Fleet Feet, Inc., extending a long winning streak, delivered double digit comparative store growth during the first half of the year. Overall sales for the franchisor climbed 12.5% in the six months to $52.6 million, up from $47.3 million one year ago. Comparable store sales grew 11%.
In an interview with Sports Executive Weekly, Jeff Phillips, president of Fleet Feet, Inc., said part of the company's success reflects strength in the overall running category.
“We do over 90% of our footwear business in running products so I can’t really speak to how healthy running is compared to other categories,” said Phillips.”Running as a category and lifestyle is very healthy. The real growth opportunity for us is creating new running customers.”
Indeed, he said the strong performance by many of its franchisees reflects creating in-store environments and tackling grassroots efforts to welcome the running community.
“Our franchisees are doing a terrific job of creating a culture of inclusiveness and belonging that inspires people to live a more fit life,” said Phillips. “We are getting people into motion, from 6-minute milers, to 15-minute-a-mile walkers, to people who are simply looking for comfort from a properly fit pair of shoes.”
He said training programs continue to drive new customers into their stores.
“Our No Boundaries program for beginning runners will attract over 15,000 people this year,” said Phillips. “We are in the process of rolling out a new marketing campaign that captures the inclusiveness of our brand and how each of our locations is building a fitness lifestyle movement in their local communities that is changing people’s lives.”
Results tracked fairly similar in the first and second quarter, but the growth rate did slip a bit. First-quarter sales were up 13.1% overall with comps up 11.6%, while second quarter sales climbed 11.8% overall with comps up 10.2% for the period.
The first-half revenue gains come on top of comparable-store increases of 10% in 2009, 12% in 2008 and 15% in 2007.
Among brands, Brooks has supplanted Asics as the number one footwear brand across its network of stores. Saucony also stood out for its momentum.
“Brooks and Saucony are dialed in right now,” said Phillips.
On the apparel side, Moving Comfort, driven by the strength of their sports bra business, moved into “a dead heat” with Nike for the market share lead in apparel at Fleet Feet.
Asked about the barefoot running phenomenon, Philips said the publicity it has brought to the running footwear category has come with some challenges.
“I think the publicity and consumer interest around barefoot has, by and large, been good for our business,” said Phillips. “The challenge has come with the diversity and proliferation of product in a category with no clear direction.”
Fleet Feet, Inc. also made Inc. Magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year. Ranking 2,697, the Inc. article calculated Fleet Feet's three-year growth at 64%. Revenues, consisting of royalty income, reached $4.2 million in 2009, up from $2.6 million in 2006.
Currently there are 90 Fleet Feet Sports locations nationwide.