When this issue of the RIA Pulse is published, the run specialty channel will be in the home stretch of what is shaping up to be another banner sales year. The explosive 20% to 30% growth we witnessed in 2021 won’t be repeated, but a healthy, upper-single-digit growth level appears likely. That translates to a full year retail sales figure surpassing $1.3 billion. The success of the channel in 2022 is a remarkable achievement considering the uncertainty in the consumer segment, where inflationary pressures, high consumer debt, and geo-political turmoil tend to result in a drop in discretionary spending. Perhaps the case can be made, however, that our segment is bucking a potential downward trend because running is exactly what people need to maintain some level of sanity in a world that seems less and less sane.
Running stores are connecting with your customers because you continue to amplify the feel-good experience that visiting a running store provides. You give customers a uniquely empowering shopping experience – the ability to walk in with a problem and hear the staff say, “Don’t worry. I gotcha!” That’s not just satisfying; it’s comforting. That great feeling is buoyed by the deep connections that running stores are now able to create with their customers. A plethora of new digital tools help stores know what their customers’ favorite brands are, when they run, where they like to run, and how far they run. This may seem big-brothery, but access to this level of customer behavior data springs from the altruistic desire to serve customers more effectively and ensure their experience of running is amplified.
To connect with customers successfully on the store floor, the back of the store must be buttoned up as well. In the same way that tools to help meet customer needs are improving rapidly, so are analytical tools that provide insights into category and product trends, as well as tools for understanding our strengths and weaknesses and connecting with brand partners. In the coming months, the RIA will focus on explaining and supporting the efficient adoption of some of these tools. As a result, members will save time and money, so you can focus on what matters most: your customers.
Stay tuned! We’re looking forward to telling you all about it.
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