Are you seeing more interest in pickleball from run specialty shops and do you anticipate further growth?

Doug Thielen: In the last year, more retailers than ever have expressed interest in pickleball equipment. Target just made waves with an in-store pickleball display and along with Target, our products are sold in numerous big-box stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Costco. As pickleball continues to surge in popularity, more specialty retailers are getting involved with the game. The growth over the last 18 months has been tremendous — we’ve experienced demand at numerous specialty events, including The Running Event and the PGA Show – and we anticipate this trend and our partnerships within the industry to continue growing. 

What’s driving the growth of pickleball at run specialty? 

The primary factors are community, fun and trust. Running stores are the hub of the running community and the staff at these shops are the de facto ambassadors, gurus, coaches and facilitators of fun. These shops are known for their knowledge and what better way to get your pickleball questions answered than by an expert you already trust? 

And the next step is …?

As pickleball grows, athletes and recreational competitors are finding the sport while bringing their active lifestyles with them. It’s a natural evolution that runners will fall in love with pickleball and that pickleballers will find a sense of belonging within the running community. Pickleball provides a low-impact alternative for runners, enhancing agility and speed, which complements traditional endurance training. The social nature of pickleball is reflected in the running community [in which runners] support each other as they reach their personal goals. 

Are you seeing crossover between running and pickleball consumers?

Yes, there’s a significant crossover. Many runners are incorporating pickleball into their fitness routines for its competitive, yet fun, nature. As an ultrarunner and former triathlete myself, I love the intersection of these two sports and communities. From a fitness perspective, pickleball is a fantastic activity to add to my active recovery days because I can still dynamically move, just in a different way than my time on the trail. This crossover is driving demand for sport-specific gear and accessories in running stores. 

What sorts of products do you recommend running specialty retailers carry?

To cater to all players’ needs, it’s imperative to offer a variety of products, but we’ve seen running specialty retailers do well by selling intermediate and advanced products. Additionally, our wholesale staff does an amazing job setting up our running retail partners for success, ensuring they have the product knowledge and know-how to exceed customers’ expectations. 

Is Selkirk planning to expand its offerings or develop particular products or collections for running stores?

Selkirk is excited to continue its growth within the specialty sporting goods retail space. We are developing new products, including a highly anticipated line of pickleball court shoes, designed to meet the unique needs of pickleball players and fit seamlessly within the specialty sporting goods retail environment. 

You can’t play pickleball in running shoes, right?

It is advantageous for running specialty stores to offer pickleball-specific court shoes because running shoes are not ideal for pickleball. Traditional running shoes are designed to support the heel-to-toe movement used for running, whereas pickleball shoes are designed to support the lateral movements and quick directional changes executed during a game. Running shoes also do not provide the same grip as a pickleball shoe, so they can be dangerous to wear during high-intensity matches. Offering a court-specific shoe gives retailers another opportunity to drive additional traffic and purchase incidents. 

What do you currently offer running specialty retailers regarding merchandising?

Selkirk continues to develop innovative merchandising options for our retailers, including display stands and informational signage, to educate customers about our products. Understanding the importance of effective merchandising in the running space, we aim to equip our retail partners with all the necessary tools and information to empower them for successful sales. 

What advice do you have for running specialty retailers that are interested in the pickleball category?

There are a number of pieces of advice I can give.

First, for retailers looking to enter the pickleball market, it’s crucial that your staff is well-educated about the game. Hosting demo days can greatly enhance staff knowledge and customer engagement by allowing both to try equipment and learn the basics first-hand. 

Next, incorporating pickleball into your offerings can diversify your product range and attract a broader customer base. This fast-growing sport has a robust community aspect that can increase store traffic and customer engagement. Even including a few key product offerings – such as a couple of paddle brands, balls and paddle accessories – can pay dividends in terms of growing your customer base. 

Then, successful retailers often incorporate programming that connects directly with the community. Whether setting up a test court in-store or hosting a booth at local tournaments, these strategies enhance retailers’ reputation as knowledgeable and reliable equipment providers. Additionally, we’ve heard of stores offering lessons or mixing up their weekly run club locations to start or end at a pickleball court for a little friendly competition post-5K. 

Any final thoughts?

Running, especially trail running, has such a strong community aspect that I find relates to pickleball. It’s really unique and equally as infectious. From a retail perspective, the local specialty running shop is the hub of that community and runners are always looking for another reason to stop by. I love that specialty retail can be the intersection of these two communities — to not only grow both sports, but also foot traffic.