Brooks caught up to Asics at Fleet Feet in 2008, but New Balance, Saucony and Nike also gained market share at the chain. As reported, Fleet Feets sales grew 14% to $86 million in 2008 on a 12% comp gain.
“In this environment, Ill take it,” said Fleet Feet, Inc. President Jeff Phillips of the results. According to Phillips, Asics and Brooks are now in a “virtual dead heat” and both hold a commanding share among footwear brands at Fleet Feet. Phillips was also encouraged that New Balance, Saucony and Nike all gained market share this year.
Nikes share climbed back into the double-digits, according to Phillips. “Its good for everyone if Nikes doing well and we have a handful of stores where Nike is the number one or two brand. That wasnt the case two or three years ago,” said Phillips. “Their product is getting better and theyve also improved on what we call ease of doing business.”
Besides good product, New Balance was boosted by the launch of its “No Boundaries” program that encourages beginners to become active. Strong product innovation continues to bolster Saucony, said Phillips. Mizuno also “grew nicely,” but not as much as the others.
A primary focus for Fleet Feet this year will be customer acquisition, particularly finding those that dont normally shop at running specialty shops. A huge success has been the aforementioned “No Boundaries” endeavor, a 12-week program that guides participants through their first 5K run or walk. An overwhelming 90% of franchisees participated in the program in 2008, and the franchise goal this year is to get 10,000 participants into the program across its 90 locations.
“Stores recognize the opportunity and it fits into our strategy of going after customers who arent active and arent runners because, quite frankly, thats where were able to drive growth,” said Phillips. “We dont see ourselves being able to extract more dollars from our existing customer base right now. We need new customers.”
Phillips also suspected that the program helped drive New Balances strength across stores last year as employees getting behind the program also got behind the brand.
Among other outreach programs, a pilot program sponsored by Saucony coming this spring focuses on youth and kids running. Also, an ongoing program with Mizuno reaches out to the medical community.
Besides customer acquisition, Fleet Feets other focus in 2009 will be stressing comprehensive financial management, including inventory controls and keeping accurate financial statements, in light of the downturn.