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Retailers' Perspectives on Emerging Brands Part 1

Published on | RIA | Point of View

Emerging Brand Photo
Emerging Brand Photo

Three Running Industry Association members, who operate well-established companies in three different states, shared their observations and insights about what it takes for new brands to get traction in their stores.

“I think patience and persistence are key. Timing can be a big factor when new things are introduced,” said Nikki Benedict of Playmakers, located in Okemos, Michigan and founded in 1981.

“Playmakers is great about being open to finding new items/brands and we are most often willing to meet with people to discuss opportunities,” she added. “As a ‘run specialty’ store, I’ve always believed in the importance of being  ‘special’ and that certainly applies to the products and brands we carry.”

Megan Searfoss of Ridgefield Running Company is always excited to check out emerging brands, so she can stay on the cusp of the next best thing to help customers to get out and move. “How can we make it so getting out and moving is easier for our customers. Our products have to speak to that,” she said.

Ridgefield Running Company is named after the town where the main store is located in southwest Connecticut. The company also operates Darien Running Company further south on the Long Island Sound. On Monday mornings, the main store doesn’t open to customers, so brands can come in and work with her sales team to help them understand the value of products.

“Mostly because we don’t have room for tchotchkes, if we are going to give space up on the floor, it has to be valuable for my consumers. We have to make money on it to keep my people employed,” she added.

Kris Hartner of Naperville Running Company admitted it may sound cliché but he and his staff look at brand relationships like a marriage. “If we bring a brand in, we're in it for the long haul so we need to take some time to make sure it's the right decision – brand divorces are never easy, no matter how well we plan ahead,” he said.

Naperville Running Company is celebrating its 24th year in business. It has four stores located in the Chicago suburbs of Naperville and Wheaton, Illinois. “Maybe it's because we've been around for a few years now and it's natural with the maturing of the business, but it seems more difficult than ever to add new brands successfully,” he acknowledged.

He wants to avoid getting stagnant and pessimistic about products that seem uncertain, but with so many brands and products trying to break into the space, his staff would be in nearly constant meetings if they heard pitches from all of the new brands.

Factors in placing a new brand in stores

  • Customers are asking for the product that is not carried yet by the store.
  • The product is creating a buzz with customers, staff or the industry.
  • The product makes sense in the product mix.
  • The product is unique or new technology that fills a void in inventory.  
  • The store staff is able to research the new product well and feels it is likely to bring impactful sales.
  • The product replaces something that customers demand but is no longer available.
  • Loyal customers respond well to the introduction of the brand.
  • The product has a really good silhouette with different color palettes than other brands.  
  • Accessories are less risky due to the low cost, so easier to place as a new brand.

In upcoming Pulse editions, read more about this topic with retailers’ expectations for support from brands in Part 2 and evaluating brand performance in Part 3.

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