in Austin in November. We’ll see you there.

2 © 2023 Diversified Communications This Summer 2023 Issue of Running Insight offers two for the price of one – a special DOUBLE ISSUE focusing on a pair of very interesting topics in the business of run specialty.
RUNNING INSIGHT ® is a registered trademark of Diversified Communications. © 2023 all rights reserved. Running Insight is published monthly, is edited for owners and top executives at running specialty stores and available only via email except for two print issues year. 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. Diversified Communications, 121 Free St, Portland, ME 04101; (207) 842-5500. SUBSCRIBE BACK ISSUES Advertise Editorial Christina Henderson Daemon Filson Glenn Dulberg Mark Sullivan Beth Gordon Michael Jacobsen On the cover: The folks at South Carolina run retailer Run In celebrated in style as part of their 20th anniversary in 2023.
anti chafing anti blister ™ RUNNING ESSENTIAL SINCE 1996 (888) 263-945 4 FOR PEOPLE WHO RUN tech·ni·cal·ly ad·vanced milestone © 202 3 B o d y G lid e sales@bo d y glide . c o m In 1996, Run Specialty turned to Body Glide and stopped sending runners to drug stores for protection against chafing and blisters


THE PRESENT-DAY SAUCONY is actually a blend of two centuryold companies.

The first: The Saucony Shoe Manufacturing Company, which debuted in 1898, two years after the first Olympic marathon and one year after the inaugural Boston Marathon. The Pennsylvania-based company launched its first track spike, a lightweight option made of kangaroo leather, in 1958 and was producing running shoes by the late 1960s.

Around the same time of Saucony’s 19th century founding, a Russian immigrant cobbler named Abraham Hyde opened a shoe store in Cambridge, MA, manufacturing and selling “carpet slippers” made from rug remnants. By 1940, Hyde’s footwear line had grown to include baseball shoes, roller boots and bowling shoes. During the 1960s, Hyde’s company also produced footwear for NASA astronauts on the Apollo 7 mission, the first manned flight in NASA’s Apollo program.

In 1968, Hyde acquired the Saucony Shoe Manufacturing Company and relocated the footwear brand to Cambridge. A decade later, on the heels of America’s first running boom spurred by Frank Shorter’s marathon gold at the 1972 Olympics, Saucony began building its reputation as a leading footwear brand.

The 1980s saw Saucony release the first slip-lasted running shoe (the Trainer 80), introduce the Jazz (a highly technical model that endures today as the centerpiece of the Saucony Originals Collection) and earn international credibility when New Zealand’s Rod Dixon won the 1983 New

York City Marathon wearing Saucony kicks.

The 1991 release of GRID (Ground Reaction Inertia Device technology) – a system that combined crisscrossing strings of DuPont-sourced Hytrel with a concave TPU sphere for cushioning and stability

– accelerated Saucony’s momentum. GRID, a visible technology akin to a tennis racket, became the foundation of Saucony’s product line. (It is also the inspiration for the PWRGRID+ cushioning systems blanketing the brand’s contemporary footwear lineup.)

In the first years of the 21st century, Saucony solidified its performance run lineup with now-ubiquitous model names like the Hurricane, Triumph, Ride, Guide and Omni. The innovations kept coming with heralded models like the Kinvara and Peregrine and, more recently, the boundarypushing Endorphin Collection.

Saucony chief marketing officer Kathryn Pratt describes Saucony’s 125th anniversary as a “unique opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past and to celebrate our relentless dedication to inspiring and enabling people to live a better life.”

“We have a strong product offering, a passionate team and an unrivaled commitment to the transformational power of running,” Pratt says.

Saucony Fast Fact: The Saucony name comes from the Saucony (now Sacony) Creek located near the company’s original Kutztown, PA, home. The company’s logo, meanwhile, represents water flowing around three distinct boulders symbolizing the brand’s core pillars: heritage, innovation and design.

4 © 2023 Diversified Communications
The Anniversary Issue
HYDRAFORM CHILLER™ Beat the Heat! Cools your fuel and body Promotes faster recovery Just freeze, fill and go! Colder hydration all run long Revolutionary Cooling Handheld New! | | 800.806.1288 Patented/Patent-Pending 12oz. Revolutionary Ice-Wall Technology ™ 20oz.


TO MARK ITS CENTENARIAN BIRTHDAY, Germanborn outdoor brand Lowa reached beyond its significant foothold in traditional hiking and backpacking boots and embraced an entirely new footwear category – trail running – with the unveiling of its All Terrain Running collection earlier this year. The three-shoe lineup features the jack-of-all-trades Amplux, the performance-oriented Citux and the long distance-oriented Fortux.

“Our new trail running segment incorporates our decades of experience in the design of grippy outsoles, perfect rolling properties and the best form of comfort into a new usage area,” Lowa CEO Alexander Nicolai says. “Now, it’s time to run!”

La Sportiva


started La Sportiva in 1928 manufacturing leather boots and wooden clogs for farmers and lumberjacks. After later establishing itself as a prominent brand in mountaineering footwear and climbing shoes, La Sportiva was a natural early entrant into the trail running category as athletes sought products capable of helping them move faster in the mountains.

Still owned by the Delladio family, La Sportiva continues handcrafting many of its shoes in Italy. The brand, however, has global reach and claims distribution in more than 75 countries around the world.

La Sportiva Fast Fact: Last March, La Sportiva athlete John Kelly became only the third person in history to complete the famed Barkley Marathons – the so-called “race that eats its young” – twice.

6 © 2023 Diversified Communications
95 100


Inner drive. It keeps you going when all that’s ahead is an endless stretch of asphalt. Enter Currex insoles. Highly customized and available in three arch profiles, they’re clinically proven to help prevent injury, enhance performance, and provide comfort. But most importantly, they’re engineered to keep you running. Learn more at

Anita Fraser 3:23 Marathoner Medium Arch Profile


WRIGHTSOCK DIDN’T BECOME THE WRIGHTSOCK we know today overnight. Not at all.

In fact, the North Carolina-based operation founded in 1948 by Aileen and E.B. Wrightenberry spent its first two decades reselling irregulars before moving into finishing for larger mills.

In 1988, Joey Wrightenberry, grandson of the founders and Wrightsock’s current president, joined the family business and suggested the company purchase knitting machines so it could become a complete producer.

“We had people coming to us who couldn’t get the production they needed,” Wrightenberry recalls. “It was scary to make this investment, but entrepreneurship is about taking chances, isn’t it?”

By the mid-1990s, Wrightsock’s most novel creation, a thoughtfully crafted double-layer sock, boasted patents and growing energy in the run specialty marketplace with its “Anti-Blister System” addressing friction, moisture and heat.

“The double-layer sock became our calling card in run specialty, which helped to make Wrightsock its own brand,” Wrightenberry says.

As competition in the athletic sock landscape has intensified this century, Wrightsock has answered the bell. The company moved to a larger facility in Burlington, NC, in 2000 and also upgraded its knitting machines. More recently, Wrightsock introduced a


IN 1958, JEFF AND JOE FOSTER, the grandsons of track spike pioneer J.W. Foster, set out to build upon their grandfather’s legacy by launching their own footwear business.

Two decades later, Reebok running shoes made an immediate splash in the U.S. market with multiple fivestar ratings from Runner’s World and the 1979 creation of the Reebok Racing Club, which gave runners discounted shoes in return for wearing the brand’s red, white and blue singlet during races. When Brit Steve Jones shattered the world record at the 1984 Chicago Marathon wearing Reeboks, it further heightened the brand’s running cred.

Reebok loomed large in the running space well into the 1990s, including serving as the official sponsor of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. After a brief hiatus from the sport in the early 2010s, Reebok returned to run specialty stores in 2017 with the award-winning Floatride Run.

buttery soft single-layer sock line called Run Luxe in 2022 to kick off its development of single-layer styles.

The company, which is currently weaving in a fourth generation of Wrightenberry family members, constructs its entire made-inthe-USA product line from Repreve, a sustainable polyester crafted out of recycled plastic bottles.

“We like having control of what we produce and the ability to be a fast mover for the market and our customers,” Wrightenberry says.

65 75
© 2023 FOOTBALANCE SYSTEM LTD. url: • e: • p: 603. 501. 8883
less than 10 minutes, give your customers a personalized fit – 3D foot scanning, biomechanical analysis and complete product recommendations – with FootBalance custom insoles molded right in your store.
get a GUARANTEED 75% SALES CONVERSION RATE on custom insoles. Bring our 3D foot-scanning technology into your store for FREE...
Take The MyFootBalance® CHALLENGE

Movin Shoes ’


Herb Kimpel started Madison, WI-based Movin’ Shoes in 1973 with $500, a cramped space in the basement of the Wisconsin Student Association building, a pegboard showing three running shoe models and no idea their entrepreneurial brainchild would mature into one of the patriarchs of run specialty retail.

And to be frank, Movin’ Shoes earliest years did not forecast long-term success. The store, initially open a grand total of four hours each week, later moved its operations into a Chevy Nova station wagon before settling into another basement space below a hair salon. The business would see Kimpel’s exit, a sale to employee Karl Harter and swing-and-miss inventory trials ranging from basketball shoes to rollerblades.

Today, though, Movin’ Shoes is all running, all the time in Madison. The shop carries about 125 different running footwear SKUs and largely eschews sales floor technology in favor of a “throwback approach to selling shoes” inside its 2000-square-foot home near the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus.

“We’ve been 99 percent effective by watching someone walk down our carpet,” says veteran employee Tim “Buddy” Gold, who, at age 75, is the elder statesman of the 15-member Movin’ Shoes team.

Under the ownership of former ASICS rep Jim Van Boxtel since 2016, Movin’ Shoes has continued to honor the history and legacy of Movin’ Shoes while forging ahead with a contemporary focus. Van Boxtel has encouraged store leadership, which includes his daughter Vanessa Meinke, to pursue fresh ideas and new products while strengthening business operations.

“He pushes us to be extra thoughtful about what we’re doing,” Meinke says of her father.

Movin’ Shoes’ leans heavily into the lively running culture in Madison, often named among the nation’s top running cities despite its harsh winters. The city hosts large high school programs, an active racing scene and well-trafficked running spots like the UW Arboretum.

“Madison’s a community excited about running, so that’s certainly contributed to our success,” says longtime Movin’ Shoes employee Tom “TK” Kaufman, a local high school coach himself.

Throughout 2023, Movin’ Shoes has been celebrating its 50th year with a monthly staff party, including bowling, mini golf and a trivia night. On July 28, the day after the popular Karl Harter Full Moon 5K honoring the shop’s former owner, Movin’ Shoes is planning a massive party for former staff members and business associates.

10 © 2023 Diversified Communications


MOST MAGAZINES DON’T like to do stories about Phidippides Running Centers because, well, the name is just too difficult to spell. But Running Insight certainly makes an exception when 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the run specialty industry’s iconic individuals and earliest stores.

The history of Phidippides Running Centers parallels the history of the running boom of the 1970’s. In 1972 Jeff Galloway realized his life’s dream of participating in the Munich Olympics and also held the American 10-mile record. He spent his summers traveling and competing on the racing circuit while completing college degrees in history and social studies. After a year of teaching he missed running and came up with a plan to open a running store stocked with the best gear.

The idea seemed timely. Jeff scraped together enough money to open a small store in Tallahassee, calling it Phidippides after the Greek messenger that was credited with running the distance that is now known as the modern day marathon. One of the few running companies that would sell products to Galloway was a then-new unknown company called Nike. After a year-and-ahalf, he moved the store back to his native Atlanta.

By 1978 the running boom was in full stride and Galloway had established more than 35 Phidippides franchise stores nationwide. After this success he decided to focus on writing and teaching the benefits

of running through his clinics, fitness vacations and his nationally recognized Galloway Training Programs.

Galloway continues to oversee the two Atlanta stores, with a history of dedicated expert employees, some with over 30 years of experience — distinguishing his stores as among the most experienced run/walk specialty store staffs in the country.

In addition to his own special anniversary year, 2023 marks the 40th anniversary Kaiser Permanente Corporate Run, Walk & Roll Fitness Program, which, as the longest-running 5K in Atlanta, maintains its goals to get metro-Atlanta workers moving. The annual event allows participants to train under an Olympic runner and thrive with their co-workers at Atlanta’s largest office party. Participants can run, walk or roll utilizing a wheelchair.

Galloway believes a health journey does not have to be boring. “Amp up your fitness with coworkers, family and friends by your side,” he says. “This is the perfect way to foster teamwork, camaraderie and health while enjoying the great outdoors.”

This year, there’s a new app to help with training called the Jeff Galloway app. This free resource has a built-in run and walk timer, Galloway’s audio coaching telling participants when to walk and when to run and is customizable. There are even meal plans and drills. Anybody who registers for the event gets free training.

11 © 2023 Diversified Communications


ON MAY 14, 1973, SHELDON BOEHM, a Danish yoga instructor, got the rights to open an earth shoe store franchise in south Florida. When earth went out of business in 1976, Boehm alongside his daughter and son-in-law, Laurie and Hans Huseby, quickly re-imagined their upstart retail shop as a run specialty store called FootWorks.

Here in 2023, FootWorks lives on in the same location under the direction of the 72-year-old Laurie Huseby, who continues working the floor three or four days each week.

“I love coming to work and fitting people and being at the training programs on the weekends,” Huseby says. “It’s satisfying when you can be a part of people’s health journey and watch them transform into a happier, healthier person.”

FootWorks’ early footwear inventory consisted of Pony, Etonic and Brooks, while Hans, a sub-3 marathoner, also re-soled shoes. He purchased sheets of Vibram outsole rubber from New Balance before cutting, gluing and repairing footwear in the back of the store.

“That allowed a runner to get another couple hundred miles on their shoes,” Huseby says of the now-extinct practice.

In 1977, Laurie and Hans Huseby helped launch the Miami Runners Club. Two years later, the couple began putting on races around South Florida. The store, the club and races brought attention to a sport clamoring for mainstream attention.

“The definition of a runner was only beginning to evolve from the serious competitor to the recreational athletes all about completing the distance,” Huseby says.

And FootWorks helped drive that shift. The store introduced Jeff Galloway’s run-walk training programs and put on a corporate 5K race that attracted 20,000 participants. As running participation grew, so, too, did FootWorks’ store footprint to 2000-square feet.

