Can Running Shoe Stores Succeed in Today's Economy?

This is a question I would have been afraid to ask a year ago. With store fronts being crushed by low prices from mega-corporations it has become hard to imagine how a small business with a sport specific product could make a profit. I recently made a trip to the Foot Landing in Punta Gorda, Florida where after only one year in business, something outstanding has happened.

Before I reveal their story, I should probably explain where my pessimism originated. Eight months ago I was suffering from foot pain and decided to buy some new running shoes. I knew that the Foot Landing was a supporter of Zoomer's Run & Tri Club, of which I'm a member, so I decided to check out their store.

The Foot Landing is forty-five minutes away from my home so I had to make a special trip. The owner Sherri Kemp Lennon was courteous and helpful. She had me stand on a computer pad that shows the weight distribution on each leg and the arch of my feet. This can help a person pick the proper shoes related to their foot type. Next she measured my feet, apparently one is slightly longer than the other. I'm told this is a common occurrence but it does make a difference when trying on shoes because you always want to use your larger foot for proper fit.

I tend to be the exception to every rule so I wasn't surprised when they couldn't find shoes to fit my tiny feet. Also as a full time writer I can't afford retail prices. While they have a range of respected brands, all of them were beyond my meager budget. In the end all I could afford was a new pair of insoles to put in my current shoes. I drove away from the store that day worried that they would have real trouble competing in today's world of internet bargains. It turns out that I was wrong.

At around the same time I had visited, the Foot Landing began hosting Wednesday night pub runs that start right at their front door at 117 Herald Court. It was a good way for the owner and staff to get to meet the local runners. They started with anywhere from 30 to 50 participants while posting the weekly event on Facebook so more could join in. The crowd was steady with some people driving from as far away as Sarasota to be a part of it.

Over the summer and despite constant rainstorms, the weekly pub runs continued to grow in numbers. In order to accommodate such demands they have organized four routes through the city each ending at a different pub or restaurant. The routes are named after the restaurant theme, for example: Tiki run, Irish pub run or Salsa run. These meet ups have surpassed 100 runners with one in particular gathering more than 200. That is an astonishing number of people for a weekly event.

The pub runs were just the start. The Foot Landing continued their community outreach with movie nights, Sunday morning wake-up runs and various parties. In addition, the store has also assembled a superb race team. It includes more than 15 athletes like Team USA Duathletes Scott & Krissy Varner and USAT National Triathlete Sherri LaBree (Who also works at the Foot Landing). Podium regulars at the local races include Kathy Hendricks, Ian Vincent, Manny Masony and Stephanie Powers.

What does all of this mean for the company? As it celebrated its one year anniversary the Foot Landing has become the premiere running shoe store in Charlotte County. It is supported by the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) and the IRRA (Independent Running Retailer Association). It even won the designation of being the 2013 Punta Gorda Business of the Year.

The secret to their success? Timing was a big part of it. Punta Gorda has been considered a sleepy ocean side city full of senior citizens but the demographics are changing. The Foot Landing tapped into a core of fitness enthusiasts of all ages, many of whom had only recently moved to southwest Florida. The outreach of the store gathered these active residents and gave them a community to be a part of.

So what's next on the agenda for this amazing little store? The Foot Landing is working in association with The Yoga Sanctuary to combine running groups with yoga classes. As for events, the weekly pub runs continue and there will be a special one on Valentines Day known as the Red Dress Run. Information about all of these events can be found on their website or Facebook page. While this is only one example of what is possible in today's economy, it is the kind of success story that breeds hope in these uncertain times.

The Foot Landing Facebook Page


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