Small Business Story: Road Runner Sports Relies on Customer Experience

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Noah Bloomberg, Baruch College

Small Business: Road Runner Sports

Road Runner SportsI have always loved running. It provides freedom, time to think, an endorphin rush, and a way to decompress. Running isn’t just an activity for me though; it’s a culture. No one place on the planet has provided a home for the running culture I identify so strongly with more than Road Runner Sports. Located just 15 minutes from my house, Road Runner sports is a running specialty store that caters to runners of all ages and skill levels. I started shopping there when I was 15, started working their when I was 18, and still pop in every now and again as a 20-year- old college sophomore when I need some new equipment.

The best part about RRS is not the products or the physical building but the service. Part of the training for sales fit experts at RRS is giving the customer a WOW experience. I’ve received the WOW experience as a client and provided it as an employee. It makes people fall in love with their running shoes and inspired to exercise. It’s a by-product of every purchase at Road Runner Sports. It’s something that only exists within the physical confines of the store. It can’t be received with an online purchase.

My biggest fear for businesses like Road Runner Sports that thrive from their specialty in service is the risk they are facing as customer service is disappearing and is no longer needed in our internet evolved world. Everything nowadays can be provided instantly with the touch of a button. As major product suppliers today like Amazon grow larger and larger, brick and mortar stores are suffering as they can’t compete with the prices and the convenience that amazon provides with their Amazon Prime delivery. The last vestigial advantage of shopping in a store–aside from face to face customer service – was getting a product on that day. Now that Amazon offers same day delivery, that advantage is starting to disappear and people have less reason to leave their homes to buy anything.

When a customer buys a shoe or any other product at Road Runner Sports, they aren’t just paying for the product. In return for their purchase, they get personal attention, studied and tested information about the product, a new friend who introduced himself and learned their name, and they get an experience that cannot be replicated with an online purchase whether it be from a phone or a computer. For the majority of people; however, price and convenience are the determining factors of how they are going to shop for products; not “good service with a smile.” This mentality of convenience over everything is what threatens great stores and shopping communities such as RRS.

For the last seven years, I have been running in the same size 12 Brooks Revenna running shoes. I know my size, I know the brand, and I trust it. As of right now, I can have a pair of Ravennas shipped to my house within a few hours for 15 dollars cheaper than I can get them at RRS.

Is loyalty to a store really worth higher prices? Do other customers think about their relationship to a store as much as I do? Is society better off without brick and mortar stores? Road Runner Sports is just one specialty store with great service at risk due to Amazon’s rise to power. There’s no saying in which direction the Amazon prime delivery trend is heading or how fast, but I think consumers need to take a moment and consider what the true cost of cheaper prices is when ordering from Amazon.