“The continued growth and success of our business came from events complementing our retail business,” Huseby says.

Today, FootWorks applies much the same formula with a new Huseby, Laurie, and Hans’ middle son, JP, managing the store and helping to oversee races. Team FootWorks, the store’s non-profit arm, hosts about eight races each year while its training programs prepare about 300 people annually for 5K, half marathon and marathon distance races.

This September, the store plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary following the final race in its Twilight Trilogy series of 5K evening races.

“It’s been a fun ride here and it’s wonderful to think about all the people who have been a part of our journey,” Huseby says.

12 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Learn More at Albert 2 Pro The Ultimate All-In-One Foot Scanning Solution • Generate Add-On Sales • Collect Unique Customer Data • Create an Enhanced In-Store Experience

Dave s Running


– wasn’t even a runner. At least not initially. In fact, Mason was involved in drag racing and operated his own automotive shop. When a doctor told the 5’6” and 200-pound Mason he had to start exercising, he obliged. There was, however, a problem: Mason couldn’t find size 7.5 running shoes anywhere.

Mason responded by opening accounts and selling shoes himself. Each weekend, he visited races within 200 miles of his Ohio home to peddle New Balance, Nike, Puma and Lydiard shoes from his car. He also founded his own race, the aptly named Dave’s 10 Miler.

In 1976, Mason opened his first physical storefront – a “200-square-foot hallway” in Delta, OH, featuring running shoes, nylon shorts, singlets and cotton sweatsuits.

“Very primitive,” assures James Mason, Dave’s son.

From those early roots, the Masons became active players in northwest Ohio’s running scene. There were retail stores in Toledo and Sylvania, OH, an early Nike shoe tester in Cleveland giving the Masons a beat on compelling models from the fledgling brand out of Oregon and a swelling mail order business. Dave Mason also began offering marathon and 5K training programs at the store and invested in TV commercials detailing the shop’s personalized fitting process.

In 2008, James Mason, who had purchased the Toledo store from his parents in 1986, acquired the Delta store from his parents as well. That same year, he also opened a store in Perrysburg, OH. A store in Finlay, OH, followed four years later.

Dave’s now sponsors and supports about 250 races around northwest Ohio and remains a vital cog in the local racing scene with its timing services and screenprinting operations. The store also has six branded finish line arches it loans to local races, fully wrapped vans and branded tents at races.

“You’d be hard-pressed to go to a local race today and not see a Dave’s logo,” says Matt Mason, James’s son and the third Mason generation involved in the family business alongside his sister, Melissa.

The Masons marked the company’s fifth decade with a new TV commercial, a Free Shoes for Life campaign and the creation of Dave’s Golden Miles Strawberry Blonde Ale in collaboration with the craft beverages program at nearby Lourdes University. Some 300 people turned out for a taste of Golden Miles at the kickoff of the annual Dave’s Brew Series on May 11.

14 © 2023 Diversified Communications
50 ’
844.413.5457 // Click to see how! You have endured long enough. It’s time to run again. The new KS8™ Performance Knee Brace combines OS1st’s industry leading Compression Zone Technology with new features to create a dynamic, empathetic knee pain solution to support customers looking for additional stability throughout their healing journey. Available starting July 2023! GEL GRIP ADJUSTABLE TOP

1st Place Sports

TRUE ENTREPRENEURS, DOUG AND JANE ALRED weren’t afraid to try new things and take chances. It’s what led them to open Jacksonville, FL-based 1st Place Sports in 1978 and the mindset that has fueled their evolution across the last 45 years. They created races to promote their retail store and invested in timing equipment; hatched the idea of weekly charity 5K runs; formalized their 5-Step Fit Process to enhance customer service; and embraced technological developments like foot-measuring 3D laser systems.

The risks have added up to longevity, success and notoriety. In 2020, 1st Place Sports was named the Best Running Store in America. Though 45 years in, the Alreds are not slowing down. They are currently scouting a sixth Jacksonville area location.

“There’s plenty of room for us to spread our wings,” Doug Alred says.

Kelley s Pace

JUST OUTSIDE THE entrance to Kelley’s Pace in Mystic, CT, stands a statue of John Kelley and one of his many training partners, a Golden Retriever mix named Brutus. Kelley was a New England running legend: a prep phenom who set the national record in the mile, a two-time Olympian (1956 and 1960), the 1957 Boston Marathon champ, a coach to accomplished runners like Amby Burfoot and, later in life, a pioneer in run specialty retail when he opened Kelley’s Pace in 1978.

While Kelley passed in 2011, his namesake shop endures under the ownership of Jeff Anderson. A former advertising executive, Anderson purchased the store in 2014, expanded and remodeled in 2020 and earned a Best Running Store in America nod in 2022.

16 © 2023 Diversified Communications
45 45 ’

Brand Identity and Marketing Consultation

We create a cohesive brand strategy that reflects your values and resonates with your target audience.

We combine every customer interaction to build data-science driven audiences that convert.

Services! Visit Grow your business with a full-service specialty retail marking agency that helps you connect with your audience. Paid Digital Marketing Using smart technology, we create custom audiences that best match your unique and pre-built campaigns. Email Marketing & Automation We set up automated email campaigns that target customers at specific points in their journey. Advanced Industry Reporting
advanced technology allows you to track what marketing drove a purchase online or in-store.
DATA PLATFORM Intelligent Targeting
ROI MEASUREMENT Campaign Performance
marketing ROI technology allows you to track what marketing
drives a purchase.

Runner s Roost

OVER ITS 45 YEARS IN BUSINESS, Buffalo-based Runner’s Roost has sharpened ice skates, sold JanSport backpacks and peddled seasonal footwear from the likes of Ugg, Teva and OluKai. From founder Joe Freeman to second owner Dave Borodzik to current owners Michelle and Robert Fox, however, running has remained the core business at Runner’s Roost, which should not be confused with the Colorado-based running store chain of the same name.

Since taking over in 2017, the Foxes have incorporated modern business tools like a cloud POS system, an e-commerce website and a Volumental scanner for the sales floor. The couple also opened a second store in nearby East Amherst, NY.

Runner s Den

WHEN ROB WALLACK moved from the Midwest to Phoenix and opened the Runner’s Den in 1978, he had no business plan, a sliver of retail experience and hopes of selling 10 shoes a day (at an average price of $29.95) to keep the doors open.

“I was really naïve about the whole process,” Wallack admits.

Fast forward to 2023 and Wallack is still slinging shoes at the Runner’s Den, a Best Running Stores in America honoree. Now, Wallack says, it’s others’ turn to lead the operation, namely his son, Nate, and longtime Runner’s Den manager, Ron French.

“I’ll be leaving it to them to keep the lights on and the public well served,” Wallack says.

18 © 2023 Diversified Communications
45 45 ’ ’
RE CO VER B E TT ER ™ Premium Quality. Reasonable Price. • Flexible massage tool to effectively mobilize soft tissue, increasing range of motion and flexibility • Frees up adhesions and scar tissue, helping to restore soft tissue mobility • Softer edge (than rigid mobilizers) provides moderate to deep massage techniques FlexEd SOFT TISSUE MOBI Now Available!! ORder now! online b2b • 1-800-779-3372 • locaL rep • FlexEdge™ Amber Cream

Nike Pegasus 40


Though revised and reimagined over the last four decades, the Pegasus has nevertheless been a constant in the Nike performance run line since its 1983 release – save a two-year hiatus when Nike dropped the line (1998-2000).

The Pegasus was the Swoosh’s first mid-priced running shoe featuring pressurized Air technology. That game-changing creation demonstrated Nike’s innovative chops and set an ambitious pace for the brand.

On a few colorways of the Pegasus 40 released earlier this year, Nike celebrated the model’s historic place in the Nike lineup by featuring Swoosh logos pulled from the original Pegasus as well as editions 24, 35 and 38.

Athletic Annex

AFTER MEETING AT THE 1980 New York City Marathon, a pair of Indianapolis runners, attorney Bob Weddle and marketing manager Nelson Steele, became running buddies bantering about the idea of opening a running store on Indianapolis’s North Side.

After one post-run breakfast at IHOP, Weddle and Steele decided to turn talk into action despite the fact neither had any retail experience. The partners purchased an Athletic Annex franchise, signed a lease for a retail space on the corner of 86th and Ditch and welcomed their first customers in September 1983.

While the original franchisor floundered and soon declared

bankruptcy, Weddle secured the rights to the Athletic Annex name and the Indianapolis running store survived, though not without turmoil. Amid mounting invoices, dwindling inventory and friction with their full-time jobs, Weddle and Steele convinced runner-turned-Athlete’s Foot manager Thom Burleson to join Athletic Annex in 1985 as a co-owner. The group then raised capital to cover outstanding bills and operational expenses by selling shares of the company to a few friends.

Burleson’s presence and more stable financial footing pushed Athletic Annex to a run of annual sales and profit increases. Over the next 14 years, the store expanded three times.

In 2014, former Olympian Bob Kennedy, owner of the multilocation BlueMile running store also based in Indianapolis, joined Athletic Annex to drive its continued growth.

“Buckle Up … we’re going to hit the gas pedal hard!” Kennedy told the Athletic Annex team, which would come to include his BlueMile colleagues Justin Porter and Gareth Wilford following the 2019 retirements of Weddle and Burleson.

Athletic Annex relocated its flagship Indianapolis location in 2019 to Nora Plaza, a move that sparked an immediate 30 percent jump in revenue. The company has since added two additional locations: Fishers (2021) and Carmel (2023).

20 © 2023 Diversified Communications
R3 Convertible Series R3 Express™ B2B: E: T: 800.806.1288 RUN TIME TO SOCIAL TIME

Leadville 100 40


to Leadville, CO, after the closure of the Climax Mine left much of the town unemployed, the Life Time-owned Leadville Trail 100 has become a global attraction since its 1983 debut and spawned a multi-race series that now includes the Leadville Trail Marathon, the Leadville Silver Rush 50, the Leadville Trail 10K and the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race.

“It’s truly awe inspiring to see how this race series has grown from its humble beginnings into an iconic symbol of endurance and camaraderie,” Leadville Race Series marketing manager Ryan Cross says.

Whirlaway Sports

AFTER COMPLETING HIS COLLEGIATE CAREER at Southern Illinois University in 1983, Dave Kazanjian returned to his hometown of Methuen, MA, and the family business – a golf driving range and pro shop –with a grand plan to peddle running gear. His brother, Harold, custom built a shoe wall for running footwear inside the golf shop. His brother, Mark, meanwhile, leveraged existing relationships with Etonic and Brooks from the golf side to help Kazanjian build his inventory of running footwear.

Kazanjian’s “Try ‘em before you buy ‘em” appeal paired with his running knowledge and unapologetic enthusiasm generated early momentum for Whirlaway Sports. Toss in a “never be satisfied” attitude, a few daring choices and a sound management team led by Maggi Murray, Adriana Birleanu and Ryan Kowal, all of whom have been with Whirlaway at least 18 years, and you end up with a multi-time Best Running Stores in America honoree carrying more than 1000 footwear SKUs for running, wrestling, field and court sports.

“We’ve never stopped thinking about how we could take things to the next level,” Kazanjian says.

22 © 2023 Diversified Communications

Track Shack+ Hughes Family

ONE YEAR AFTER TRACK SHACK opened its doors in 1977, Jon Hughes became manager of the Orlando-based running store and soon after hired Betsy Mackenzie. Five years later, in 1983, Jon and Betsy married and purchased Track Shack from its founding partners. Over the last 40 years, the couple has transformed Track Shack into one of the nation’s model run specialty shops.

Chris Hughes, Jon and Betsy’s son and now an integral part of Track Shack management, discusses the elements driving Track Shack’s success under his parents’ leadership:

“While purchasing property is perhaps the most black-and-white business principle I learned from my parents, the long-term, sustained success of Track Shack is due far more to three intangibles: culture, community and continuity. Track Shack and Orlando’s running community grew together as one and the positive, supportive culture of that community is what my parents commit to providing at every single event we host as well as inside our store with our staff.

“The key to sustaining this – the continuity – is that my parents have remained deeply, personally involved and active with the business. They live in town, still attend and work at every event they can and jump on the floor to help customers. I could not have asked for better mentors in this great industry and in life.”


WHEN IMPLUS STARTED in 1988 as a mail-order insole company called Impac Plus, its founder would climb a ladder and drop an egg on the company’s original insole to demonstrate the product’s shock absorption properties. Today, Implus is far more than insoles; it’s an international sports powerhouse with 18 brands under its umbrella, including well-established run specialty names like Balega, FuelBelt, TriggerPoint and Yaktrax.

After completing a corporate rebrand last year, the North Carolina-based company is excited to pursue more sustainable products, reduce its environmental impact and support the global growth of its brands.

24 © 2023 Diversified Communications
35 40

Two ways to support your customers.

GU WAS BORN AFTER DR. BILL VAUGHN concocted an easyto-absorb gel providing energy and muscle support to help his ultramarathon-running daughter, Laura, nab second place at the Western States Endurance Run in 1992. Still a family-owned company, GU has sharpened its proprietary manufacturing processes and flavor-focused formulas to provide various nutritional, energy-packed solutions for endurance athletes, including gels, chews, drinks and waffles.

GU’s prosperity extends beyond its products. The Berkeley, CA-based company is pursuing B-Corp certification and its GU Gives program supports approximately 100 organizations each year promoting fitness, health, environment, education, youth sports and more.

Chamois Butt’r

STEVE MATHEWS SPEARHEADED the development of Chamois Butt’r to create an anti-chafing product specifically designed for the demands of endurance sports. Initially targeting cyclists, Chamois Butt’r has branched into other fitness realms, including running and hiking, with line extensions like the solid Chamois Butt’r GoStik. Chamois Butt’r rejects paraben, phthalates, gluten and artificial fragrances. Chamois Butt’r Coconut, meanwhile, is one of the only chamois creams on the market using Certified Organic Coconut Oil and Shea Butter, which moisturize the skin, reduce friction and soothe already chafed skin.

