The Ones to Watch
Retailers Tell Us Which Brands and Categories Are Trending Up.
In search of the next “big thing,” Sports Insight asks retailers what’s currently moving in-store and what’s trending for the future — with a keen focus on fitness, running and outdoor activities.
The Trail Head - Missoula, MT
Store description: Outdoor specialist that strives to provide superior outdoor equipment, clothing, informational resources and customer service. Just opened a new paddle-specific storefront, as well.
Who we talked to: Todd Frank, Owner
Top emerging brands: “In footwear, Lowa. We also added Bedrock sandals this season. Chaco and Keen dropped way off as distribution opened up in our market.”
Booming category: “We just opened a 14,000-sq ft. paddle sports specific store with rafts, canoes, kayaks. We stock NRS, Aire and Maravia.”
Choosing new brands: “We try to get a sense for the intentions of the brand and maintaining good choices about how to grow. We also talk among others in the Grassroots [outdoor] family of stores. Success can be pretty regional. Having a good channel plan and not favoring the DTC and discount DTC channels is important.”
What looks hot for the future: “Products that people want to see in person like rafts, canoes and stand up paddle boards.”
Social media, yay or nay? “We think using it to build community is a very effective thing, as for product marketing and especially influencer impact the jury is still out.”
Get Fit - Amarillo, TX
Store description: Specialty running store... and so much more. “A place where you can come to share your passion for fitness and meet other people who value a healthy lifestyle. You’ll find motivation through sharing this common goal.”
Who we talked to: Karen Roberts, Owner
Top emerging brands: “Lululemon has made a huge difference in our apparel biz. We’re up 33 percent over last year in apparel. High school kids go directly to it.”
Booming category: “In accessories, Hyperice Hypervolt, which is percussion therapy that works like a gun. It works out knots and increases blood flow. Also, Goodr and Tifosi Swank sunglasses, along with bone conduction headphones.”
Choosing new brands: “We pursued Hyperice Hypervolt after seeing them at The Running Event. We also pick the brains of owners of other running stores.”
What looks hot for the future: “Fun accessories, waterproof headphones. In footwear, On and New Balance continue to grow.”
Social media, yay or nay? “Yes, for consumers asking us questions and us providing a timely response. They may also see a special edition product and ask for it that way. It encourages people to come in when we post new arrivals.”
Outside Hilton Head - Hilton Head, SC
Store description: The Lowcountry’s leading outdoor outfitter. Has two retail locations and also offers group adventures and programs 365 days a year.
Who we talked to: Meghan Cline, Retail Manager.
Top emerging brands: “Shibumi Shades has been a great new brand for us. A light weight alternative to a bulky beach tent.”
Booming category: “Being in a resort town where people typically vacation in the summer, we have seen big growth in our sun protection categories.”
Choosing new brands: “Quality products, exclusivity, vendor partnership and give-back/sustainability.”
What looks hot for the future: “We feel that sun protection and stylish sun protection will continue to grow for us.”
RUNdetroit - Detroit, MI
Store Description: Locally owned, independent running store located in Detroit’s midtown neighborhood. Specializing in running shoes, apparel, nutrition and expert advice for runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.
Who we talked to: Justin Craig, Owner
Top emerging brands: “As Garmin has offered more features such as music streaming and more entry level options, we’re seeing increased interest in devices.”
Booming category: “Our attention on recovery and strength allows for a very high touch customer experience with a small capital consumer investment. In compression, the new CEP 3.0 product is a big improvement over the 2.0.”
Choosing new brands: “We want brands that we would personally use and that are not saturated in the market. Being able to tell a customer that all staff uses the Air Relax pneumatic compression system or that we only wear Swiftwick socks aids in trust-building.”
What looks hot for the future: “We’re going to see continued growth in recovery and strength, including services. Several staff, myself included, are testing a variety of CBD products to learn more.”
Social media, yay or nay? “People are seeking out shoes from On, with interest coming from social media. On the positive side, it drives traffic into the shop. Negatively, I find the fit of On shoes very polarizing.”
The Running Hub - Santa Fe, NM
Store Description: Santa Fe’s “premier running specialty store since 2001.”
Who we talked to: John Lumley, Owner
Top emerging brands: “Goodr Sunglasses. Since bringing them in, our sales of sunglasses has gone up more than 300 percent. In footwear, Altra and Topo for the wide or foot-shaped toe box and referrals from heath care professionals.”
Booming category: “Supportive insoles (Sole, Kneed, Superfeet, PowerStep, etc.) and sandals made by these same vendors.”
Choosing new brands: “Keeping things dynamic is important. I try to drop two or three lines/models which are not producing and add two or three new each year. I started carrying Hokas early during the minimal revolution because it offered my customers a chance to try something completely different.”
What looks hot for the future: “I think Saucony will reap big benefits from Brooks’ current issues. Altra and Hoka One One are the footwear front runners in specialty and I think that will continue. With the exception of insoles and socks, there just is not enough profit for specialty store to invest much in accessories.”
Social media, yay or nay? “Currently my advertising is 90 percent Facebook, Instagram, and emails via our customer data base. I am very close to dropping the other 10 percent.”
Summit To Soul - Washington, DC
Store Description: Athleisure boutique featuring a curated collection of responsibly-sourced athletic apparel and accessories that can take you everywhere from the mat to the mountain.
Who we talked to: Kimberly Wattrick, Founder
Top emerging brands: “Oiselle is a brand that we’ve developed a close partnership with. This year we launched an exciting collaboration with them to be the only store outside of their Seattle-based flagship to carry the extended collection.”
Booming category: “Sunglasses are always a popular item. We carry Goodr and Knockaround. We carry a lot of ancillary products that make great gifts, from Evil Queen candles to The Card Bureau cards.”
Choosing new brands: “We travel to NYC every year for market week to scope out new brands, but we won’t take something just because it’s popular there. Our guiding question remains ‘Is it right for our customer base?’ (from girls in their 20s to women in their 60s!) Usually I’ll test it out before it goes on the shelf. Brands that have a strong ethos are important to us.”
What looks hot for the future: “Transitional items do really well for us, whether it’s a dress from Oiselle made of their sweat-wicking material, or a romper from Beyond Yoga that can be laid back or dressed up, customers love when something can work in more than one scenario.”
Social media, yay or nay? “Customers will walk into the store with a picture of something they saw on our Instagram handle. We also just started producing videos posted to IGTV and YouTube.”