Specialty running retailers are the ultimate small business. As Davids fighting against the big box Goliaths, they must offer an experience that can’t be found in the aisles of Dick’s or Academy. While many of them already do in the form of social runs and careful shoe fittings, there are still even more ideas to steal from big retailers. Speaking at The Running Event in Austin, retail industry reporter Barbara Thau offered up ideas for the specialty running store owner to boost revenue and bring in more customers.

Big box retailers are already shifting, thanks to Amazon. Thau pointed out that online sales only account for 10% of all sales, leaving plenty of room for brick and mortar stores. So brick and mortar stores are providing what online retailers can’t – namely, a place to teach and inspire customers as they personalize the experience. Specialty running retailers have a leg up on big box retailers because they have much more autonomy in what they can offer, she noted.

Specialty running retailers can foster community

Meanwhile, large retailers have taken the notion of fostering community and customer education to heart. Here are a few ways some of the “big guys” have been getting customers in the door:

  • Best Buy began offering photography lessons so that customers could get the most out of their camera purchases. This helps boost shopper engagement and customer loyalty.
  • Lululemon has gotten a lot of attention for its community yoga classes and has begun stretching its brand equity by offering a “mindfulosophy” space in its flagship store in Manhattan. The idea is to build a bond with shoppers.
  • Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Tiffany & Co. are just three retailers who added restaurants to the stores to drive traffic, encourage lingering, and boost spending.

The takeaway here is that specialty running retailers can do much more than just host social runs. They can partner with martial arts studios to offer self-defense workshops or host in-store yoga classes or nutrition workshops, just to name a couple of ideas that stemmed from attending The Running Event.

Market to “clean lifers”

Yes, that’s an actual phrase used by Thau. “Clean lifers” saying no to unhealthy habits are a multi-billion dollar wellness opportunity and a compelling revenue proposition for sports merchants. These clean lifers want to treat the causes, not the symptoms, so they’re strapping on technology that tracks their exercise activity, heart rate and sleep, among other metrics, and looking for ways to care for themselves.

CVS is one retailer that has jumped on this trend. In the store, the beauty department displays pharmacy-recommended solutions to common skin care concerns. This is a move for CVS from sick care to self-care.

The experiential store

Additionally, stores like Nordstrom’s, DSW and Ulta are offering in-store experiences along with products. It’s not for bragging rights but for the human touch that online shopping can’t give. Some Nordstrom’s locations are testing inventory-free stores that offer manicures and tailoring, according to Thau. While this wouldn’t work for a specialty running store, DSW’s shoe lounge that offers shoe repair services and custom orthotics might.

The big takeaway from Thau’s keynote at The Running Event for specialty running retailers is to continue to offer a personalized experience and look for ways to create a community within the walls of the store.