ASICS Kayano

ASICS INTRODUCED THE GEL-KAYANO in 1993 – then under the “Kayano Trainer” name – as a do-it-all, cross trainer-like shoe rather than a performance-oriented running shoe. In time, though, the Kayano became the brand’s pinnacle stability running shoe and among the globe’s most revered – and popular – running shoe franchises.

The 30th edition of the Kayano launched earlier this month and included the man himself – original GEL-Kayano designer Toshikazu Kayano –visiting run specialty stores across the U.S. to celebrate this milestone Kayano’s release.

ASICS GEL-Kayano Fun Fact: According to ASICS, Ohio-based Second Sole has carried every iteration of the GEL-Kayano since its 1993 debut.

© 2023 Diversified Communications
30 30

ASICS GEL-Nimbus and GEL-Cumulus

TO SPRINGBOARD THE LAUNCH of the GEL-Nimbus 25, ASICS created a “Mystery Shoe” campaign, unveiling an unbranded and unmarked version of the shoe at The Running Event last year. The savvy play built buzz for one of the running market’s trailblazing shoe franchises.

Designed to help athletes feel as if they were running on clouds (hence, the model’s meteorological-themed name), the GEL-Nimbus has evolved mightily since its late 1990s birth with dramatic shifts to its upper, underfoot feel and aesthetics — a reality evident in the striking look and lightweight, bouncy feel of the Nimbus 25 released earlier this year.

Not to be overlooked, the Nimbus’s sister shoe in the neutral category, the Cumulus, also celebrated the launch of its 25th edition earlier this year as well.



Tell that to Amphipod founders June Angus and Keith Willows, who concocted the Micropak LandSport Lock-On Pouch after being frustrated they had nowhere to put their keys while running around their Seattle neighborhood.

After creating their flagship product – a tidy pouch that clipped onto a runner’s waistband – the partners visited local running stores with a handmade maple display rack and a request: Would you like to order a dozen pouches? Super Jock ‘n Jill was the first retail shop to bite. Many more came on board and Amphipod gained valuable momentum as the run specialty industry surged.

The Seattle-based company followed with additional savvy creations, such as the AirFlow Lite WaistPack, a minimalist fanny pack for runners, and the Full-Tilt, the first-ever horizontal hydration pack. Amphipod now holds 113 patents, 85 product styles and – to Angus’s delight – deep relationships with run specialty stores from coast to coast.

“There’s always been such a fundamental synergy with the running store community and we’re inspired by their hunger for and embrace of new innovation in the category,” Angus says.

28 © 2023 Diversified Communications
25 25

Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series

The Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series took flight in 1998 when nearly 20,000 participants toed the starting line in San Diego. The international series, now owned by The Ironman Group, has since set its start line in 47 cities across 12 countries. That inaugural event in San Diego transformed the idea of road races by packing the event with live bands, cheer teams and entertaining water stations. It injected undeniable freshness into the nation’s race scene, spawning a range of imitators and ushering in an era of creativity that propelled steady growth in race participation numbers.

29 © 2023 Diversified Communications 25

Tifosi Optics

THOUGH JOE AND ELIZABETH EARLEY launched Tifosi Optics in 2003 with just 24 SKUs, their eyewear gained an immediate following. The couple opened 500 retailers within the first nine months and added 1000 more in year two. Today, more than 35,000 retailers across 35 countries carry Tifosi products, including many U.S. running stores.

“Run specialty has always been one of the core markets for our wholesale distribution,” Joe Earley says. “The exciting thing for Tifosi is that we see this as one of our major growth opportunities still today with the emergence of the lifestyle products and the increased focus on the [optical] category.”

BALEGA – THE ZULU WORD for “To Move with Speed” – began on the back of napkin in a small South African town. The vision was bold and daring: to create the best performance sock on the planet and to do so with a philanthropic bent.

From its first two products, the Enduro and the Hidden Comfort, Balega now features nine sock models varying in thickness, cushioning and design elements to meet runners’ demanding needs.

On the charitable front, Balega helps the Ethembeni School in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, providing funding for annual student scholarships, a wheelchair friendly school bus, a therapy playpark and swimming pool. In addition, the company’s Grit & Grace collection supports the work of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, while every sale of its Enduro Physical Training Crew sock generates a 50-cent contribution to Homes for Our Troops.

UK-BASED INOV-8 HAS MADE significant gains in the running marketplace since its 2003 debut, especially among the world’s trail runners. The company captured significant attention with its introduction of Graphene – an insanely strong, yet lightweight, thin, flexible and grippy material – into the outsoles and midsoles of key trail running models like the Trailfly G 270 and the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max.

Now operating in more than 50 countries – and gaining swelling attention in the U.S. market, in particular – inov-8 and its 100 percent vegan footwear has been favored by the likes of Bear Grylls and Superman himself, Henry Cavill.

30 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20 inov-8

Brooks+ Hansons Original Distance Project


running brand in the early 2000s, Brooks explored different ways to build its identity in a competitive market. Enter the upstart, Michigan-based Hansons running team and its mission to rejuvenate American distance running. Brooks signed on as a sponsor and the partners have flourished together over the last 20 years, celebrating national championships and cultivating Olympic marathoners like Brian Sell and Des Linden.

“It was a huge leap of faith for [Keith and Kevin Hanson] to put their trust in us and believe in our ability to deliver what they needed to be successful as America’s original distance project,” Brooks head of sports marketing Garrett Heath says.

Brooks Hansons ODP Fast Fact: The popular Brooks Launch is named after the boat launch that serves as the starting point for one of the Hansons’ tried-and-true training routes.

Running Zone

FROM FOUNDERS DON and Denise Piercy to current owners Pete Vaughn and John Carr, Running Zone remains a central hub for running and fitness in Florida’s Brevard County. Initially accomplishing its mission through expert shoe fittings and posting fliers for upcoming races in its store, Running Zone’s enterprising work now includes e-commerce options and its own events from which more than 20 local beneficiaries receive support each year.

“The evolution from a momand-pop little shop to the level of business we’re conducting today is remarkable,” Vaughn says.

32 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20

Garmin Forerunner

TWENTY YEARS AGO, GARMIN INTRODUCED the Forerunner 201, the world’s first GPS running watch. The revolutionary product triggered a wave of new innovations for runners to track their mileage and other key data points, from pace to steps to heart rate. While the original Forerunner was a bulky, flip phone-sized personal computer sitting on one’s wrist, today’s Forerunners are sleek, tech-packed smartwatches with vibrant displays and premium materials.

Garmin Forerunner Fast Fact: Over the first 20 years, Garmin users have run nearly 19 billion collective miles – the equivalent of 40,000 trips to the moon and back.

H 2O Audio

H2O AUDIO BEGAN AS KRISTIAN RAUHALA’S graduate student project at San Diego State University. An enthusiastic mountain biker, surfer and Ironman triathlete, Rauhala developed waterproof headphones he could use while training. After obtaining his first patents in 2002, he founded H2O Audio the following year.

Over the last two decades, H2O products have been used by the likes of Michael Phelps and surfing pioneer Laird Hamilton, who has actively contributed to product development as an H2O board member. The family-owned, California-based company’s bone conduction headphones have also earned acclaim from the likes of Runner’s World and TIME

Run In

THE COVER MODELS FROM RUN IN, which has locations in Greenville and Simpsonville, SC, marked their 20th birthday earlier this year with a lively bash featuring gourmet doughnuts, eye-catching offers and a packed house that saw long checkout lines of Run In supporters.

“I was blown away by the support,” says Dane Simmons, who purchased Run In two years ago.

During the celebration, Run In popped the champagne and also invited customers to sign a commemorative poster. Both the cork and poster have been framed to memorialize the event.

33 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20

On the Run

WITH TWO STORES IN METRO HOUSTON – a flagship store located in the shadow of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and a sister store in nearby Beaumont, TX – On the Run has become a referral-driven destination run specialty shop for anyone on the move in the Space City.

“Our typical customer has definitely changed over the years,” On the Run assistant manager Josh Rake says. “We don’t just cater to runners, but anybody in need of a pair of shoes that fits their lifestyle, being running, walking or everyday use.”

Fleet Feet Greensboro

WHAT BEGAN IN 2003 AS Off’n Running with three employees and a 1500-squarefoot leased retail space is now Fleet Feet Greensboro: an operation of 25-plus employees inhabiting its own 4000-square-foot building. Owner John Dewey, a licensed physical therapist and athletic trainer, was the first independent run shop to convert to the Fleet Feet banner while maintaining ownership.

Dewey has since added a sister store in High Point, NC. He and his team celebrated Fleet Feet Greensboro’s 20th with a throwback community run on July 20 as well as its annual Pickle Run, a 16-mile run between the two stores, on July 22.

34 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20

Santa Barbara Running

BEFORE SHE BECAME ONE HALF of the founding force behind running apparel brand rabbit, Monica DeVreese was first a running retailer. DeVreese and her husband, Joe, opened Santa Barbara Running in 2003.

The California store hits its 20-year milestone fueled by knowledgeable staff touting the transformative power of running; a community-first ethos evident in its youth running club (The Coyotes) and its sponsorship of local races, non-profits and schools; and a dedicated focus on its digital presence, which includes sharing running tips, product updates and other relevant content on its website and social media channels.

“These digital initiatives have allowed us to reach a wider audience, connect with runners beyond our local community and attract customers from different regions,” DeVreese says.

=PR= Run & Walk

A LOT IS BEHIND POTOMAC RIVER RUNNING’S growth into a 10-store powerhouse in northern Virginia over the last two decades: the passion and purpose of owners Ray and Cathy Pugsley; a talented crop of managers who take ownership of their respective areas of responsibility; a warehouse that functions as a centralized hub for the entire business; and a risk-taking mindset that has informed marketing strategies, product assortment and technological adoption.

To that latter point, leadership used the store’s 20th anniversary to initiate a rebrand. The Potomac River Running name has been retired in favor of =PR= Run & Walk.

“As active people evolve the way they see themselves fitting into the athletic landscape, we need to evolve as well,” Ray Pugsley says. “We want to present a company name which is more inclusive and welcoming to the full complement of people who would benefit from a good pair of athletic shoes for whatever moves them.”

35 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20

New England Running Company and Trail

IN THE OPENING MONTH OF New England Running Company and Trail’s existence, Dave Menosky remembers one particular day in which he sold but one pair of shorts. The next day, he added a single pair of shoes to the ledger. Suffice it to say, things have turned in a more fruitful direction for Menosky and his store in Beverly, MA.

“Twenty years later, I’m shocked our business is still

growing,” says Menosky, who first got into running in 1973 and fills his store with running memorabilia, including T-shirts, posters and archival footwear.

To celebrate the shop’s 20th Anniversary, Menosky took the store’s management staff and their significant others to Cancun before a day-long celebration at the store on July 10.

Fleet Feet Tulsa

FLEET FEET TULSA OVERSEES three lively retail locations and owns and operates 19 local races, an impressive feat co-owner Tim Dreiling attributes to assembling a great team over the last two decades. He calls learning “you can’t do everything yourself” an essential lesson for the running retailer aiming to create a successful, sustainable business.

“When first open, it’s necessary to do all things, all the time and push yourself incredibly hard. But as the business grows, it becomes impossible to do it yourself and the need for a great team becomes greater as the owner ages and the business grows,” Dreiling says. “It’s a lesson we are still learning every day and it’s hard to not revert to the do-it-yourself mentality that got you all the success in the first place. But that mentality is not sustainable and not particularly healthy for anyone in the business.”

36 © 2023 Diversified Communications
20 20

Fleet Feet Roanoke


SWIFTWICK HIT THE MARKET IN 2008 with custom cycling socks, but the brand and its made-in-the-USA socks have become a notable presence across the run specialty landscape led by its alltime top seller, the Aspire. This year, Swiftwick, whose socks have been worn in the Tour de France, the Olympics, The Masters and the Western States 100, celebrated its goal of integrating recycled, renewable or responsible fibers across its entire product line.

FLEET FEET IN ROANOKE, VA, hits its 20-year milestone in 2023 with a new owner. Late last year, GM Matt Thompson purchased the shop from its founders, Blaine and Robin Lewis. Thompson intends to follow the example his former bosses set, including charitable efforts, “extreme ownership” and promoting a culture of “doing things right versus doing things fast.”

“With so many areas of the business established, I’m able to pour fuel on the fire,” Thompson says.

37 © 2023
Diversified Communications
15 20

Bull City Running


Bull City Running Co. opened its flagship store during the nation’s greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression. It then launched a second store amid a global pandemic. Reaching its 15th year stands a testament to Bull City Running’s resilience, flexibility and prioritizing interactions over transactions.

“The run specialty space is truly special,” owner Kim Chapman says. “It’s hard to imagine another industry that allows you to impact and be impacted by the entirety of the human experience. Lucky us.”

Manhattan Running Company

WHEN TREY VERNON and Ben Sigle opened their run shop in Manhattan, KS, they simply hoped to “make a living” doing something they enjoyed. Vernon and Sigle have accomplished that and more: launching a race timing operation, purchasing a stand-alone building they’ve crafted to fit their precise vision and thriving with premier brands like lululemon.

What’s next? Vernon and Sigle hope to hire their first store manager this year.

38 © 2023 Diversified Communications
15 15

Rush Running Co.

LAUNCHING HIS namesake running store amid the depths of the Great Recession, Mike Rush held earnest concerns and big dreams. Over the last 15 years, risk has turned into reward at Arkansas-based Rush Running Company. A 2018 Best Running Store in America honoree, Rush Running Company now owns its two commercial buildings, actively

engages with local cross-country programs and charities, operates a 90-member racing team and hosts a shoe museum in its Bentonville location that offers a dynamic tour of running footwear’s wild evolution over the last century. “One of the things I always said I wanted to do was support the sport of running in every way possible,” Rush says.

Fleet Feet Springfield

FLEET FEET SPRINGFIELD (MO) has matured from its modest roots as an independent triathlon store into a robust operation that, as of February, added five additional Fleet Feet stores in St. Louis to its charge. Owner Eric Johnson explains one key driver of growth:

“I have a need – my wife would call it pathological – to understand the world better. So, I’m constantly visiting other stores, calling other owners, reading business books and trying new things. This leads to lots of late nights and a real lack of focus at times … but it has allowed us to take an approach of continuous improvement to the business.”

