Owning Get Fit is actually Karen Roberts’ second career. She spent more than 20 years in education as a teacher, coach, counselor and administrator. “Helping people is my passion, whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, or now through my store,” she tells Running Insight. She opened Get Fit in 2009 with two employees in a 1500-square-foot space and expanded it in 2014. The store is now 5000-square feet with a staff of 18 team members. She views Get Fit as a place to not only equip customers with the right gear for running, but also to guide them on their fitness journey, which is reflected by its mission statement: “Encouraging and strengthening our community through activity.”

So, how has the past year been for you, personally and professionally, in dealing with the pandemic?

Despite having to close our doors from March 31-May 8, 2020 was the best year thus far for Get Fit. COVID forced us to adapt in creative ways to meet our customer’s needs. We expanded our online presence, offered curbside fittings and delivery and even performed virtual fittings.

Why do you think the store was so successful?

I think working from home and gyms being closed encouraged a lot of people to begin walking or running for their mental and physical health. During that time, it was important to me for Get Fit to be a resource for them. On a personal note, I had COVID in August and was able to run most days of my illness.

That’s impressive for you. So what’s a typical day like now?

My typical day has not changed much. I am usually able to get a run in before work and have gotten back in the gym to do some cross training. These activities have certainly allowed me to stay fit and be mentally available for my team and my customers.

Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a professional in the run specialty business?

I see myself as a strong woman in a business that is still male dominated; however, I see more women emerging as owners and leaders throughout the industry.

Many people feel that run specialty is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. Do you agree with this?

I would agree with that. I think that run specialty, as a business, reflects the running space as a whole, which is equally represented by men and women.

What makes your local running community unique?

Unlike many cities that have run specialty stores, Amarillo does not have a network of running trails or bike paths. This obviously makes running a bit more challenging here. Our running community consists of determined men and women, many of whom turned to running to lose weight and regain their health, who are also fiercely loyal to my store.

What do you think you bring to your business with a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues?

The overall aesthetics of the store and our merchandising are more feminine than male-owned run specialty stores — not that it’s better, just more a reflection of what I think looks good.

What do you think you bring to your business with a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues?

I’m not sure if being a woman has helped me reach more female customers, but I do think it’s helped me to retain more female customers. Our top customer demographic is women in their 30s to 50s and I happen to share that demographic.

Does that influence your buying decisions?

Of course I look at sales analytics, but I often rely on my gut when ordering merchandise. Our success with women’s apparel may be a reflection on our being owned and managed by women.

What advice would you give to other run specialty retailers about reaching out and merchandising to female runners?

You have to keep it fresh, constantly bring in new things and keep up with the latest trends. And social media is a powerful tool for reaching female customers. We regularly post new arrivals on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

And what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business?

If it’s your passion, surround yourself with knowledgeable folks who will guide you through the process. When I decided to make the transition from education to owning my own business, I began by talking to everyone I could find who had experience in the running business. Run specialty is a great group of people who, like runners, want to help others succeed.

Finally, what are you expecting for you and your store in 2021 and what is it going to take to achieve that?

I am expecting great things for Get Fit for the rest of 2021. We are on track to have our biggest year ever in sales.

That is great to hear!
I very much have a growth mindset and am always looking for ways to improve, whether it’s hiring an ultra runner to coach me through my next 100 mile race, or enlisting the help of a math tutor to give my kids an edge on their SAT, I believe there’s always room to get a little better than before.

Anything specific planned?
This year at Get Fit we will continue to grow our online presence, both through social media and our e-store. We are also focused on increasing leadership in our staff this year. We have the best customers and I want to serve them better than ever this year!