Survival Of The Fittest

Jim Dwyer, owner and manager of Running Wild in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talks shoes with a customer. Photo: Robert Murphy

The Customer Experience Is Key

Amanda Charles is the general manager of the Boulder Running Company in Colorado, which has stores in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Littleton. Charles is also struggling to compete with the rise of Internet shoe sales, as well as other threats. “I think about that a lot lately and I believe it comes down to the customer experience in the store,” Charles said. “That’s why people come to a local store.”

Charles explained that one of Boulder Running Company’s mandates is to develop a sense of community. “It’s about emotional connection. We’re there to help our customers believe in themselves,” she said. “Our message is that if you run even just once or twice a week, it’s OK to think of yourself as a runner.”

To help build its running community, the Boulder Running Company, like many specialty running shoe stores these days, holds a variety of group runs and walks during the week. There are also clubs designed to encourage kids to participate. Most famously, the Boulder Running Company sponsors Jack Quinn’s Tuesday night runs, a weekly event that draws upwards of 800 runners of all kinds, held at the Jack Quinn’s Irish pub in Colorado Springs.

The Boulder Running Company is also looking to lure raw newcomers. For example, a common barrier of entry into the running world is obesity; an overweight person can simply be too heavy to run without joint pain. The Boulder Running Company now holds boot camp-style workouts, in the fashion of P90X and Crossfit, to help newbies get fit enough to run.

“We have one woman who has lost 110 pounds this way,” Charles said. “The cool thing about this is that we’re creating runners. Soon they start showing up for other events, such as their first 5K.”

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