39 © 2023 Diversified Communications
15 15

Celebrating a Decade! 10

Clermont, FL, his wife, Shelly, and three young daughters cheered for him at different points along the course by estimating his arrival. When the group mistimed James’s finishing time, however, they missed his triumphant run across the finish line. That folly ignited a business idea.


JASON RUSSELL AND EDWARD WALTON founded Black Men Run after discovering that nearly half of Black men above age 19 have cardiovascular disease. Their antidote: encourage health and wellness among Black men by promoting a culture of running.

Since the group’s inaugural run in Atlanta’s Grant Park a decade ago, Black Men Run has grown to some 7000 members across 55 chapters spanning four countries and three continents. The organization has established partnerships with the likes of Saucony, Vacation Races and Destination Marathons and created a non-profit arm, the aptly named BMR Foundation, supporting initiatives like children’s literacy and men’s mental health.


ONE YEAR AFTER TAKING a minority stake in Hoka, Deckers went all in with Hoka in 2013 when it fully acquired the upstart running shoe brand. Once derided as “clown shoes” for their chunky midsoles and clunky aesthetic, Hoka has become a household name under Deckers’ ownership and earned widespread consumer acceptance with popular models like the Bondi and Clifton as well as innovative new offerings like the commuter-oriented Transport and the recently released Mach X.


RACEJOY, THE RACE DAY mobile app now owned by RunSignup, sprouted from an ill-timed bathroom break. As James Harris competed in an Ironman event in

RaceJoy emerged as a better way to connect race participants and spectators. Used more than 1.8 million times at races across the U.S. and by spectators around the world, the app provides real-time tracking of participants’ position, audio messaging to participants and GPS-based progress alerts.


FROM THE ONSET, GNARLY co-founders Eli Kerr and Shannon O’Grady, a PhD in nutritional physiology, have built their brand on transparency, quality, taste and efficacy. And while growing their presence in the specialty run market, they have continued to evolve their brand in tandem.

Gnarly launched new sustainable steel tin packaging, reformulated its Performance Greens product to include even more vitamins, minerals and nutrients and leveraged the results of a nearly 5000-customer poll to create a Limited Edition Flavor series. Gnarly’s first two limited-edition offerings of Hydrate, Salted Margarita and Lemonade dropped in May.


WHEN STEVEN SASHEN AND HIS WIFE, Lena Phoenix, appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2013, they had been in business a pinch over two years with their DIY sandal-making kit.

Though Sashen and Phoenix ultimately turned down a $400,000 offer from “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary, Sashen

40 © 2023 Diversified Communications

says the show had a profound impact on Xero. It spawned a more focused, committed business, including the development of ready-to-wear sandals and closed-toe shoes. The TV appearance also jumpstarted interest from people frustrated by traditional footwear and yearning for a more natural feel. In fact, Xero did about three months’ worth of business in the week after its episode aired on February 1, 2013, and has experienced year-over-year revenue growth ever since.

“The show has been a great calling card for us in the last 10 years,” Sashen says. “It’s given possible investors and business partners a way to get to know us by seeing how we handled the odd, high-pressure world of reality TV.”


TOPO KICKED OFF ITS 10-YEAR CELEBRATION in 2023 with a series of special-edition launches led by a limited edition, Boston-themed version of the Specter in collaboration with Marathon Sports. Next month, Topo will keep the major marathon city vibes going with the debut of a Chicagothemed Specter.

This happens as the Massachusetts-based brand continues experimenting with materials and pushing boundaries in the eco-friendly design department. Released in June, the Ultraventure 3 ECO represents the special premium offerings of core products that Topo founder Tony Post and his crew look forward to developing in the brand’s second decade.


IN A “TASTEMAKER” CITY, Brooklyn Running Co. has achieved “tastemaker” status over the last decade. Owner Matt Rosetti attributes the success to Brooklyn Running Co.’s authenticity – something personified each August at the lively BKLYN Mile event – as well as the retailer’s long-term approach to brand relationships and an “insane” investment in staff training that includes operation manuals, simulated fits, training modules and secondary education.

The next step in Brooklyn Running Co.’s evolution: creating a content-driven digital presence where the customer experience is every bit as enriching as a visit to one of the company’s two Brooklyn stores.

“Stay tuned,” Rosetti teases.


WHILE RUNNING across Michigan in the Great Lakes Relay, Justin Craig and Alia Polsgrove hatched the idea for a run specialty store in Detroit. A decade later, RUNdetroit has become a community hub for Detroit runners. The store’s weekly runs regularly attract 80-plus participants and RUNdetroit’s sales floor is an energetic space where runners swap advice and share their athletic adventures.

The first and still only run specialty shop in the Motor City, Craig and Polsgrove recently corralled a bigger retail storefront in the same neighborhood. The new spot, nearly double the size of RUNdetroit’s existing location, features dedicated parking and more room to accommodate RUNdetroit’s lively group runs.

41 © 2023 Diversified Communications


BILL TORREY OPENED ROCK CITY RUNNING in Little Rock, AR, in 2013 hopeful that he and his team could develop a run specialty shop people could trust to provide comfort and answers to their running and walking questions. A decade later, mission accomplished.

Torrey and his crew now begin their second decade in a new Little Rock location after a tornado ripped through and destroyed their original location on March 31. On June 1, Rock City Running opened the doors to its new storefront. Two days later, they had a day-long celebration marking their 10th anniversary.


IN THE NEW YORK TOWNS OF Binghamton, Corning, Goshen, Lake Placid and Watertown, Confluence Running has emerged as a dynamic community resource over its 10-year run. Confluence provides free community-use space in its buildings, offers its expertise to new race directors and packs its website with runningrelated information ranging from a list of local running coaches and group runs to gift guides. Now, the Confluence team led by Matt and Jenna Gawors and regional manager Chris Cowden is focused on innovating. The trio is developing a fit certification program for its staff (and other interested running stores) and creating efficient systems and defined staff roles to sharpen operations.

“After 10 years, the passion is still there,” Matt Gawors says.


RIGHT BEFORE KEVIN AND JEANICE CROY opened their Fleet Feet store in Fort Wayne, IN, in 2013, a national publication had declared Fort Wayne the fattest city in America. In the decade since, the Croys and their staff have worked to make Fort Wayne an active, healthier community by creating a retail experience tied to each individual’s needs and training groups to stimulate physical activity.

The Croys, who opened a second Fleet Feet store on Fort Wayne’s North Side last September, will be recognizing their 10-year anniversary with a week-long celebration in August that will include a 26-mile relay from the two stores, a 5K before a minor league baseball game, a Fort Wayne trivia contest and an Associates Alumni Day.


WHEN CHRIS AND AMY MINKEL started their Fleet Feet store in Mount Pleasant, SC, a decade ago – the 100th store in the Fleet Feet enterprise – they couldn’t have predicted what

42 © 2023 Diversified Communications

awaited. Their flagship store has expanded three times. They added two stores in nearby Summerville, SC – one in 2015 and the second in 2021 – and will incorporate a fourth store into the mix this fall with the opening of a Fleet Feet shop in West Ashley. Best of all, the Minkels achieved it all by developing existing employees into company leaders.


SINCE OPENING ON July 6, 2013, Minneapolis-based Mill City Running has expanded to a second door – the aptly named Saint City Running in neighboring Saint Paul – and developed a loyal following behind co-owners Jeff and Bekah Metzdorff and a devoted leadership team led by Chelsea Kipp, Luke Windholz and Drea Haus.

Showcasing its creativity and singular spirit, Mill City marked its 10th Anniversary earlier this year with a special apparel collection featuring inside jokes and nods to its Minnesota roots as well as its Race Team.


WHEN WILL RIVERA OPENED THE DOORS to Running Soles in 2013, he brought something to his small Kentucky town (population 29,000) that never existed before. With its mix of specialty products, custom fitting process, weekly group runs and classes, Running Soles has promoted a more active Elizabethtown and changed lives for the better.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” Rivera says of owning Running Soles.

Having built a community of ambassadors touting Running Soles, Rivera is now scouting potential locations to open additional stores.

“We are always looking for ways to improve as a business — staying observant and open, taking well-informed risks to expand and grow,” Rivera says.


AS SHE STARED UPON EMPTY SHELVES, a skeleton crew and weak customer traffic, Jen Schaller admits she occasionally questioned her decision to trade in her high-profile yet highstress corporate accounting career in 2013 to launch RunWell in Edwardsville, IL.

No more, though, as RunWell has flourished in southern Illinois, expanding its physical footprint, filling two stockrooms with products, employing 15 team members and building an expansive tribe of loyal followers. This year, RunWell will be relaunching its Students on the Run Program that trains local high schoolers to complete a half marathon while also enhancing its Where Do You RunWell mobile app with photosharing capabilities and rewards.

And a few more 2023 celebrations ...

Puma: 75th Anniversary

John’s Run/Walk Shop (KY): 45th Anniversary

Runners Forum (IN): 45th Anniversary

Sneaker Factory Running Centers (NJ): 45th Anniversary

Frontrunners (British Columbia): 35th Anniversary

Alegria: 30th Anniversary

Toolen’s Running Start (IL): 25th Anniversary

West Stride (GA): 15th Anniversary

Milestone Running Shoe Shop (CA): 10th Anniversary

43 © 2023 Diversified Communications

Best of the Best

The 2023 Best Running Stores in America are revealed this week.

Recognizing the best in the run specialty business, the 2023 Best Running Stores once again celebrates the retailers leading by example in the run specialty industry — the retailers that continually show their commitment to their customers and community. Leaders among their peers, these stores are always striving to create a stronger industry.

605 Running Company / Sioux Falls, SD

A Runner’s Mind / San Francisco, CA

Aardvark Sports Shop / Bethlehem, PA

Big Peach Running Company / Decatur, GA

Brooklyn Running Company / Brooklyn, NY

Bull City Running Company / Durham, NC

Charlotte Running Company / Charlotte, NC

Charm City Run / Timonium, MD

Columbus Running Company / Grove City, OH

Confluence Running / Johnson City, NY

Dave’s Running Shop / Sylvania, OH

Fleet Feet Columbia / Columbia, MO

Fleet Feet Davenport / Davenport, IA

Fleet Feet Fayetteville / Fayetteville, NC

Fleet Feet Fort Wayne / Fort Wayne, IN

Fleet Feet Huntsville / Huntsville, AL

The winners of the 2023 Best Running Stores were announced this week by Diversified Communications, organizers of The Running Event and the Best Running Stores.

The four finalists will be revealed later in the year and the 2023 ceremony celebrating all of the winners and announcing the Store of the Year will take place November 30 in Austin, TX, at #TRE23.

Fleet Feet Louisville / Louisville, KY

Fleet Feet Montclair / Montclair, NJ

Fleet Feet Nashville / Brentwood, TN

Fleet Feet Rochester / Rochester, NY

Fleet Feet West Reading / West Reading, PA

FootZone / Bend, OR

Gazelle Sports / Northville, MI

Georgia Game Changers / Richmond Hill, GA

Good Times Running Company / Katy, TX

Howe2Run / Savannah, GA

iRun Texas / San Antonio TX

John’s Run Walk/Shop / Lexington, KY

Kelley’s Pace / Mystic, CT

Lucky Road Run Shop / Richmond, VA

Mill City Running / Minneapolis, MN

Naperville Running Company / Naperville, IL

44 © 2023 Diversified Communications

Pacers Running / Alexandria, VA

Palmetto Running Company / Hilton Head, SC

Philadelphia Runner /Philadelphia, PA

Playmakers / Okemos, MI

Point 2 Running Company / Newport News, VA

Potomac River Running / Arlington, VA

Pro Bike + Run / Monroeville, PA

Red Coyote Running Company / Oklahoma City, OK

Ridgefield Running / Ridgefield, CT

Run Flagstaff / Flagstaff, AZ

Run Hub Northwest / Eugene, OR

Runner’s Corner / Orem, UT

Runner’s Edge NY / Farmingdale, NY

Runners Roost Lakewood / Lakewood, CO

Running Etc. / Virginia Beach, VA

Running Lab / Brighton, MI

Running Niche / St. Louis, MO

Running Wild / Pensacola, FL

Running Zone / Melbourne, FL

RunWell / Edwardsville, IL

Rush Running / Bentonville, AR

Salt Lake Running Company / Salt Lake City, UT

Shoes & Brews / Longmont, CO

St. Pete Running Company / St. Petersburg, FL

Terra Running Company / Cleveland, TN

The Runners Edge MT / Missoula, MT

The Running Elements / Daytona Beach, FL

Tortoise & Hare Sports / Glendale, AZ

Up & Running Dayton / Dayton, OH

Whirlaway Sports / Methuen, MA

Best Running Stores 2023 Congratulations Box Sponsors

These brands sent product to all Best Running Store honorees to help in the celebration.

45 © 2023 Diversified Communications

Talkin’ Tech

Looking for some insight into how run specialty retailers are adapting to new technology in their stores, Running Insight turned to some of the leading technology product and service companies for a special virtual roundtable discussion on what brings together the worlds of technology and the personal touch that makes run specialty special. These men and women – who, naturally, were interviewed using email – provide some insight into the pressing issues facing retailers, how technology can help solve them and thoughts on where we are all headed from here.

Sitting around the table...

Jennifer Hazard, Director of Sales, Fitted, Inc.

Ana Wight, General Manager, Retail, Lightspeed Commerce

Kody Fitzjerrells, President and Founder, Omni Digital Group

Lance Muzslay, Founder and CEO, Optio

Rob Anderson, Chief Operating Officer, Run Free Project

How would you rate run specialty in its progress in integrating new technology into their businesses?

Lance Muzslay: I find that most retailers are eager to adopt new technology that will empower them to operate more efficiently. However, sometimes the hurdle to moving

forward is finding the time to get comfortable with a new process. Many people are spread so thin that they don’t feel they have adequate time to learn something new. It’s surprising just how much data is involved in operating a run specialty store. Buying decisions are often derived through some combination of spreadsheets after exporting data from the POS system. Such a scenario is precisely what software can greatly streamline.

