The top 50 running specialty stores in the country were recognized in Austin last week.
Shu’s Idaho Running was named Store of the Year at the annual 50 Best Running Stores Awards and Banquet held in Austin last week at The Running Event.
Shu’s is owned by Mike Shuman, a former franchisee of The Athlete’s Foot, who is known for his outgoing personality and passion and dedication for his customers. Shuman is known to hug customers on a regular basis and last week in Austin after winning his award he belted out a verse of “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
In accepting the award, Shuman said “The consumer is our boss, and as long as we take care of the customer we’ll continue to thrive as a channel and an industry.”
The other finalists for Store of the Year were Run On! in Dallas, Virginia-based Pacers Running Store and Red Coyote Running in Oklahoma City. For Run On!, it was the store’s second time as a finalist. Pacers won the prestigious Ubuntu Award several years ago. And Red Coyote has been in business less than two years and it is unprecedented for such a new store to make it to the final four.
Other major award winners were:
Luke MacDonald of Aerobics First in Canada won the Ubuntu Award presented by Balega.
Ubuntu is a South African word that loosely translates to a sense of humanity or community, said Chris Bevin, general manager of Balega International as he presented the 2011 Award to MacDonald of Aerobics First, a Halifax, Nova Scotia Based Running Specialty store and member of the Independent Running Retailers of Canada. “Malcolm Gladwell, the Author of “The Tipping Point” talks about the three main personality types: connectors, salesmen and mavens,” Bevin said. “Luke has aspects of all three.”
“This year’s award celebrates Luke’s history of accomplishment in establishing partnerships locally, nationally and globally that benefits many communities and builds lasting legacies. Luke’s work on getting local young people active through running, his work in connecting and advancing the Run For Life project and expanding a shoe fitting program and exchange in Gambia are all exemplary of good citizenship engagement. Luke’s unselfish dedication to these endeavors has put many programs and people on a path to success and prosperity through active living.”
Gazelle Sports wins the Never Stop Exploring Award, presented by The North Face.
The Never Stop Exploring Award recognizes the specialty running store that demonstrates the most complete dedication to encouraging and enabling outdoor exploration within the community. Gazelle, with five locations, was selected for its fun and creative programs designed to appeal to runners and walkers of all ages.
“Gazelle Sports has done an incredible job of developing programs that encourage both kids and parents to get outside and push their personal limits,” said The North Face Vice President of Sales Michael Millenacker, who presented the award to Gazelle Sports co-owner Ken Sung at The Running Event 2011 conference and expo for running specialty stores in Austin, TX Friday. “Gazelle Sports truly embodies the spirit of the Explore Fund Never Stop Exploring Award and we’re proud to support them as they continue to get the people of Michigan outside and on the trails.”
In recognition of Gazelle Sports’ contribution to the Western Michigan community, The North Face will donate $5,000 to help build community programs. The North Face created the Explore Fund Never Stop Exploring Award in 2010 — a retail-specific complement to the brand’s Explore Fund grant program for non-profits — in an effort to encourage Running Specialty stores to initiate local community programs that break down the barriers to getting people outdoors.
Jeanine Sylvester of Runner’s Alley in New Hampshire wins the Just Do It Award presented by Nike.
The Just Do it Award is presented to a woman store owner who exemplifies business and personal leadership in her community. In presenting the award, Amy White, VP at Nike, cited Sylvester’s contributions to the communities she serves, as well as her leadership and mentoring of others.
Sylvester has three stores in New Hampshire (Nashua, Portsmouth and Manchester) and has become the dominant player in run specialty in her state. She is highly regarded among other merchants in these downtowns for her acumen and professionalism.
She also organizes several key training groups out of her stores, a 5K group (44 of 52 participants are women) and a Half Marathon Group in which 33 of 35 participants are female. The store’s running club, which boasts more than 200 members, is 60% female. “Women are looking for camaraderie and a group that can be supportive. We try not to be exclusive in anything we do in the store, we try and do everything for everyone, but women really love these groups,” she says.
Runner’s Alley has also helped found the Coastal Athletic Association, and was instrumental in initiating the Runner’s Alley/Redhook 5K to benefit Northeast Passage, a non-profit affiliated with the University of New Hampshire that provides innovative solutions for children, adults, and military veterans with disabilities.
For the second consecutive year, Forerunners was named Canadian Store of the Year. The award is presented by New Balance Canada and The Independent running Retailers of Canada. “We have so many great stores in Canada,” said Peter Butler of Forerunners. “I’m honored to win this twice in a row, but I hope next year another deserving store wins it.”
The selection of Shu’s as Store of the Year capped off a year-long search by Competitor magazine and Running Insight to identify the top running stores in the country. Consumers nominated their favorite stores through www.competitor.com and the nominations were then vetted and the stores were put through a rigorous evaluation process, which included:
- Mystery shopping to assess their service levels.
- Credit rating by vendors.
- And an assessment of their community service commitment.
This year, a team of retailers formed a committee to work with The Franklin Resource Group, the top retail merchandising company in the sports sector and the company that handles the mystery shopping evaluations, to refine the process.
On the following pages is a full list of stores by region.