Big Peach Running Company puts a unique spin on retail.
Mike Cosentino, founder and CEO of Big Peach Running Co., a seven-door run specialty retail chain based in Atlanta, made a bold move in August 2018, purchasing a 33-foot vehicle from a company in Marietta, GA that specializes in food trucks. He architected and fabricated his six-figure purchase himself before getting “Big Peach On Wheels” on the road to serve as a mobile, on-site store at schools, races and corporations across Georgia.
“No one would deny, getting closer to someone is a way to become more convenient,” Cosentino says. “I think all [specialty store owners] should be thinking about convenience.”
We caught up with Cosentino to learn about the venture and whether he would advise others in the sports specialty business to give a similar mobile store on wheels a spin.
How did you come up with this idea for the mobile store?
As enthusiastic as I am about Atlanta’s running scene, there are certainly plenty of indications out there that the city has a bit of a traffic problem. We have seven brick-and-mortar stores throughout the area… And people weren’t always willing to take on the challenges [to come into our stores] for a purchase or a group run whether it was the distance, the traffic, the time of day or their personal schedule.
Under a bit of an internal rally cry, which was ‘Convenience is the Battleground,’ we started a few initiatives back in 2012 to try and bring our guests closer to us... We opened a couple of stores that we are glad we opened, but at the same they were not penetrating [with potential customers] deep enough. As we continued to push forward, recognizing ‘Convenience is the Battleground,’ Big Peach on Wheels became the concept that started to gain some traction. We felt we had to go forward with it even though it was not going to be inexpensive or easy. If we were serious about winning a battle and ultimately proving our merit in the war of convenience, we just had to give it a shot.”
What were the start-up costs like?
“It’s a lot more expensive than what we invested in same-day delivery, although it’s less expensive than opening a new store depending on tenant improvement allowances and things like that. It was in the six figures.”
How does Big Peach On Wheels operate and integrate with your traditional brick-and-mortar business?
In terms of operating and integrating, it’s really two-fold, and it works both ways. We have a general manager of Big Peach On Wheels. It operates as a separate business unit from any of our brick-and-mortar locations. Just like we want healthy, friendly competition among our stores, we also want to have a culture where we are serving our mission and doing what it takes to exceed the expectations of our guests.
We can carry $100,000 worth of inventory on the truck based on the way we’ve built some stocking mechanisms. We are able to pull up the store inventory as we use the same point-of-sale system. For our Big Peach On Wheels guests, we can click a few buttons and have a product shipped to his or her residence or address of choice from one of our stores.
On the flip side, Big Peach On Wheels becomes an opportunity for our stores. For example, right now in the Southeast, we’re in the middle of cross-country season. And what used to be ‘Spike Nights’ in the store for student-athletes... instead of asking them to come to ‘Spike Night,’ it’s like, ‘We will come to you.’ We’ll be there courtside, in your parking lot, alongside your track. And there’s value to Big Peach On Wheels and these stores fulfilling orders for it.”
Where have you taken Big Peach On Wheels in the last 12 months? What has been the general consumer response?
“Schools and corporations — those are somewhat obvious. The other place everyone thinks about is being at races. There certainly is a presence when you have a 33-foot truck at the finish line. There is a possibility that you will pick-up some sales either before or after the race. People often expect that to be a big percentage of the business, and we have found so far that is not necessarily the case. There are some races that do better than others. And it’s not always the biggest races.
Schools are absolutely one of the areas we are trying to crack. We believe like Under Armour, which may not say it the same way today, that ‘athletes run.’ There is tremendous truth in that and why we are also serving the women’s softball team, and the men’s lacrosse team and maybe also the men’s and women’s soccer team. This is one of those big opportunities for us because we can come to them — whether it’s alongside a soccer field or a track, it makes no difference to us.
The corporate environment in Atlanta gives us a little bit of a head start. I think we have been to every Fortune 50 company — Delta, UPS, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz and others. But at the same time, it’s the small marketing firm, it’s the engineering firm… It may be an office of 15-25 employees, but if they are all signed up for the Peachtree Race or they are all pursuing a ‘Couch to 5K’ finish, those environments have been terrific for us as well
Apartment communities offer tremendous potential, 55+ communities and complexes where you have social coordinator, or communities with places where people tend to congregate. This is a great way for us to come in, lead a group run or perhaps do a clinic on how to get off on the right foot for your 5K training. Then, of course, Big Peach On Wheels, is able to fully manage the retail element.”
What’s been most challenging and most rewarding in running a store on wheels?
“The thing that’s been most challenging thus far has been staffing. Unlike turning the key every morning, there can be some days when the truck isn’t running or there are two or three events to travel to. Most of the workforce can’t necessarily be as flexible or pliable as that would suggest. We are developing what we refer to as a cadence client — so we now know that in, say, February 2020 that we will be at this location at this particular time of day.
On the rewarding side, it has been seeing validation for the concept, the appreciation for what we set out to do, which is to become more convenient, to give people more reasons to smile when interacting with the Big Peach Running Company. That never goes out of style.”
Would you recommend this mobile concept to other specialty retailers?
“With enthusiasm, some clarity and now some experience that we wouldn’t have had 18 months ago, it is our belief that we need to get more convenient for our guests, our marketplace, our target audience, for those we either want to interact with or expose to the work that the Big Peach Running Company does.
So anyone who is not spending time thinking about ‘How can I become more convenient?’ Shame on them because they’re missing an integral part of how they can better serve their guests... Whether [your store] is in Maine or Manhattan, it’s possible that this could be a good idea for you.”