Rob Anderson: First, I think we can all safely say that as an industry we were a bit late to the technology adoption table. There’s nothing wrong with that — it’s an industry built on the in-person experience,

so it makes sense. But in 2020, everything changed. The industry certainly changed and so did consumer behavior. My wife and I never had our groceries delivered to our house using an app before the pandemic. We didn’t even know that was a thing, but now that’s how we get the majority our food. We’re not alone either. Consumer behavior everywhere in every industry trended much further into the digital experience in the wake of the pandemic and all signs point to a reality where we’re never going back. Meanwhile, run specialty retailers understand this change is taking place and although most have a love/hate relationship with technology, the successful ones have leaned into their discomfort

46 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Leading technology vendors to run specialty provide insight into how their products are changing the game.
The Technology Issue
Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

and tried new things. This industry-wide change has had a steep learning curve, but when approached with patience and open-mindedness it consistently pays dividends. Getting out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to running your business, is risky and difficult. We’ve seen almost everyone in our industry do exactly that — recognizing technology as a necessity for survival, taking risks, learning and evolving their approaches over time. And for that, I rate run specialty 9/10.

Jennifer Hazard: The run specialty sector is a fantastic group of forward-thinking business owners. With every new technology we have brought to the table, the run specialty retailers are open to new processes and always adding ways

to improve. We use the run specialty segment as a sounding board because they truly understand the need to move forward to improve process and profitability.

Ana Wight: Retailers are leveraging omnichannel solutions to develop a strong, unified presence both online and instore. Our most recent State of Retail report found that 61 percent of omnichannel merchants in the U.S., 58 percent in the UK and 56 percent in Canada reported higher year-over-year sales growth than their solely e-commerce or brick-and-mortar peers. Adopting technology to better manage inventory, manage supply chain, supplier orders and invoicing, as well as leveraging social media to connect with more consumers and increase sales, are a few of

the popular ways that retailers are incorporating technology into their day-to-day business.

Kody Fitzgerrells: If I had to give it a grade, I would say 8 out of 10 because from what I can see there are a lot of advancements regarding POS systems, e-commerce platforms, marketing, etc. The area where it is lagging is more out of a place of not knowing how run specialty uses technology to scale its business and internal systems — items such as training, processes and procedures. I know so many businesses struggle with this and would encourage run specialty retailers to try and get this right.

What advice do you have for retailers who are perhaps a bit hesitant to turn to new technology?

Hazard: Where would we all be if we were still trying to run in Chuck Taylors? Technology should not be feared or loathed. At times change can be overwhelming, but a good tech partner will always be there to help educate and reduce the lift it takes to utilize their products.

Fitzgerrells: I would tell retailers that the taxi driver in New York City wishes he would have advanced a little more in the last 10 years with the advent of Uber. That’s tongue-in-cheek, but it is the truth. If you will advance and compete with bigger retailers with deep pockets, you must do things differently. Smaller retailers can be more nimble than bigger companies, but to innovate rapidly you can’t be in love with how you’ve always done things. You have to try, fail and adjust your way forward. I

Optio is a suite of software that optimizes buying and inventory management as well as enhances and fills feature gaps in point-of-sale systems. It strikes a balance between automating tedious and laborious tasks while allowing for quick and efficient decision making.

Essentially, Optio integrates all relevant inventory and sales data in real time and delivers it in an easy to use and actionable manner for the task at hand.

Besides large time savings in buying and inventory management, Optio empowers significantly higher turn rates, which leads to higher cash flow. For example, if a store that has $500,000 in annual footwear cost of goods sold increases their footwear turn rate from 2.5 to 4.0, they will unlock $75,000 in cash that is otherwise tied up in improperly ordered inventory. Optio is the tool for realizing that kind of improvement coupled with time savings that increase profitability.

The top part of the screenshot exemplifies combining current inventory, past sales and inbound purchase order data across multiple locations and grouped by style and size (Hoka Clifton 2E men in this case). This enables buying decisions to be quickly made. The bottom part shows the PO compose window in which you can see inventory by color and decide which color you would like to order. After composing a PO it can be quickly imported into your POS as well as uploaded to most brands’ B2B sites.

47 © 2023 Diversified Communications
The Elevator Pitch ... OPTIO

suggest constantly testing things out until you find a successful recipe and keep that going for as long as you feel it is relevant.

Muzslay: Asking the opinions of other stores who already use

The Elevator Pitch ... RUN FREE PROJECT

the prospective technology is an excellent way to find out if the promise is as good as it sounds. Recognize that adopting new technology often incurs a small upfront effort that will be easily exceeded by long-term gains in

Ninety-seven percent of consumers discover their favorite local businesses online. The Run Free Project ensures your customers are among them. The Run Free Project is a web-based software as a service (SaaS) platform designed for run specialty retailers that acts as the command center for our suite of products. Each integrates seamlessly with the others, and all are managed from a single universal portal residing on the running store’s web domain.

• Website Builder: A content block-based website builder that enables running stores with no coding experience to create and easily update websites.

• Integrated e-commerce: A solution that syncs with the point of sale (POS) system, automating inventory, orders, gift cards and customer records. When new products are added into the POS, they are automatically added to the e-commerce store, pulling in pictures and a description from the crowdsourced Run Free Project Metabase. Plus, the platform automates social media marketplaces, integrates with 50-plus third party solutions and offers run specialty customers an endless

efficiency in the near future. Consider starting small and try applying the new technology to a single brand or category. That will make your initial commitment small and lower the perceived learning curve.

Wight: The process of implementing new technology for retailers of any size is a daunting task as management is usually involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. My advice would be not to be afraid

aisle of products with Relay, which provides running stores with access to top brands’ warehouse inventories at no extra charge.

• Mobile Loyalty Apps: Run specialty retailers’ customers can have an immersive experience with their running store’s custom-branded mobile app on Apple and Android devices. Rewards for in-store and online purchases are tracked and redeemed in-app, as are event registrations and check-ins.


Lightspeed’s one-stop commerce platform helps merchants innovate to simplify, scale and provide customer experiences. Lightspeed’s cloud commerce solution transforms and unifies online and physical operations, multichannel sales, expansion to new locations, global payments, financial solutions and connection to supplier networks.

Since January of 2020, Lightspeed has been working to develop the industry’s most comprehensive endto-end commerce solution for merchants of all sizes. Since 2005, the needs of its customers have remained a core focus in how they innovate alongside the changing shopping habits of the population. Their technology is continuously evolving to meet the demands of their customers. They also support many third-party apps through their app ecosystem, partner channels and API integrations.

48 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Talkin’ Tech (continued)

of it and to embrace the task knowing that once implemented and up and running it will free up more of your time and also help to boost revenue. Change is always hard, but once you get past the learning curve portion of the process the benefits are endless!

Anderson: The best advice is to honestly observe the world around you with an open mind. I talk to retailers every day who aren’t in love with technology, so they project that disdain onto their customers believing everyone else feels the same way. I can tell you with absolute certainty that they’re mistaken. The statistics tell the story better than I can. According to Google, 97 percent of all consumers find local businesses like running stores online. As a result, almost every single prospective customer who walks through your front door for the first time has their first exposure to who you are on your Google Business Profile and your website. When they get there, they look at your e-commerce store to see what they can expect when they visit you and if they like what they

The Elevator Pitch ... OMNI DIGITAL GROUP

see — only then will they come to your physical store and shop with you for the first time. Once that customer shops with you, there’s about a 50 percent chance that they shop with you again. To put it bluntly, every pathway to the modern consumer, from first exposure to repeat purchase, begins and ends with that smart device in your hand. Without embracing technology and understanding how your consumers engage with it, you will disappear as an option for the majority of prospective buyers. This phenomenon will only get stronger as time goes on.

Finally, what do you feel is the future of retail technology in run specialty?

Muzslay: I still see too many laborious processes that are ripe for being tackled by software. Because the run specialty channel is a relatively small niche it hasn’t attracted a lot of interest from sophisticated software companies who don’t perceive enough return for their investment. As the cost and ease of software development improves we’ll see more solutions specific

Omni Digital Group specializes in helping 100-plus shoe retailers leverage POS data on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, email and text marketing. In a world where the largest DTC companies leverage data very well, and some have exploded in sales, a smaller retailer must figure out smart ways to use POS data, such as targeting people on Facebook who have bought from you before or seeing a text message to a former customer who has not been back to your store in 12 months. Omni specializes in helping retailers track which brand was bought in-store as the result of a Facebook purchase, helping work with brands

to run specialty. Thanks to interconnectivity between cloud platforms via APIs we will see more synergy between seemingly disparate platforms.

Anderson: The future’s bright. Retailers are embracing technology, they’re understanding how the digital retail landscape differs from the physical one and they’re evolving. Just because the way consumers engage with retailers has shifted towards the digital, it doesn’t mean that people don’t want to shop in-person; it just means the digital world is where they go to decide whether to set foot in your door in the first place. As tech companies in run specialty, we still have work to do to provide a solid foundation for retailers to engage this brave new world. In my opinion, automation, both for convenience and for scale, will be a huge part of our industry’s future.

Wight: Like any retail business, the future lies with increasing automation to create efficiencies across the business. We see a lot of potential in the use of AI in the future of retail tech. There are many uses and applications

of AI that will help with inventory, staffing, marketing and even more. As this technology continues to mature we expect to see it used across the entire retail ecosystem.

Fitzgerrells: The future will all revolve around data and how you can use it to grow. Marketing, inventory, customer data, operational data, just overall, we have all this data, but what do we do with it? Those that can see opportunities where others do not will grow and advance. Sift through your data and find pockets of opportunity to grow. When we all carry the same or similar products and have a similar experience in-store/ online, what’s left to decide on who gets the sale? Data.

Hazard: Automation, automation, automation! The more tech can help eliminate processes to do day-to-day tasks, the more time retailers will have to fine-tune their craft of being retailers. Our goal is to reduce the day-to-day back office chores and increase time for retailers to present world-class experiences to their customers. n

to receive co-op money or, in general, provide better reporting for these brands to help grow a business.

49 © 2023 Diversified Communications

The Technology Issue

Breaking the Code

Two Rivers Treads uses QR codes around its store as a streamlined way to share information. /

With its enterprising use of QR codes, Two Rivers Treads is connecting its brick-andmortar store to the digital world and arming its customers with easily accessible information to help them lead healthier, more active lives.

Noting the pandemic-era rise of QR codes, leadership at the West Virginiabased running store began exploring ways it could use the technology to share information on products, store activities, injuries and the like.

“We have so much information to share, but there’s only so much people can retain when we’re talking to them,” Two Rivers Treads manager Diana Gorham says. “Our thought was, ‘Let’s give them the tools to access helpful information, so it’s right there for them to review now or later.’”

QR codes – those matrix-styled barcodes now commonplace at restaurants, arenas, libraries, advertising and other venues –continue making that idea reality at Two Rivers Treads.

Employing QR Codes

Over the last two years, Two Rivers Treads has strategically – and increasingly – used QR codes around its store to deepen connections with customers, provide resources and drive knowledge.

Each model on the shoe wall, for instance, features a custom-made tag sharing the name of the shoe, its price, stack height and drop along with a QR code leading to the shoe’s presence on the Two Rivers Treads’ website. There, customers can read a description of the shoe and review other details of a particular model.

Near nutrition products from RxSugar sits a laminated sign with a QR code customers can scan to see recipes. And near the

register, customers interested in discovering “3 Steps to Pain-Free Feet” can scan a QR code and be introduced to detailed information from Healthy Feet Alliance.

Other QR codes on signage around the store lead to Two Rivers Treads’ social media pages or videos of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a practicing physician and the store’s founder, describing minimalist footwear, barefoot science or common foot issues like plantar fasciitis or hammer toes.

“We want to make sure we’re making all the great information we can have as readily available as possible,” says Cucuzzella, author of Run for Your Life: How to Run, Walk and Move without Pain or Injury and

Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy

Gorham says the QR codes also function as a staff training tool as well as a resource when associates need speedy information on a running shoe model, such as its weight or available sizes and colors.

Leveraging QR Codes In Stores

On the operations side, Gorham calls leveraging QR codes a relatively straightforward process. After creating a QR code – websites such as QRCode Monkey and QR Code Generator offer free code-producing tools retailers can use – Gorham imports the code over to Canva, a graphic design platform, and makes the product she wants,

50 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Two Rivers Treads has created custom tags for each footwear model on its shoe wall. The tags include basic product details, including the manufacturer, model name and price, as well as a customized QR code that leads to the product’s web page on the Two Rivers Treads’ website.

whether that’s a poster, a flyer or a shoe tag.

Run shops can use QR codes to link customers to virtually anything – a web page detailing the store’s coaching services, maps of local trails, a race registration page or the shop’s training run calendar. While

stores can create and share their own content, they can also use content from brand partners, such as how-to videos.

“Once you know how to do this, you can use a QR code to share more information on anything customers might want to know about,” Gorham says.


Promotion: Use QR codes to highlight your store’s products and services. A poster at spring track meets can direct people to online information about a youth summer camp, while a QR code on race shirts might lead to your training groups’ web page.

Consumer Education: Provide QR codes to drive customers to videos or written content detailing the best use of certain products, from recovery footwear and injury prevention tools to nutrition and hydration products. Explain how a product works or how to maximize its use.

Customer Feedback: QR codes on receipts can lead to customer surveys, which can offer insights on what your

For stores interested in using QR codes as a communication tool, Gorham suggests starting small. She recommends stores first consider the information and resources they have on hand already that would be most applicable to their customers. Thereafter, run shops can create

QR codes linking to that content and develop a print product that invites customers to learn more by pulling out their smartphone and scanning the code.

“QR codes are great because they give people the option for knowledge, but don’t force feed it,” Gorham says. n

store’s doing well, where it might do better and how it is perceived by customers.

Sales: Use QR codes to drive people to your store’s website, where they can peruse available products, if not make a direct purchase. On race bibs, place a QR code alongside a discount on a store purchase.

Storytelling: Share compelling stories behind products and services. On a flyer announcing a couch to 5k program, use a QR code to show an inspirational highlight video of a recent graduating class. Or attach a product tag to store-branded merchandise that includes a QR code prompting a short video from ownership explaining the motivation to open the running store and its mission.

51 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Two Rivers Treads peppers its showroom with QR codes. Near nutritional products, a QR code directs customers to recipes using products the store sells. Near the register, a QR code leads to information on pain-free movement from the Healthy Feet Alliance.

