Running Specialty: The Lure of the Local Running Store, by Mark Bossardet, intro by Larry Eder

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The interview that Mark Bossardet gave runblogrun last week was so well received that we are trying to convince him to write a weekly column on the running business! He has not agreed as of yet, but this new essay that he provided to me today was quite thought provoking! I hope that you like it as much as I did....

Running Specialty

The more things change, the more they stay the same”

In the early 70’s, just as the first running boom was getting underway, we started to see small cluster of passionate runners throughout the US attending events and selling running shoes out of their vehicles. Then by the late 70’s the trend evolved into specialty running stores starting to emerge in our local communities.

When I started in the business (yes, selling shoes out of a van), Adidas, Nike, NB and Onitsuka Tiger (known today as ASICS) were the brands starting to put their footprint on the US running footwear landscape. In the early 80’s brands like Brooks, Converse, Reebok and Avia started to emerge. Retailers now had more brands to work with and consumers more choices.

Today, there are multiple brands and over 400 running specialty stores throughout the US that cater to the needs of today’s runners. They are embedded in our communities and provide a place of sanctuary for all who visit these establishments. Their mission, provide the best service and products to fit the needs of all runners, which has been instituted into the RSA culture continues to be the foundation for which a successful business is built.

Looking back, we were a group of individuals who loved the sport of running and had a passion for product (“shoe dogs”), which holds true today with many of the retailers I know and have visited. As running became more popular and footwear more technical the need for more specialty retailers arose –today running specialty accounts for almost $1 billion in footwear sales. The business paradigm hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years and our passion for running has remained steadfast. The evolution has been a work in progress with brands, retailers and consumers coming together to embrace the sport they truly enjoy.

Our business has been nurtured over time and retailers remain committed to providing their expertise and experience to help the next generation of runners. So, what am I trying to say?

If you find yourself in need of a “place of worship”, run on down to your local running store and ask the old, bald guy behind the counter for some advise, although you may have to revisit the past, you can bet he will give you great intelligence in making your next run more enjoyable.

In my modest opinion, running specialty is the lifeblood of our business and we should embrace our retailer partners and their business model. They have earned our respect and should be applauded for providing a service that will allow us all to flourish for many more years to come. Remember, specialty running was started, by few, out of the trunks of cars, enjoyed by many, and has grown into a billion dollar infrastructure.

So, let’s go down to our local running store and thank the old guy behind the counter for making running more accessible, and perhaps, pick-up the newest running shoe.

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To read the RBR Interview: Mark Bossardet, please click: http://www.runblogrun.com/2009/01/rbr_interviews_mark_bossardet_1.html

Special thanks to Mark Bossardet for his fine column.

For more on the sport, please check http://www.runningnetwork.com

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