Letter from the Publisher
Finding That Common Ground.
In this issue of runstyle, we cover new products and trends for 2024, as well as key issues in the industry. We have included feedback not only from brands and retailers, but from consumers, too. And we found similar themes in the feedback we got from each group.

In this issue’s Shop Talk feature, editor Bob McGee reached out to retailers about retail’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) challenges along with opportunities for 2024. With the backdrop of the Running Industry Association’s (RIA) recent retailer surveys, finding common ground to work with running shoe brands emerged as a key issue. “DTC is here to stay and if we can level the playing field so stores don’t have to compete on price, everyone will win” states Nicholas Stanko, Ann Arbor Running Company. Trey Vernon, Manhattan Running Company concurs with “a wish that run specialty shops and vendors can “come together” and “find common ground on the DTC issue.”

Jeff Metzdorff from Mill Street Running, offers this advice, “this industry is still dominated by independently owned shops and we are much better together than we are apart. Connecting, sharing knowledge, and encouraging respectful dialogue is something so simple that we often forget it’s there for the taking.”

RIA’s virtual Town Hall meeting held on November 8 echoed those sentiments. The RIA’s mission is ultimately about retail success and driving the relationship between run specialty retailers and brands through peer sharing and connections and collaborations. RIA’s Product Data Collaborative (PDC) is designed to eliminate a pain point for retailers, and maximize time efficiencies and inventory management. RIA’s new initiatives and strategic partnerships include “emerging brand support”, the RIA Job Board and the RIA Store finder among others. It continues to be a pleasure working with Terry Schalow, Executive Director, by supporting RIA’s initiatives in runstyle that assist in elevating the run specialty channel.

Regarding opportunities for 2024, in our Shop Talk article, Metzdorff states “new brands are entering the apparel space and will bring a much-needed energy to the category.” To his point, the results of our exclusive Trend Insight consumer survey showed that when runners go into stores, 60% do not have a specific apparel brand in mind. When asked what factors influence them to consider new apparel brands when shopping? 60% of consumers responded, “saw it in store.” On the selling floor, do runners like to have additional styles and brands presented by a store sales associate? For apparel 60% said “yes.” And for footwear? 73% said “yes.”

Clearly there’s an opportunity for specialty retailers selling apparel, footwear and run essentials knowing that the majority of runners want to hear about new brand options. As Stanko told us in our retail story, “the more products that we can carry that you can only find at our shop, the better.”

Also in this issue, Emily Walzer gives us a quick rundown of 5 key textile trends influencing the future of running apparel and footwear: Strides in Performance, Natural Fibers Gain Ground, Lighter Footprints, Steps in Sustainability and Function x Fashion. This also correlates with our Trend Insight survey, which revealed that 83% of runners found a brand’s sustainability commitment is “somewhat or very important” in their purchasing decision. Moreover, 83% would also be more likely to shop at a store with a take-back program, where the store recycles their running shoes. And yes, the majority responded that they would like a credit for a new pair, too. In a Q&A in this issue, writer Suzanne Blecher caught up with Christian Fyfe and Keri Straughn, founders of the Low Impact Alliance. They say, “People are asking questions about the sustainability of products they purchase. They’ll keep asking more. We have to start protecting the ground we run on.”

At runstyle, we will continue to support the run channel by covering topics that are top-of-mind for run specialty and independent brick and mortar shoe stores with a significant run business as we all continue to work toward finding that “common ground.”

-Jeff Nott, Publisher