Shop Local(ly)

The new buzzword in retail these days is “O2O” and if a run specialty retailer doesn’t know what O2O is they had better get on board because it is a path to increased sales and profits for stores looking to connect to their customers where they shop. But don’t worry, Locally is here to help.

For those not already in the know, “O2O” is the industry term for online-to-offline shopping and it is the number one way people shop these days – 90 percent of shoppers research products online before making a purchase and they often browse on a brand’s website to research products that interest them.

Making sure those customers are then directed to local retailers is the role Locally plays, according to marketing manager Sean Hipp. “The customer’s interaction with a store begins before the customer even leaves the brand website,” Hipp explains.

Essentially, Locally connects online shoppers to products that are available for purchase in-store nearby. Locally’s technology, powered by real-time inventory from more than 23,000 retail locations, is embedded on brands’ websites to show shoppers exactly what is available to purchase at stores near them.

Locally even facilitates BOPIS, ROPIS, Ship-to-Store and Same-Day Delivery purchases to create a seamless O2O experience for shoppers. Here’s how it works:

• When a shopper lands on a brand’s PDP, the Locally Product Locator will show that shopper nearby stores that carry that product and have it in stock.

• Locally pulls inventory from the stores’ POS to publish on brands’ websites, so shoppers can see accurate product availability down to color and size.

• Shoppers can even place a Buy Online,

Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) and Reserve Online, Pay In-Store (ROPIS) purchase from the store without ever leaving the website.

• In the end, Locally sends the store a completed sale and new customer.

“Online-to-offline shopping is the fastest growing shopping trend,” Hipp emphasizes, adding that while shopping usually begins online, 85 percent of retail purchases still take place at brick-and-mortar stores.

“Shoppers also want options,” he adds.

Locally is especially valuable for run specialty retailers, which carry the kind of products that shoppers want to see before they purchase. They want to check the fit and feel of products and they want the expert help that retailers provide, Hipp explains, and Locally directs these shoppers in-store to help retailers win, and retain, more customers.

Locally also works with some of the biggest brands in running, so there is a

52 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Locally is seamlessly connecting brands, retailers and customers where and how they shop.
Locally’s role is to direct O2O shoppers to nearby run specialty retailers to make the final sale.

big opportunity for retailers to be seen by shoppers on those brands’ websites.

“Shoppers want immediacy, they want to be able to easily find products available nearby and Locally helps retailers to capitalize on the way people are already shopping,” Hipp adds.

Getting started for a retailer involves displaying their inventory on brand websites, so Locally requires their UPCs, quantity and prices. Making it even easier is that retailers can connect their POS system for free. Locally then needs an email address, store contact and

store hours to start sending sales with its O2O transaction system.

Hipp stresses that there is no size minimum for a store to sell on Locally — it works whether there is one location or hundreds. And for these retailers of any size, connecting their POS to publish inventory to brand

websites takes only a few minutes — and it’s free. There is no major time commitment to maintain their Locally account, just making sure UPCs, quantities and prices are up-to-date in their POS.

For retailers to accept BOPIS and ROPIS transactions from brand websites, they need to enable Buy It Locally, which is done in just a few clicks. There is no ongoing fee for Buy It Locally, just a 3.5 percent transaction fee on completed sales.

A Seamless Omnichannel

“Locally’s tools increase sales, reduce customer drop off and increase customer lifetime value for running brands,” Hipp says. “It’s important for brands to ensure that online-to-offline shopping is easy for customers and Locally turns a running brand’s website into a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.

Because Locally already works with many running specialty stores and brands, there is immediate benefit built in for both groups. Running brands can benefit from Locally’s robust network of running specialty stores and retailers can start receiving sales from the brands that already work with Locally.

“The online-to-offline gap is a big gap and our suite of tools is extremely comprehensive to make sure that gap is successfully bridged,” Hipp adds. “We’re also constantly improving our tools and looking for more opportunities for brands and retailers to grow with Locally. n

53 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Retailers can get started at for-retailers
A seamless omnichannel experience is achieved by Locally’s technology bringing together brands and retailers.

Data Is Your Friend

person’s guide to getting more out of your retail data in all of its forms. / By Coleman Conley

I’m not really a data guy…” That’s the comment that kept showing up in my conversations at The Running Event last year and at 2023 Runchella.

While our team at Upper Quadrant is very much a team of data-oriented people, most running store owners seem quick to make sure we know they aren’t at that level. It’s not that they’re anti-data, it just simply isn’t where they feel most comfortable. I get it. It reminds me of another phrase you’re probably used to hearing: “I’m not really a runner...”

How many of your customers walk through the door and, before they say anything else, utter those five words? Whether it’s in your store’s name or not, your emphasis on running is inescapable, so people feel the need to make sure they’re welcome.

Of course, those in the running industry know that the “real runner” is as mythical as Bigfoot. After all, where would you draw that line? Is it a seasoned marathoner or a charity 5K participant? Someone who runs every day or only occasionally? Your store greets and treats all these people the same way: with a smile and helpful service. In fact, even if a customer is adamant that they don’t run for any reason, I’ll bet my new Saucony Peregrines that you can convince that person they are welcome inside your doors.

The truth is running store owners distance themselves from computer expertise in the same way your customers distance themselves from running. In their mind, there are the data-shy folks and the data-savvy folks, with not much room in between. I

see it in comments like:

• I’m not a data geek.

• I’m not that great with computers.

• I don’t know Excel formulas.

If that’s where you find yourself today, here’s what you need to know. Data is not an all-or-nothing thing. It can’t do everything you can, and despite all the AI hype these days, it will never be able to. But there are some ways it can help save you a ton of time and increase your revenue.

Data is your friend.

You may feel data-shy right now, but I’m a big believer that you don’t need a Ph.D. to reap the benefits of data in your business.

To that end, here is a quick overview of the three main types of data we see in retail: Transactions, Products and Customers. I’ve also included some tips for applying each

54 © 2023 Diversified Communications
A non-technical
The Technology Issue
Despite how much data is available, running retailers do not need to be experts themselves to put it to work for their business

that I’ve learned during my time in the running industry.

Transaction Data — How Much?

Transactions data is the type owners probably see most often because it includes things like Average Units Per Transaction, Average Transaction Dollar Value and Email Capture Rate. Chances are your POS system already gives these numbers for your stores over any time period.

Metrics like this don’t give much detail or specifics on what items were purchased — just numbers, dollars and percentages. That simplicity is what made them so widespread, even before the RIA’s Weekly Benchmarks emails began. They’re averages and, because more is almost always better here, they’re very easy to interpret.

Many owners use these datapoints as “yes or no” checks: Are we improving or not? Watching the trend of metrics like these make them a quickand-dirty method to make sure your stores are moving in the

right direction in less than two minutes.

Most of the time, there’s not much change week to week, causing some people to stop checking them at all. But those people who make it a repetitive habit know that the value is in the habit itself. Over time, even those who are “not a data person” become familiar with what is normal for each.

When the day comes that something doesn’t look right, there’s no need for a heavy analysis: Those two consistent minutes are suddenly worthwhile because you’re quick to spot a difference … even if you don’t consider yourself a data nerd!

Quick checks for your stores help identify a problem, but there’s no reason to stop there. If you can break down these metrics by salespeople like you can in UQ Cadence, that is where the greatest value of transaction data is found. Tracking the growth of individual employees allows you to zero in and actually effect change in your stores.

In other words, when you use store and individual transaction

data together, you have hard facts that not only identify a problem, but also propose a solution.

How do people in the run specialty industry do this? The most popular way is the buddy system: If someone is lagging in an area, boost their training by having them shadow the person on your staff who is best at it. Alternately, more public methods like posting everyone’s numbers from last month as bulletin board material and “most improved” awards can help game-ify sales for a competitive staff.

Just be sure to do so in an authentic way that encourages staff to lift each other up. That shift in mindset may be what turns someone who is afraid of coming off as “too salesy” into someone who looks to meet the unique need of each customer who comes through the door.

Product Data - Which One?

The second most used data in retail is for specific products. Inventory managers are keenly aware of how questions like these simply cannot be answered without an SKU, UPC or some sort of product identifier. Unlike transaction data, this goes beyond “Did that order include an insole?” to asking “Which insole did they buy?” specifically.

These are not always straightforward to interpret. Case in point: Having too much inventory on hand can be as limiting to your business as running out of a top seller. The question is not whether you use product data today, but how a data-shy person can leverage it best.

For that we have to ask two questions: How complete is your

product database, and do you have time to apply what you learn?

The effort you put into maintaining accurate product data determines how much useful information you can get out of it. To maintain a perfect product database as a small business, there are usually Excel formulas involved, not to mention endless possible aspects to track. This is what scares people a lot about this kind of data: Without knowing where to stop, a lot of data-shy people choose not to start.

My recommendation for your product database is to forget about perfection. Start with something manageable and focus on getting it accurate. Tracking Brand, SKU, Size, Product Name and Main Category (shoes vs. socks) for each UPC will allow you to answer most product questions you will ever have.

55 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Comparing your store to industry benchmarks every week is a quick and easy way to apply Transaction data.
The truth is running store owners distance themselves from computer expertise in the same way your customers distance themselves from running. In their mind, there are the data-shy folks and the datasavvy folks, with not much room in between.

This is preferable to trying to tackle it all at once because it is immediately useful rather than a never-ending job. You can do all of this without any special formulas, sometimes right inside your POS system. Over time, you can choose to gradually add other aspects like Width, Road vs. Trail Shoes and Color.

On the other hand, inventory managers are (or should be) using sales and inventory data by product to place orders and many are naturally more data-inclined. They would love to spend more time analyzing what sells and keeping your inventory fresh.

Sadly, most of their time is spent treading water by mindlessly typing up orders. You can make better use of their skills and interest with a vendor-managed process: You send your rep their brand’s inventory and sales data and they send back a proposed order.

Don’t worry, the buyer is still 100 percent necessary in this process. They review the proposal and (thanks to the freed-up time they had to do analysis) make changes as they see fit.

Shameless plug: UQ Cadence has a free and automated solution that retailers use to do just that.

But no matter how you do it, giving the vendor more information to propose orders saves your buyer time and lets them focus on more of what they enjoy. The vendor benefits, too. They feel they are getting special treatment because you are making sure they do not run out of stock.

Customer Data — Who Buys?

Finally, we have customer data. This type data is both the hardest to get and the hardest to make sense of, but for stores who want to reach more of their community, it also holds the highest upside.

Knowing a customer’s gender, age and zip code can give important insights about who your best and most common shoppers are. The best way to gather this is organically throughout the fitting process. Ask and make a mental note of their information in the midst of it, then you can then add it into the system immediately after they leave. You’ll preserve

their great experience rather than taking too long at check out and you’ll be amazed how quickly you have basic customer demographics.

Of course, what you really want are customer purchase specifics: Product and brand preferences, average spend, time between purchases — these are holy grail insights that help you personalize emails and make strategic decisions.

They are also incredibly complicated to calculate. In fact, even a self-described data whiz cannot compute all of this in Excel for thousands of different people. Despite its upside, retailers feel they are forced to mostly ignore it because they know they don’t have the time or expertise.

I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t give up yet. The truth is, looking for deeper insight from customer data is never used for a “yes or no check.” You’re probably looking to leverage it for more personalized customer emails in a full-blown marketing initiative. Therefore, invest in an all-in-one system to do that for you. Marketing platforms and email marketing services like those provided by Upper Quadrant roll the data-crunching part and the send-the-emails part together. This way you can finally make use of that supervaluable customer data without becoming a data expert.

Keep It Simple

No matter what data you’re dealing with, I hope you’ll remember two things. First, that data is never perfect. No single number will ever be able to express all the nuances of run specialty that you understand. But if it’s close enough, it can

help confirm or challenge your ideas so that your business is always moving forward.

Finally, don’t think of yourself as data-shy. We are on a mission to help you focus on your business while working both faster and smarter (you can leave the geeking-out to the experts).

Being a real runner isn’t about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Being data-savvy is not about advanced degrees or trying to track all metrics all the time. It’s about simply starting the journey, gaining confidence one step at a time. And that is a welcome mindset in every running store. n

About The Author

Coleman Conley has spent six years in the run specialty industry. As a data analyst, he worked with everyone from managers to marketing to vendors to turn unorganized data into action. Today he is the Footwear Product Manager for Upper Quadrant’s retail platform, UQ Cadence.

56 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Sharing your store’s sales and inventory data with each vendor saves everyone time and highlights opportunities.
Data is never perfect. No single number will ever be able to express all the nuances of run specialty that you understand. But if it’s close enough, it can help confirm or challenge your ideas so that your business is always moving forward.
Is Your Friend

Congratulations to the Best Running Stores of 2023

From the team at Running Insight and The Running Event, congratulations to the Best Running Stores of 2023!

“The 2023 Best Running Stores exemplify what makes our industry so special: commitment, community, and passion. Our awards program offers the opportunity to formally recognize and celebrate the best run specialty stores in America. Winners should be extremely proud of this honor—each one is a driving force in strengthening the communities they serve and progressing the run specialty industry.”


The 2023 Best Running Stores will be honored during a special reception taking place November 30, 2023 at The Running Event in Austin, TX.

Produced by:

The Technology Issue

Get In Motion

Harnessing the power of 3D Motion Analysis to revolutionize retail.

As run specialty continues to evolve, running retailers are constantly seeking innovative ways to provide exceptional experiences to their customers. One such innovation that holds immense potential is 3D motion analysis for running. In this article, we explore what 3D motion analysis entails and highlight how it can revolutionize the operations of running retail.

Understanding 3D Motion Analysis

Running is a highly skilled movement that involves whole-body coordination in all planes of motion. To truly understand running form, you need accurate and reliable data that gives a complete picture. 3D motion analysis uses high-speed cameras, specialized sensors and advanced software to provide a comprehensive evaluation of a runner’s biomechanics (how their body is moving). 3D also provides a detailed assessment of a runner’s gait, posture, joint angles and overall movement patterns. There are different types of 3D motion analysis depending on the technology used.

