Sports retailing in India was always a multisport business for the few. Olympic sports was the only one that came to mind in Bangalore with a few stuffy stores across the city. The places were overflowing with all kinds of equipment and only a few believed sports would even take off among the masses like it did. In the last decade niche sports have taken off like wild fire. Running and Walking have been the easiest to latch on to.
With this boom in Running large multisport stores stocked some equipment. “But, there is clearly a lack of expertise and guidance at the stores for the runner to make the right decision” says Sathya Sankaran, cofounder of RicochetRun which is a speciality running store. Large format multi brand stores couldn’t afford this expertise where they had to rotate people to man multiple disciplines.
In the absence of clear expertise, people made judgements on brand, color and price giving a short shrift to fit and comfort. They adjusted their running to the shoe they bought instead of the other way around. “Team who runs the shop are highly knowledgeable team with running experience on their own.” says Janakiraman Padmanabhan, a runner who is trying to increase the distances and reduce chances of injury.
Sonal Kulkarni who started running a year ago talking about such speciality stores says “Great place for amateur runners like myself who until this buying experience had no idea about the science behind buying the right shoe” Online shopping carts only worsened this situation. With absolutely no personal guidance and no opportunity to try shoes, runners ended up buying wrong or ill fitting shoes. “The manager takes so much time to help you out with your gait analysis and expertly brings out the perfect shoes for you!” says Mallika Datar, an avid runner, speaking about running stores.
“At our store we focus on providing a total solution for the runner which begins by understanding how much and where he runs. We then follow up with a gait analysis which provides information to recommend a shortlisted set of shoes which can then be tried for comfort, fit and feel”
-Sathya Sankaran, CoFounder RicochetRun
Says an Army pilot and running enthusiast Vivek Saaya “It’s rare that the person selling you the shoes is more concerned about your gait and form. They will sell you what you need and not what you want”. This ultimately is where the value of a running store finds resonance in the runners. The ability to understand and provide a solution instead of a product.
Being a one stop shop stocking all categories of gear a runner might need is another key advantage of a speciality running store. “The partners are themselves runners, so they understand what u might need… they are always looking at stocking up with new products that different types of runners might need….” says Anand Kumar, an avid runner who trains with a group. What the runners eat and drink is as important as what they wear. “Ultimately the running is done by the body. Running and fuelling the muscles is what makes everything else tick. And providing nutrition products is also a key part of the solution” says Sathya “We advise on gels, salts and other supplements based on the distance and metabolism of the runners.”
Running stores across the world also engage the runners in the form of events and hook them up with running clubs. Nitin Jagtap has been trying his hand at multiple sports and a triathlete at heart attended an event organised at a running store “Had a very informative and interactive session about what it takes to prepare for a triathlon, what kind of training is needed, diet, equipment needed etc etc” These kind of events end up as perfect knowledge sharing platforms and provides visibility to expertise and skills that runners need. Such platforms are sorely lacking in the online world. “Pls start a triathlon club which we can use for knowledge sharing, experience sharing and also plan rides, runs and swims together in places around Bengaluru.” he asks of the store. This strengthens the fact that there is a need for a neutral party to bring together a good knowledge base to assist runners.
In short they complete the running ecosystem by tying up the lose ends. A good running store strives to connect the dots.