I am finally sitting down in Willow Glen, at my favorite family restaurant, Johns. The staff is amazingly service oriented, as are the owners. The food is Greek American, and the coffee is good. Furthermore, I use the place as my global office for an average of three hours a day, after my walks.
Remember, the running community is complex. But, most of all we are creatures of habit. Whenever you forget that, you will be gently reminded.
Sitting down for brunch, I am reminded of the TRE 16 show and how busy we were. I also am reminded of the big lessons I learnt in Orlando. Here we go….
The Running Event is the most important week of the year for our business. We mingle with 900 plus retailers and 300 plus manufacterers, and, over five days, discuss the challenges of the industry, new products, old problems and nuture friendships earned hard over three decades in this business.
1. Running Stores are irritated with some brands. This is cyclical. But when brands forget that, while running stores are no longer their biggest channel, they have many influencers, aforementioned brands get themselves into trouble. Discounting products in the same channels are no-nos, yet some do it. Again, running store managers have very long memories. I just heard a story about a major brand that sold shoes 50 percent off in running store channel in 1980s just after unloading a bunch to running stores. Long memories, very long memories, please remember that.
2. Consistently great product is demanded, or brand withers. Anyone can make one good shoe. The manufacturing is there, so are the design teams. But, consistently great product, the emblem of the great brands, is the key to the success of the ten to fifteen (we observe 48 brands plus) brands that have the overwhelming percentages of this business.
3. Apparell is not doing a good job communicating its benefits. We in the industry have told runners for decades about why a good running shoe makes sense, but, we have been terrible in describing the difference of a $40 pair of high end running shorts and a pair you bought for $6 at Marshalls.
4. Brands that use the most media platforms, including print, reinforce their brand image and messaging. Give up on print (special issues) and become part of the indistinguishable crowd. The Running Insight magazine is digital all year, except at the TRE. The plump, robust issues are in my travel bags and referred to all year. In my business, I am reminding brands that the more platforms that they use to reinforce their communications (social, digital, mobile and digital/print), the more runners, who are more educated and have higher HHI, see the print support as reinforcing the messaging. We find that the most successful brands in performance running are still in running publications. These same brands have hyper local relationships, and support their retailers. Successful brands have 24/7 communications, not just through their websites, but through media partner websites, mobile and social. Print is the icing on the proverbial media cake.
5. Running stores are still relevant, but changing. Two store chains declared bankruptcy in 2016, and it hurt many brands. Another chain is up for sale, and we will see some stores close in 2017. Stores that stay relevant, who work with school teams, club teams, support local races, and have communication tools for their consumers to better work with their part of the sport of running. Running staffs that come to TRE are learning about this evolving business world and how to better respond to their local challenges.