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Report from Runchella


The mood at Runchella was upbeat. Held in Chicago May 16-19, Runchella, hosted by the Running industry Association (RIA), brought together running brands and retailers for an event focused on sharing insights and knowledge across the run specialty industry. It was a chance to see old friends, meet new ones, talk with business partners, discuss key issues, and see the latest and greatest new products. 

Did I mention friends? That’s what keeps running specialty special. Brands that support retailers. Retailers that support brands. Candid conversations at breakfast, lunch and receptions to share experiences and ideas. And that’s before you go to the presentations. Like any industry gathering, those impromptu conversations help us make mental notes, trigger new ideas and confirm (or reject) strategies that are currently in place. 

Chatting with Ross Martinson, the newly elected board president of the RIA, he expressed that business is good and he is optimistic. There are new board members creating new initiatives all with the goal of helping to guide the running specialty channel and its members. The Mastermind Groups, as one example, leverages industry data and peer wisdom to take advantage of new opportunities and to help overcome challenges that stores may be experienc- ing. I also had the chance to learn about the RIA’s partnership with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC) and meet Kiera Smalls, Executive Director. RIDC’s mission is to help unite the running industry and to improve inclusion, visibility and access for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in employment, leadership and ownership positions united by a passion and commitment to running. 

Other topics of conversation at Runchella revolved around the staffing challenges which continue to weigh on the minds of the store owners. The influx of new runners over the past two years was another hot topic. And yes, supply chain challenges continue to be a hot button issue — one that will most likely continue for the near future with transit delays, longer lead times and delivery snafus to name just a few. I also came away from Runchella with a new appreciation for the retail tech that has been developed by Upper Quadrant, which provides data sharing allowing participating retailers to get a snapshot of how their sales track against other specialty stores. 

Thank you to Terry Schalow, RIA executive director, and all the members and sponsors of the RIA, for coordinating and hosting an informative and productive Runchella event. 

Look for expanded coverage of Runchella in our upcoming May/June issue of Footwear Insight.