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Aug 30, 2007

Running away with it

Adam Carswell explains why specialised shops will always flourish on the high street

Adam Carswell, partner in The Runner’s Guide with his brother Luke, explains why specialised shops will always flourish on the high street

In today’s world of large multinational organisations and companies, we at The Runner’s Guide have found a different way to approach the market place in order to satisfy customers’ needs in a way that larger companies fail to do so.

Looking at the market place, it is easy to see why we succeed in such a tough field. It all comes down to our staff, and the information and advice they are able to offer, and the products we supply.

While the high street is more interested in mass sales than whether the product is right for the customer or not - we see it differently. And if we get the customer the right product then we will get the repeat sales and continual growth through word of mouth. As a specialised running shop, it is essential we get the product right for our customers to avoid aches and pains, and even serious injury.

The Runner’s Guide offers a gait-analysis service, which is vital in this market. Gait analysis is the first area that makes us a specialised shop. We find out the background of each customer, in terms of what they are hoping to achieve as well as any injuries or problems may have.

This, without going into specific products offered, makes a massive difference. We can spend an hour with a client fitting them out in the right shoe, whereas with a high street shop the staff may not have the know-how to advise the customer properly.

This might sound silly, but it is vital you know how the feet can affect the rest of the body all the way up to the lower back, and consequently the problems that can arise and how they can affect a person’s quality of life.

Fallen arches and pronation are the two leading factors here. We aim to avoid these with the types of shoes we recommend - cushioned, structured and motion-control shoes, for example, to support and aid against these problems. In doing this we have fallen into another market area as these problems not only affect the runners that frequent our shop but the general public too, and they and the footwear to remedy these problems are not catered for anywhere else now apart from specialised running shops.

The Runner’s Guide stock differs entirely from the high street chains. We have to supply the field specialists and not the companies that merely have a reputation or the money to heavily advertise. In running shoes there are five main specialised companies: ASICS (the leading brand), Mizuno, New Balance, Brooks and Saucony.

The first thing you might notice here is that we don’t stock such makes as Nike, adidas or Reebok. These brands can have a place in the market, but they are certainly not specialised and we do not lose sales by not stocking them.

In the clothing area of the market the same thing applies: we offer such leading brands as GORE Running Wear, Ronhill and Helly Hansen. It is their technical products that make all of these companies stand out.

With these factors to consider, it is easy to see why specialised running shops such as The Runner’s Guide have grabbed themselves a massive part of the market and will continue to do so. Even if high street shops try to break into the market, they fail to do so as the advice they offer is sometimes found wanting and consequently the confidence in their service falls.

In a time when massive organisations are trying to monopolise the market, it is refreshing to see that specialised shops can’t be replaced due to the products offered and, more importantly, to the expert advice given.

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