Runchella 2022, the Running Industry Association’s (RIA) member summit, took Chicago by storm last month. The sold-out, members-only event hosted 150 retail attendees and 23 brands representing the leaders in each product category. Six “emerging brands” also attended, with invitations based on compelling product stories. 

Retailers were also able to meet with key RIA associate partners, including Fitted, Omni, RICS, Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), Run Free Project, Sports Marketing Surveys and Upper Quadrant.

The Runchella vibe this year was business-focused, with retailers diving deep into data-driven workshops. Among the highlights:

• Buyers focused on amplifying the buying process and inventory planning, while marketing personnel were treated to a “Walk/Jog/Run” format for amplifying their digital promotions.

• In collaboration with the RIDC, the marketing workshop included advice for implementing DEI strategies in an authentic fashion. 

• Store owners at Runchella were invited to join the launch of RIA’s Mastermind Groups, a peer-sharing platform where stores share best practices with each other on inventory, financial benchmarking, key ratios and team building. Retailers walked away from these substantive programming sessions with actionable to-dos and excitement to go home and implement new ideas. They also got the inside scoop on what brands are planning during top-to-top meetings with brand executives.

Connection was definitely the keyword at Runchella this year with brands, retailers and industry folks strengthening relationships and learning from each other in face-to-face interactions. 

“Runchella 2022 was the best yet,” says Brad Altevogt, owner of Three Rivers Running Company. “From the top-to-top meetings to the emerging brand presentations, every session had value. Owners, GMs and buyers all had many opportunities to network with each other, and with brands, to help strengthen the run specialty channel.” 

“Collaboration over competition is a unique and treasured quality of this industry and Runchella embodies this ideal,” adds Kathy Dalby, of Pacers Running. “It also brings together vendors, retailers and other influencers to have invaluable dialogue that helps build our collective businesses.” 

“Runchella is a great way to interact with brands from both the product level and the top sales level,” says Brad Brown, owner of Complete Runner, adding that  he always finds the time spent with fellow run specialty owners invaluable.

Vendors and suppliers also benefitted from the connections made at Runchella. 

“It is always inspiring to talk, meet, eat and drink with the top running store retailers and brands in the USA.” says Monte Keleher, CEO of Fitted. “We celebrated the launch of Single Click and received positive feedback beyond our wildest dreams. Thank you to the forward-thinking business people powering the running store industry.”

And Lora McManus, director of sales at rabbit, echoed those sentiments. “We see our retail partners as the tip of the spear in helping us deepen our connection with local running communities across the nation and Runchella provided us with an insightful and valuable opportunity to present our future line and gain real-time feedback.”