• The gold standard is optical marker-based 3D. This technology works similar in its functionality to a GPS. Reflective sensors are placed on the body at specific locations. Cameras are placed around an area where the subject will run and are calibrated to know where each camera is in relationship to the other cameras. When at least two cameras see a marker, they can triangulate its position. With enough sensors, the cameras collect data that enables the software to render an

accurate 3D representation of the runner.

• Other types of 3D motion analysis include Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) and pose-based methods for markerless 3D. There are advantages and disadvantages to these alternatives.

IMUs allow runners to run outside by using local sensors with an accelerometer and gyroscope that do not rely on the cameras being able to see the runner. Unfortunately, most commercially available sensors fail to provide accurate results as a result of the high impacts and rate of forces they endure. There is also a difference in capturing a complete segment (mark-based systems) and having a few sensors placed throughout the body. In their current state, most IMUs offer limited and often inaccurate data.

Markerless systems for 3D use depthsensing video cameras to create a 3D model of subjects. While there is often less time needed to perform a markerless 3D capture, accuracy is the largest challenge because all bodies are unique. It can be challenging for

markerless systems to identify the specific spots that marker-based systems easily identify with marker placement. The best uses for markerless-based systems at this time are in identifying people in a crowd (for example, how many people visit a state park each day), but they are limited in providing biomechanical data, save for higher-caliber systems costing $500,000. No matter what hardware used, software is a key aspect of a 3D system. The hardware provides the data points that the software then turns into usable 3D data. 3D software has made considerable advancements over the last several years to provide data at or near real-time. .

Benefits of 3D Motion Analysis for Retailers

Running retailers are often the first stop when a runner has a question or issues related to running. Expanding services to include 3D motion analysis provides several key benefits to runners that will keep them running and keep them loyal to the store that helped them. The more they are running, the more they are purchasing shoes, nutrition, apparel and equipment. Among the main benefits 3D Motion Analysis for runners:

• Injury Prevention. One of the foremost advantages of 3D motion analysis is its ability to detect potential issues in a runner’s form that may lead to injuries. While there is no perfect form, there are characteristics of running form that may contribute to overuse injuries. Armed with this information, runners and

58 © 2023 Diversified Communications

their coaches can design targeted training programs, correct form flaws and make necessary adjustments to minimize the risk of injury.

• Enhancing Performance. Achieving optimal running performance requires more than just raw speed and endurance. Efficient running mechanics can significantly enhance performance, enabling runners to conserve energy, maintain better form throughout a race and ultimately achieve faster times. 3D motion analysis helps identify areas for improvement, such as overstriding, enabling runners to make targeted adjustments and enhance their running economy.

• Personalized Training Programs. Every runner is unique, and their optimal running form may differ based on various factors such as body structure, flexibility and running experience. 3D motion analysis enables personalized assessments by capturing an individual’s precise biomechanics. This data can then be used to develop tailored training programs that focus on specific areas of improvement, taking into account an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. With personalized training, runners maximize their potential, reduce the risk of injury and experience greater overall success in their running journey.

With that knowledge of how 3D motion analysis can befit their customers, it is simple to see how those benefits can be translated to run specialty retailers.


In an increasingly competitive market, running retailers need to provide unique value

propositions to set themselves apart. By incorporating 3D motion analysis into their services, retailers can offer customers a level of expertise and personalized attention that goes beyond traditional shoe fitting.

With the ability to assess a runner’s biomechanics, identify form flaws and make appropriate footwear recommendations, running retailers can position themselves as trusted experts who prioritize their customers’ individual needs and performance goals.

• Enhanced Customer Experience. The implementation of 3D motion analysis can transform the customer experience within running stores. Rather than relying solely on subjective feedback and visual assessments, retailers can provide customers with objective data on their running mechanics.

This data-driven approach instills confidence in customers, assuring them that their shoe selection is based on scientific analysis and tailored to their unique requirements. By empowering customers to make informed decisions, retailers create a more engaging and interactive shopping experience, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3D motion analysis allows running retailers to offer this highly personalized product recommendation to their customers. By analyzing a runner’s gait and foot mechanics, retailers can identify specific shoe features that will address their individual needs, such as cushioning, stability or motion control.

This level of customization enhances the likelihood

of customers finding the ideal footwear that maximizes comfort, minimizes injury risk and improves performance. By aligning customers with the right products, retailers can significantly reduce the rate of returns and exchanges.

• Additional Revenue Generating Services. Outside of enhancing current products and services, 3D motion analysis offers the opportunity to create new revenue streams. Running retailers can charge for the 3D motion analysis services, as well as offer related services such as coaching based on this knowledge of a runner.

The golf industry offers a great example of how this model is successful. Using readily available technology on swing analysis and other factors, golf professionals provide lessons and recommendations on technique and training regimens that help their clients achieve new levels of success. There are limited resources for runners to get this same type of interaction and running retailers often have the knowledge and experience to provide these services to runners.

• Data-Driven Business Strategies. The wealth of data generated through 3D motion analysis presents running retailers with a valuable opportunity to analyze trends, identify patterns and make datadriven business decisions. By aggregating and analyzing customer data, retailers can gain insights into the preferences, needs and buying behaviors of their clientele.

This information can inform inventory management strategies, help optimize product assortment and identify

potential areas for expansion or improvement. With access to robust data, running retailers can refine their business operations and tailor their offerings to meet the evolving demands of their target market.

The Potential of Technology

The incorporation of 3D motion analysis in the realm of running retail has the potential to revolutionize the industry.

By leveraging this advanced technology, running retailers can elevate their expertise, enhance customer experience, provide personalized recommendations and optimize their business strategies.

Embracing 3D motion analysis opens new avenues for growth, differentiation and customer satisfaction, enabling running retailers to thrive in a highly competitive landscape. n

About RunDNA

RunDNA offers a solution for a running retailer looking for a trusted partner guiding them into the 3D motion analysis space. Its Helix 3D is a portable and affordable 3D motion analysis system that is backed by a systematic approach to working with runners. For more on its free Essential Elements of Running course:

59 © 2023 Diversified Communications
To truly understand running form, you need accurate and reliable data that gives a complete picture.

Community Turf Wars The Technology Issue

What do you get what you combine the thrill of competition, the benefits of technology and the passion that runners have for their local communities? Simple — a new gamified movement app cleverly named (more on that later) that is turning outdoor cardio into a community-based game of team turf war. And it’s all in the name of getting people outdoors to run.

The brainchild of entrepreneur and technology creator Destin George Bell, allows retailers and run clubs to form teams with their members and “claim” or “steal” the areas of town they walk, run or bike through from other teams in their city, all while tracking stats such as mile pace, distance and calories burned. It’s a lot like a running version of Capture the Flag or King of the Hill.

“The trend of people wanting fun, social experiences is what is driving,” explains Bell. “Imagine being able to bring the fun of run clubs, destination races and general friendly competition to everyday cardio.”

In addition, he adds, creates a fun experience for people who need the motivation to become more active. “Whereas apps like Strava are trackers made for people who love cardio or have tangible goals around fitness, they aren’t great motivators for people looking for a way to get motivated in the first place,” he says.

(BTW, in case you were wondering, is a play-on-words for a few things:, as in the word “cardio”; .io is a domain extension for tech companies; and .io games such as and are games that involve proximity-based competition based on who has the largest area, hence how the game works with the parts of the city a retailer’s or run club’s

team covers with their outdoor cardio.) works just like any other tracker, but with a gaming twist. As a person walks, runs or bikes with an Apple watch or smartphone they can track their stats. But in addition, in the background it will keep track of the areas of town they went through and, similar to those children’s games, will claim that area for their team.

The teams are real-world groups (run clubs, retailers, race groups, company employees) that can be created by team leaders. Users can then select what team they want to run for and as they move while tracking with the app, those areas can be claimed and stolen from other teams as members move through that area.

“We’re creating a fun, social engagement point for brands and stores interested in engaging with walkers, runners and bikers in their area,” Bell explains further. “When team members claim areas of town for your organization, that area will have your logo and brand colors on it.” In addition, users who want to know who owns those areas can actually learn more about those groups through a customizable link a store’s or brand’s website or e-commerce site. already works with several Fleet Feet locations, Bandit Running, The Exchange and others and they have also partnered with companies that aren’t even running-centric, such as Oracle, as well as with groups such as the San Francisco Marathon. All have found value in their own ways of engaging their community, growing brand awareness for people getting into walking, running and biking more in their city and, eventually, as a way to drive brick-and-mortar and digital traffic from these communities.

The app currently has users in 357 cities and 57 countries and is being utilized by more than five dozen clubs, groups such as RRCA, Running USA and several wellknown races and marathons. Its goals for expansion revolve around finding more run clubs and retailers that can be an anchor to grow in new markets.

“It’s creating an opportunity for them to engage with their community in a fun, socially engaging way as well as offering opportunities for marketing for local runners, walkers and bikers by turning their community into literal foot soldiers,” Bell adds.

The benefit for running brands is similar, he points out. “This an opportunity for these brands to find a fun way to engage with the people wearing their products during their outdoor cardio, place their brand in front of walkers, runners and bikers around the world and create a unique opportunity to drive digital traffic from those communities.” has made it easy for retailers and clubs to get involved — they simply go onto its website at https://www.downloadcard. io/ and fill out the form to request to a custom team. From there, the team is off and running! n

60 © 2023 Diversified Communications technology is bringing the fun of games such as Capture the Flag to running communities.

Tech Connection

Did you know that way back in 2018 – the pre-pandemic years, you might recall – only one out of three race registrations took place on a mobile device in 2018? But by 2022, as everyone emerged from isolation and social distancing, that number had increased to two out of three. And most expect that trend to continue to climb.

That’s where eseo comes in. Described by its founder Ian Campbell as “technology that elevates the athlete experience and simplifies the event management process,” eseo essentially is a digital resource for everything racing, running and other group physical activities. Its website provides information about local races, nearby pickleball courts and leagues, hot yoga classes and the like and its map feature allows users to search for local groups, events and activities in their neighborhood.

The technology is a natural for retailers looking to engage with local runners through a simple platform that is conducive to community building and collecting marketing information though purpose-built race registration technology. It also simplifies the race management process with QR code race day registration and dynamic bib assignment.

And all that helps to drive retailer brand awareness and to push products to a demographic of local runners through authentic digital channels, according to Campbell, who points to a number of ways run specialty retailers can benefit from a partnership with eseo.

“Retailers can leverage our community event registration technology to organize their events — from 5000

runners to a five-person local community group runs,” he points out. “It’s a partnership that helps the run specialty retailers reach our athlete community of more than 140,000 through authentic communications.”

Launching soon will be an audio streaming platform that allows retailers and race directors to motivate and educate runners during events, along with products that can be shared directly to a store’s community of athletes in fun, authentic and engaging ways in “other items you might

like.” It also enables simple, streamlined mobile checkout while simplifying the race management processes and engaging with local run communities.

Founded in the City of Brotherly Love – “We’re nationwide, but our heart is in Philadelphia,” says Campbell – eseo currently works with retailers of all sizes and there is really no minimum size to getting involved. In addition, a la carte options make it so it could take as little as five minutes and $149 to get in the race — all the way up to months of collaboration and six figures of a financial commitment.

Campbell points to a number of trends, including a rapid shift to mobile communication on all levels, that make the eseo technology a winwin for run specialty.

“The most important is community, because runners want to connect with others and facilitating a way to do that digitally will not only improve mental and physical health, but also increase unity,” he explains.

Getting involved with eseo is simple, he says: “We’re real people, passionate about running, wellness and technology, so please reach out for a conversation.” The upside for run retailers is an ability to simply build their brand awareness and align with a fast-growing, mission-driven technology company with big plans.

“We have a long way to go and couldn’t be more excited about how we continue advancing our mission of uniting athletes and strengthening communities through innovative technology in the future,” Campbell adds. n


61 © 2023 Diversified Communications
eseo technology brings together runners and retailers on a digital platform.
The Technology Issue
eseo founder Ian Campbell shares with Philadelphia Runner and local run groups how the company’s technology helps to elevate the athlete experience and simplify the event management process. Photo: Bryan Karl Lathrop,

Enabling Associates

Run stores are facing an uncertain future. An equally uncertain economy is causing consumers to slow their spending as debt, including credit card debt, becomes more expensive. So what is a run specialty store to do?

It might seem to be common business sense to cut spending at such a time and step away from new investments. But on the flip side, equally common business sense realizes that new technologies are coming to the fore that have the ability to counteract any expenditure on them by driving sales, enhancing staff profitability and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of store operations.

Whether or not such tools are right for an individual run store or chain will depend on a variety of factors, which is why it is vitally important that owners, operators and managers know what’s out there to help them run a more efficient, more profitable business even in uncertain times.

Evolving the Conventional LMS

Those who keep up on retail software are most likely already aware of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) — basically apps that help to train and upskill staff with pre-loaded learning content about sneakers, gels, singlets and all the other stuff in your store. The upshot is that, historically, such systems have saved on training costs by onboarding staff digitally and helping them be more successful on the job. Arguably, systems like that aren’t particularly useful in times of austerity and budget slashing, when run stores have to do more with less.

Often they aren’t even very useful for employees on the floor — surfacing lessons that are redundant or that staff members don’t need to go through again runs the risk of becoming

counterproductive. In the past and as a rule, such systems have employed a one-size-fits-all, single-pathway approach to learning.

However, the cutting edge of retail technology for run stores has gone beyond this model into sales enablement for associates — essentially solutions that provide a full suite of resources and tools to increase sales capability and agility.

With sales enablement apps, brandspecific training, store-related learning content, sales incentives and rewards all get integrated with real-time store-staff performance data to provide personalized recommendations and smart actions for each individual staff member.

That’s the rub here — and the kernel of what makes sales enablement for retail such an advancement over earlier technologies.

How It All Works

The process is simple once you take a close look at it.

Basically, sales associates get smart notifications to complete in-store tasks, in-app learning activities or achieve sales milestones; for instance, when their app smartly judges that it’s time for them to receive such content, based on their past performance, their sales productivity and their preferences.

So the app is not merely “teaching” or educating sales associates as much as raising them to a higher level of sales performance, enabling their productivity.

At a time when many software tools are emphasizing “team coordination,” such a system instead enables individual sales conversions for run stores, which directly impacts store revenues. Team coordination is important, but it’s in the individual, face-to-face dimension where sales happen.

