If you organize a running event, it’s likely that you have a relationship with an independently owned specialty running store. Local running stores provide sponsorship, promotion and technical advice to countless events across the country. With Black Friday coming and Small Business Saturday the following day, you have a terrific opportunity to support your running store partner – and your community – by shopping locally.
“[F]or every $100 in consumer spending with a local business, $68 remained in the local economy. On the flip side, for every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, only $43 remained in the local economy.
Specialty running shops are about much more than running shoes and gear. Most have clinics and classes designed to train aspiring and established runners on how to eat, train, and prepare for their upcoming race or event. The goal of a local shop owner is for all their customers to achieve theirs. The rising popularity of running has grabbed the attention of national sporting goods chains and online retailers. The growth of running products in these channels has eclipsed the growth at specialty retail three years running. These larger retailers offer similar products as specialty retailers at competitive prices but may not invest in the education and service found at specialty. As a result, customers shopping outside specialty miss out on the expertise and customization needed to ensure the proper fit that leads to a great run and lasting fitness. “What makes specialty special is the level of passion of each person working at the store,” says David Sobolik, owner of Fit Right, a local running store based in Portland, OR. “We are all about the customer and getting it right, but we also want to motivate and inspire them as they walk out the door.”
Founded in 2006, the Independent Running Retailer Association (IRRA) represents the interests of these specialty running retailers within the United States. The IRRA provides a voice for independent specialty shops as they compete to maintain running as a lifestyle within their cities and towns. Through advocacy, education and member programs such as those provided by the IRRA/SignMeUp partnership, the IRRA strives to provide an even playing field for the ‘little guy’. Local running shops are the heart and soul of running fitness in this country. Other retailers can do it bigger but no one can do it better than specialty running shops. Running is hard. People quit every day. Local retailers connect, and people need that connection to keep at it and stay motivated.
In 2013 the IRRA launches its nationwide Lace Up Local campaign. Through national advertising, social media, and in-store events, Lace Up Local strives to build awareness around the customer and economic benefits of shopping local. The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics highlighted that for every $100 in consumer spending with a local business, $68 remained in the local economy. On the flip side, for every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm, only $43 remained in the local economy. The local benefit of online purchases are far less than even chain stores since nearly all the money leaves the local economy and goes to the home territory of the online retailer. Circulating money through the local business strengthens economies. Shop owners patronize the same grocery stores, support the same PTAs, and contribute to the same local organizations as their customers. Lace up Local illustrates that customer decisions matter, and their choice on where to purchase can have a far reaching benefit.
Do you make a point of shopping locally? Why or why not?
Parker Kanan is the Executive Director of the IRRA.