Though it started out as a small run-specialty store over four decades ago, and remains known for its performance running offerings and acumen, Playmakers has evolved over the years into a self-described “outdoor retailer” known not only for performance running but also a wide variety of footwear and apparel for active, outdoor, run, lifestyle and more. And heading into the summer of 2021, Okemos, MI-based Playmakers is looking at its business as being in a “new normal” state at the moment, according to Playmakers co-owner John Benedict.
“After over a year dealing with the pandemic, it’s definitely a new normal at Playmakers,” he says. The post-pandemic in-store scene at Playmakers includes spaced, numbered shoe fitting stations for customers. And the store’s Team Leaders greet customers as they enter the building, assigning each customer to a staff member. “It works well, but it is a very different experience than pre-pandemic,” says Benedict.
Playmakers is well-known for its footwear offerings as well as for its FIT Process. Over the past year, the store turned that fitting process into a virtual program known as “HomeFIT.” Customers are able to chat with a Playmakers staff member, aka a FIT Specialist, live online (via Google) to get fitted in the right pair of shoes from the comfort of home.
“After over a year dealing with the pandemic, it’s definitely a new normal at Playmakers.”
Footwear was “the shining star” for the store during 2020 and the first part of 2021, says Benedict. “With so many people getting outside in their neighborhoods and on trails, we have seen a nice increase in our footwear sales,” he says.
Categories that have “taken a hit,” according to Benedict include accessories and nutrition. “We think this is likely due to a lack of in-person events and the temporary suspension of our training groups,” he says. “We expect these items will bounce back post-pandemic.”
And optimism abounds for the summer season and beyond. “Our local area has seen a great increase in participation in outdoor sport participation; running, walking, hiking and cycling in particular,” says Benedict. “We don’t need surveys or data to see this. It’s very evident on the roads and trails of our city. We expect things to continue to normalize and we are excited to see this trend in participation increase as we move into the warmer months here in Michigan. More people moving is good for the health of our community and also good for our business.”