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Discussing Direct to Consumer at the Summit

Published on | RIA | Point of View

Daniel and Eric
Daniel & Eric

By Eric Petrek, Global Ecommerce Director at Altra Running

Brand Perspective

Attending the RIA Summit as a brand representative with direct to consumer (DTC) as my day-to-day focus, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some trepidation as I boarded the plane to St. Louis to have a discussion with top run specialty thought leaders across the nation about DTC friction points.

The purpose of DTC, separation of inventory, price promotions, exclusive colorways, and all the downstream effects of these on the broader marketplace were the topics of conversation. As the event unfolded, I quickly realized that what I met with at the RIA Summit was a much more engaged and curious group than expected. This wasn’t a session that ended in pointing fingers and throwing blame around, it was a dialogue for everyone to better understand the pain points on both sides of the table and discuss where potential compromises and solutions could be found.

Reflecting on the ideas and solutions discussed over the hour session it’s a consumer-obsessed mindset that is critical to this whole conversation. Every channel has a purpose in a consumer’s path to purchase and if everyone stays laser focused on meeting the consumer’s needs in their respective touchpoints, we can find solutions that let us win together by delighting the consumer.

Huge thanks to the RIA for the invite to begin this conversation together and a thank you to the RIA members for making a DTC owner feel welcome. Now it’s up to us to hash out the details, and challenge what’s accepted to change what’s acceptable together.

Retail Perspective

By Daniel Greenhalgh, Skinny Raven Sports Owner

Recently, while at the RIA Summit, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion around DTC. I was so pleasantly surprised by the open-minded, productive discussion around DTC opportunities and challenges, and the many creative ways that individual retailers are addressing it. The main takeaway was: focus on doing what’s best for the customer, and we’ll be just fine.   

I would love to live in a world where all customers understand the value of run specialty for their footwear needs: a world where we have the opportunity to win with every person seeking to purchase footwear for their work, running, walking, or just chilling. However, believe it or not, not everyone even knows run specialty stores exist, and some might, but don’t understand the value proposition. 

As for DTC, I believe that DTC selling is not a shopping experience. It is a very limited assortment, and DTC can only tell one brand's story. To me, DTC is the purest expression of a brand, which allows them to market their entire brand culture and key product assortments, and when done well, it takes care of a lot of the heavy lifting (marketing) for specialty retailers. It creates brand awareness and drives customer curiosity, and ultimately, demand in our stores. Are we getting all the sales? Nope, but the well-prepared retailer can take advantage of this by blending the consumers’ interest in a brand, or technology, with their actual needs.

Ultimately, DTC forces us to be better, and to focus on the things that differentiate and make us “special.” 

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