Fleet Feet, the largest franchisor of locally owned and operated running stores, announced that it has agreed to acquire JackRabbit, the second-largest running specialty retailer in the U.S., from affiliates of CriticalPoint Capital. Terms were not disclosed.

The transaction is expected to close in early December 2021 and includes approximately all 60 JackRabbit locations across 15 states and its jackrabbit.com e-commerce business.

“This acquisition creates a nationally connected and supported network of 250 community-based retail stores, all poised to deliver an exceptional experience for customers, and I couldn’t think of a better outcome for all involved,” said Joey Pointer, CEO and President, Fleet Feet. “We’ve reached this pivotal moment thanks to hard work by a lot of people; in particular, the work of the hundreds of JackRabbit employees across the country who, like all of us in retail, have faced a lot of challenges over the past 18 months. On behalf of Fleet Feet’s Store Support Team, store owners, operating partners, managers, outfitters, and more, I welcome these employees to Fleet Feet and look forward to adding their passion, leadership and expertise to our brand.”

Fleet Feet said its acquisition of JackRabbit is the latest strategic investment the brand has made in its brick and mortar footprint in 2021. Over the past 10 months, it acquired four franchise locations as a part of its succession plan for retiring owners, acquired FITNiche, a Central Florida independent running retailer with three locations and opened five stores with an additional two stores planned to open by the end of 2021.

JackRabbit, originally called the Running Specialty Group, was founded in 2011 as a specialty running store consolidation effort by The Finish Line. In 2017, affiliates of CriticalPoint Capital acquired JackRabbit and focused on accelerating its omnichannel growth through a digital strategy.

With this transaction, Fleet Feet said it plans to bolster the omnichannel approach by infusing its brand experience at critical customer touchpoints. At retail, Fleet Feet will incorporate the brand’s fit id 3D foot scanning outfitting equipment into all locations by the end of Q1 2022. Digitally, jackrabbit.com will redirect to fleetfeet.com as soon as the transaction finalizes in early December. Long-term, Fleet Feet will transition all JackRabbit branding to Fleet Feet by the end of 2022.

“We believe that with the right running partner, there’s no limit to how far we can go,” said Bill Kirkendall, CEO, JackRabbit. “In Fleet Feet, JackRabbit has found an incredible partner for the long haul that will benefit our brand, staff, customers, and communities, and we can’t wait to move forward together.”

In addition to its retail footprint growth, Fleet Feet said its sales have grown, resulting in the brand’s “strongest performance in its 45-year history.” Buoyed by consumer product demand and the brand’s investment in its digital strategy, distribution capabilities and retail experience, August 2021 became the company’s “all-time highest sales month with system-wide sales up 34 percent year-over-year.” Fleet Feet said sales have remained strong throughout the third quarter, “with combined brick and mortar sales up 33 percent and digital sales up more than 32 percent compared to Q3 2020.”

Fleet Feet first opened its doors in Sacramento, CA in 1976 and now has 191 locations in 37 states and a national headquarters in Carrboro, NC.

JackRabbit, with about 60 stores, is part of CriticalPoint’s Running Specialty Group, operator of the JackRabbit, Olympia Sports, Clever Training, Surf Outfitter, and shoes.com. Following its initial purchase of Running Specialty Group in 2017, CriticalPoint increased its presence in the active lifestyle category in 2017 through a joint venture with Rogue Training, a training company for runners and again in 2018 with the acquisition of Clever Training, a provider of fitness technology and accessories. In October 2019, it acquired Olympia Sports to expand its presence in the Northeast, and in January 2021 it acquired shoes.com. In January 2021, CriticalPoint’s Running Specialty Group platform had approximately 130 retail stores across the U.S.

Photo courtesy JackRabbit