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Fleet Feet Runs From 'Retail Apocalypse' With New Experiences for Consumers


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As online conglomerates take over the retail world, brick-and-mortar stores are scrambling to find ways to lure consumers into their stores. North Carolina-based Fleet Feet, formerly Fleet Feet Sports, is overcoming this trend by combining a rebranding effort with new features such as an app mimicking the millennial favorite Bitmoji.

“Retail has never changed this fast before, but then again it’s also never going to change this slow again,” said CEO Joey Pointer of Fleet Feet’s efforts to not only stay relevant but also stay ahead.

With 176 stores across 37 states—nearly 80 percent of them franchised—Fleet Feet has grown from an old Victorian house in downtown Sacramento, California, offering a basement of running shoes to a national running equipment chain. Founded by Sally Edwards and Elizabeth Jansen, Fleet Feet still operates on a mission of  “inspiring and empowering,” Pointer said.

“They were the pioneers for what our brand stands for today,” Pointer said of Edwards and Jansen. Years later, Fleet Feet still aims to go past the products and running gear and provide a community for its customers. Part of this initiative is runMoji, an app they launched last October that includes running-specific quirks like port-a-potties and racing bibs.

“Running just has this unique culture,” said Pointer. “There’s not many other sports where there’s someone peeing in the bushes at the start line.” He explained that Bitmoji is something fun that people can connect with and personalize— “Who doesn’t have one?” he remarked— and Fleet Feet wanted to have that humor and fun associated with running.

Later this fall, a completely new loyalty program will be launched and runMoji will be fully integrated. Instead of a typical rewards program where consumers spend a certain amount and are given back a fraction of that, Pointer explained this version is going to be different.

“You can go for a run and connect your Garmin account, and earn miles and points that way,” said Pointer. “We’re going to be able to speak to runners in a different way.”

In addition to this point earning by being active, the program will also include prize giveaways, such as entries to big marathons like the New York City Marathon, and signed athlete memorabilia.

Along with this comes Fleet Feet’s complete rebranding, which was announced a few weeks ago at I annual conference in Minneapolis. Dropping “sports” from its name, Fleet Feet also has a new logo resembling a torch. Pointer explained that they wanted to stay true to the “essence of the brand,” so the inspiration piece is the spark that lights the flame­—or the base of the torch—and the empowerment piece is the sustained flame.

“This is the first time our brand has had a major overhaul,” said Pointer. “We’ve never had something like the Nike ‘swoosh’ or the Starbucks mermaid, but now we do.”

Online, it has already taken place, but he’s letting franchisees take their time at physical locations. Another piece of the rebrand includes a new shoe coming this fall with the torch logo on the back, which will be produced in partnership with shoe company Brooks.

Fleet Feet isn’t stopping there: the running products chain will roll out an improved version of its foot scanning technology, fit id. In five seconds, the foot scanner measures foot width, arch height, and various other measurements, which consumers can see on an iPad in stores.

Measurements can be compared to others’ scans, and used to find shoes that fit to a closer degree. “We’re going to have scanned a million feet this year,” said Pointer, explaining that this technology has been beneficial to his business. If a disinterested husband comes in with his wife, or a family of an athlete, this foot scanning experience tends to cause intrigue and increase sales.

In the future, Pointer mentioned the data from this technology will be used to create a specially fitted shoe, in partnership with in-house shoe brand Karhu, and even possibly custom-made shoes. “They’ll be shoes designed by the feet that came through our doors.”

The new version of fit id also allows consumers to see previous scans of their feet if they’ve been scanned multiple times, to see if their feet have grown, shrunk or changed in size.

Pointer predicts custom insoles and footwear will be something Fleet Feet can offer via fit id this holiday season or the first quarter of 2019. “I think we’ll eventually get to the point where our stores will have a 3D printer and be able to print shoes” right there on the spot, he said.

All of these new features are attempts to have “engaging, compelling reasons for people to come into the store,” said Pointer, an effort many retail-based franchises are having to make.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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