There’s also the question of how the data a store may or may not collect gets used. If a run specialty store collects and processes financials or sales commissions data and

62 © 2023 Diversified Communications
New technology for run stores enables store employees to take it to the next level. / By Alec Niedenthal
The Technology Issue
Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev on Unsplash

stores that data in back-office systems, the sales enablement platform can integrate with those systems and then leverage that data to change the targeted actions recommended for specific store associates.

Those different pathways can emphasize different store metrics depending on how the data shifts. For instance, if monthly revenues are down, the app might then show more content to drive sales on low-hanging fruit, such as gels and bars.

In essence, sales enablement for retail is about much more than simply training and learning or coordinating teams. It is working to pick up the slack generated by slower consumer activity. It enables sales associates for continuously higher daily performance, not merely training them to do their jobs.

Next: Performance Enhancement

The questions will naturally arise — Why should store associates use such an app? What kind of buy-in do they have? Both are good questions because sales enablement systems for retail stores are only effective if the staff uses them — and staff generally only use them to the extent that they feel it is in their best interest.

This is where rewards and recognition, and more broadly what has been called “performance enablement,” enter the picture.

A completely end-to-end sales enablement platform will wrap its training, learning and customer management and experience solutions in smart sales incentives — whether that is an end-of-week prize for most units moved, the bragging rights of receiving a salesmanship award

or simply getting ahead on the staff’s sales leaderboard.

Everything is happening seamlessly in one platform, one app that the associate is using. This consolidated suite with multiple solutions is also known as a performance enablement platform and it’s generally a more modular, holistic solution than sales enablement. It incorporates more aspects of the store associate experience while remaining agile. It is less lightweight than a simple sales enablement platform, but at the same time smarter, with even more data driving smart salesfloor actions and recommended tasks.

Essentially, what you’re doing is bringing multiple tools together under one umbrella and making sure data travels smoothly from one tool to another. Without getting too into the weeds tech-wise, recent learning and training data for an employee might trigger a highly personalized sales incentive — say, for instance, using her knowledge to make a sale on the specific shoe brand she’s developed expertise around.

The point is that when the associate receives a notification, she knows it’s “just for her.” It is customized for her specific skills, challenges and goals. Imagine a kind of Uber app for run stores, changing to fit the user. This technology not only drives sales conversions, but overall associate performance, including retention, engagement and other key metrics to continuous store success.

Two Paths for Run Stores

The current moment offers run store owners, operators and managers a choice.

• They can slash technology expenditures at a moment when customer behaviors are changing and many are less likely to part with their dollars.

• Or they can rethink the role of technology in their business — not to passively train, onboard and schedule associates, but to activate and enable their selling potential in order to meet this more hesitant, inflation-afflicted consumer where they are.

Sales enablement technology driving staff performance is here for those who wish to upgrade the associate, and store operations at large, for the 2020s and beyond. n

About the author Alec Niedenthal is Senior Writer for Rallyware, where he writes about and researches the retail, wholesale, and direct selling verticals.

Rallyware, the performance enablement platform for large sales forces, recently acquired Myagi, a retail sales enablement platform that works with almost every running store and brand in North America, Europe, and Australia, including Nike, New Balance, and Fleet Feet.

Delivered as an app for the workforce, Rallyware’s smart tools for continuous learning, upskilling, sales incentivization and more provide an average of 24X ROI for customers. Request a demonstration, email us at sales@rallyware. com, or call at (877) 858-8857 to talk to a product expert and learn how Rallyware helps run stores actively sell to consumers, rather than simply being bought from.

63 © 2023 Diversified Communications
It might seem to be common business sense to cut spending at such a time and step away from new investments. But on the flip side, equally common business sense realizes that new technologies are coming to the fore that have the ability to counteract any expenditure on them by driving sales, enhancing staff profitability and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of store operations.

A Virtual Croc The Technology Issue

Crocs, Obsess and Jibbitz … It may sound like the name of some fancy law firm or perhaps an obscure video game, but it is actually a collection of the companies that recently launched a virtual shoe store. But even with that simplification, it takes a deeper dive into the news to understand what it is and what it means to run specialty retail.

That’s especially true when the headline of a recent press release announcing the venture reads: “Obsess Partners with Crocs to Launch New Jibbitz Virtual Store and First-Ever 3D Customizer

— Immersive Jibbitz Virtual Experience Features Shoppable Shoe Customizer and Nostalgic ArcadeStyle Game.”

Got that? Anyway, here’s the story.

In late June, Obsess, billed as “the leading experiential 3D e-commerce platform,” launched a virtual Jibbitz shopping experience in partnership with Crocs, the well-known maker of casual footwear. The Crocs Jibbitz Experience is a virtual storytelling arena centered around self-expression, personalization, gamification and education to promote the brand’s flagship Jibbitz charms.

The experience includes the brand’s first-ever 3D Jibbitz Customizer, a feature engineered by Obsess to provide consumers with a mix-and-match tool to create their own unique pair of Crocs with Jibbitz charms, which can then be purchased directly from the virtual experience.

“Obsess has built a strong partnership with Crocs over the past year,

whereby both of our teams are empowered to lean into innovation and new virtual technologies, like the Jibbitz Customizer,” explains Neha Singh, founder and CEO at Obsess. “The Jibbitz Experience is a perfect example of marrying personalization with discovery-driven shopping, in order to drive prolonged customer value through virtual.

“At their core, Jibbitz charms are a way for Crocs customers to express themselves through style,” Singh adds, “and our new virtual customization technology makes self-expression more accessible and creative than ever before.”

The Jibbitz Experience is the third virtual store created by Crocs in collaboration with Obsess. The store features five virtual departments, each themed for a different Jibbitz assortment type — from Letters to Food to Animals. The Jibbitz Experience also features a nostalgic arcadestyle claw machine game, in which users can collect virtual Jibbitz in order to win physical Jibbitz that cost only one cent.

Persistent throughout the experience is a link to a Jibbitz Customizer, which includes 3D replicas of Jibbitz charms and clogs in a variety of men’s and women’s sizes. Shoppers can add up to 26 different 3D charms to a clog model and then proceed to purchase the physical version of their custom product.

The addition of the Jibbitz Customizer is critical to Crocs’ goal of educating consumers on the types of Jibbitz charms available for purchase, while showcasing how to apply and style charms on the brand’s clog product.

The Jibbitz Experience is available via mobile and desktop web. And while we are still not sure of how it involves run specialty retail, it does fit in with the editorial focus of this Technology Issue of Running Insight, so readers are welcome to try it out here: https://www.crocs. com/s/crocs_us/obsess.html n

64 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Experiential online shopping comes to life — complete with an arcade-style claw game.
Are you ready? #TRE23 Registration Opens August 1. Stay in the know at Produced by: NOV 28 - 30, 2023 Austin Convention Center | Austin, TX

Trace Visibility The Technology Issue

Utilizing cutting-edge technology to support and increase the visibility of its sustainability initiatives, Brooks Running has partnered with a Swedish company called TrusTrace, which brings a platform for supply chain traceability and compliance to deepen Brooks’ visibility across its manufacturing supply chain and help identify and mitigate responsible sourcing and business continuity risks.

The technology partnership enables Brooks to make further progress towards the brands’ long-term commitments to tracing its supply chain, respecting human rights and reducing environmental impact.

“Visibility into the factories that

manufacture Brooks products, materials and raw materials is critical to ensure our responsible sourcing standards outlined in our Supplier Code of Conduct are upheld,” explains Dave Kemp, director of corporate responsibility at Brooks. “The expansive and complex nature of our manufacturing supply chain makes this visibility difficult. TrusTrace enables us to identify and mitigate responsible sourcing and business continuity risks and increase due diligence for customs compliance.”

At the end of 2022, 100 percent of Brooks’ Tier 1 factories were using TrusTrace, with more than 130 Tier 2 and more than 70 Tier 3 factories invited to the platform. Looking ahead, Brooks will use TrusTrace

to trace at the individual product level, enabling deeper transparency to consumers on where Brooks’ product and materials are manufactured, while improving efficiency of chain of custody data collection for compliance with laws and regulations.

“Brooks Running has partnered with TrusTrace to expand its commitment to tracing its supply chain in granular detail to help create a more sustainable business,” says TrusTrace CEO and co-founder Shameek Ghosh. “We have a vision of the future where all value chains are traceable, circular and fair and we are excited to partner with Brooks to support them on their journey towards achieving transparency and their responsible sourcing objectives.

“Through gathering granular data on where and how their products are produced, Brooks will be able to identify and work to improve the social and environmental impact of their supply chain, as well as comply with complex regulations,” he adds.

TrusTrace already powers traceability programs for many of the largest fashion brands in the world. Its platform empowers brands with verified data in real-time, as materials and finished goods move through the supply chain. Through its open architecture, the TrusTrace platform integrates seamlessly with retailer, manufacturer and supplier systems, as well as other third-parties such as certification agencies, lifecycle datasets and other sustainability solution providers. n

66 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Brooks Running partners with TrusTrace to support its sustainability initiatives.


Switchback at The Running Event is back for Year Two to provide outdoor specialty retailers and brands with more space to connect, do business, and stay current with industry trends. As a one-stop opportunity, Switchback at TRE will unite run and outdoor specialty retailers, brands, and influencers under one roof—at an optimal time of year—to redefine the industry.

Attend Exhibit

28 - 30, 2023 / AUSTIN, TEXAS Produced by: @therunningevent

Outfitters > Technology One More Thing ...

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were still using paper maps to get from A to B. We were all adept at scanning a colorful road atlas and experts at deciphering a friend’s cryptic strip map — they’d scribble chicken-scratched instructions on the back of an old envelope: Start here, turn left there, make a right, go a few miles to the big oak and hang a louie. They’d put their phone number on the bottom so if we got turned around we could drop a quarter in a pay phone and figure things out together.

The advent of GPS changed everything. Even those early devices that sat on our dashboards were awesome. GPS made our travels more efficient and kept us from getting lost. But our reliance on it kept us from get truly acquainted with a place. Had us all thinking — Why think about the route when we’ve got technology doing it for us?

Social scientists argue that as tech becomes smarter, humans grow more reliant on it. We all know the addictive nature of various devices and platforms. Some say this reliance leads to laziness, a lack of productivity and scrapped potential. Others claim it’s a slippery slope towards dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Not to mention the fact that looking down at our devices keeps us from looking up at each other.

Back in the Dark Ages

Now I’m no scientist, but I was fitting shoes in the dark ages back when the Brannock Device was the industry’s technological pinnacle. Things changed quickly as we began incorporating fancy bells and whistles into the customer’s fit experience.

And not necessarily for the better.

There’s no denying that treadmills, cameras, pressure pads and foot scanners all add unique upgrades to a fitting process that demands regular innovation. And it’s also true that when used properly, all this cool tech increases a fit’s efficacy and, better still, an outfitter’s credibility. But tech has pushed the human element to the back seat and allowed corners to be cut. And sure, the outcomes are acceptable. But is an acceptable outcome good enough?

Specialty running stores made a mark on the retail world by offering something most places overlooked — an empathetic and personalized one-on-one experience with a fellow enthusiast. Customers knew they could walk in our stores and tell their story to a willing ear, who, in turn, would offer relevant advice and suggestions that might improve their activity. This became our calling card and it’s

still where we have the opportunity to shine the brightest.

As I travel around the nation and watch outfitters work with customers, it’s evident that tech now demands the attention we once willingly gave customers. Rather than intently listen and allow our curiosity to pique, we often rush to the opportunity to analyze data on a glowing screen. Rather than scratch our chins and solve a customer’s specific problem, we type in a bunch of details, press submit, then rattle off the retort of a “smart” computer algorithm — often without even making eye contact with the customer. This is the wrong way to use the amazing tech we have at our disposal.

Tech Taking Over?

Technology is a marvelous tool in any run specialty environment. But it should always be deployed as a secondary source of information. The primary source should always be the outfitter. They should ascertain foot details and identify the customer’s needs and wants before logging into any device. When tech is used to reinforce something previously mentioned, the expert outfitter inevitably shines brighter.

Spending more quality time with a customer before deploying in-store tech may be a challenge. But make no mistake, mapping the twists and turns of an actual conversation leads to a deeper and more intimate human connection. And this connection helps us make relevant suggestions based on the customer’s unique predicament. This is where we win — because it proves to the customer we’re still a people-focused business in a technology-heavy world. And that’s precisely what we are, isn’t it? n

68 © 2023 Diversified Communications
Determining the proper use, time and place for technology is vital for running stores. /
Photo by Antonio Grosz on Unsplash

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook

Articles inside

Trace Visibility The Technology Issue

page 66

A Virtual Croc The Technology Issue

pages 64-65

Enabling Associates

pages 62-63

Tech Connection

page 61

Community Turf Wars The Technology Issue

page 60

The Technology Issue Get In Motion

pages 58-59

Congratulations to the Best Running Stores of 2023

page 57

Data Is Your Friend

pages 54-56

Shop Local(ly)

pages 52-53

The Technology Issue Breaking the Code

pages 50-51

Talkin’ Tech

pages 46-49

Celebrating a Decade! 10

pages 40-43

Fleet Feet Springfield

page 39

Rush Running Co.

page 39

Fleet Feet Roanoke Swiftwick

page 37

Fleet Feet Tulsa

page 36

New England Running Company and Trail

page 36

=PR= Run & Walk

page 35

Santa Barbara Running

page 35

Fleet Feet Greensboro

page 34

H 2O Audio

page 33

Brooks+ Hansons Original Distance Project

page 32

Tifosi Optics

pages 30-31

Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series

page 29


page 28

ASICS GEL-Nimbus and GEL-Cumulus

page 28

ASICS Kayano

pages 26-27

Two ways to support your customers.

pages 25-26

Track Shack+ Hughes Family

page 24

Whirlaway Sports

pages 22-23

Athletic Annex

pages 20-21

Nike Pegasus 40

page 20

Runner s Den

pages 18-19

Runner s Roost

page 18

Kelley s Pace

page 16

1st Place Sports

page 16

Dave s Running

pages 14-15


pages 12-13


page 11

Movin Shoes ’

page 10


pages 8-9


page 8

La Sportiva

pages 6-7


pages 4-5


pages 2-3
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.