The COVID-19 Impact … “We immediately found the need to adapt to the times,” says owner Jeff Wells. “We became more concerned for our staff’s and customers’ health safety. We implemented safety practices of thorough and consistent store cleaning and regular checking of staff’s health. We added virtual fittings, home deliveries, curbside pickups and in-store scheduled appointments.” They even added additional phone lines just to be able to respond to the increase in customer questions and concerns.
Store Design and Merchandising … A big change that Fleet Feet Richmond made in 2020 was to increase the distance between its fit stations to provide a safer environment and to meet the state COVID-19 requirements of space and occupancy. In fact, at its Westhampton location it expanded into its adjacent neighbor’s vacant space to add an additional showroom, additional bathroom, meeting room and office space Ñ an increase of 33 percent store space.
Cleaning Up in 2021 … Fleet Feet Richmond plans to maintain the extreme cleaning practices it has taken on during the pandemic. “Our customers and staff seem to have really appreciate our increased effort,” Wells says. Curbside pickup has been very popular and he sees the stores continuing with that, along with appointments on only a small scale because, as he puts it, “our customers really like to have their flexibility of walking right in.”
The Community Link .. “Our relationship with our community has grown even more than it was before,” Wells says of the past nine months. “Our customers have expressed a huge amount of loyalty in shopping with us. They sincerely appreciate all that we do to maintain a safe and happy shopping experience for them.”
Store Expansion … The Westhampton store expansion allowed it to improve its customer experience, while also allowing for the addition of more fit stations Ñ a win-win because the store added space for more customers while maintaining safe distancing.
The Mural … Fleet Feet Richmond added a huge mural on the Westhampton store’s outside wall that depicts its local running community on a riverfront landscape. “We wanted to bring some positive emotions to these difficult times,” he explains.
Getting Social … Social media was used extensively in 2020 to communicate directly to its community all the new practices that allowed them to shop in a safe way and to allow them to choose what shopping method worked best for them. “We also took on the role of providing a positive, upbeat attitude in everything we do,” Wells adds. “These are difficult times and we wanted to be a source of positive light.”
The Vendor Connection … During the pandemic Fleet Feet Richmond has worked closely with all its vendors as partners. “We made early contact with each of them to make any necessary adjustments to payment and terms and to managing our existing inventory as well as future orders,” Wells explains. “All in all, our vendors have made this a much easier course to navigate.”
Looking Ahead É Wells strongly believes that the running market will continue to be relevant Ñ maybe less with traditional events, but more overall because more folks are needing running gear to go on their personal walk or run. “Our stores can be a safe haven for their shopping and more than ever, they are relying on our expertise to fit them in the proper gear,” he says.
The 2021 Challenge for Fleet Feet Richmond … Staffing Ð and everything that goes with it Ð and product availability will continue to be Fleet Feet Richmond’s biggest challenges as 2021 continues to take shape. “More than ever, we must be prepared to meet our customers where they are at and have options to take care of them where they feel comfortable,” Wells says.
Fleet Feet Richmond
Short Pump and Westhampton, VA
Owners: Ashley Wells, Jason Wells and Jeff Wells
History: Ashley, Jason and Jeff Wells brought their many years of combined experience to Richmond in 2014, opening Fleet Feet in the Westhampton neighborhood. A year later, they opened a second location, expanding to the Short Pump area to be able to serve a wider audience of runners and walkers. Over the past six years, Fleet Feet Richmond has fit thousands of runners, collected countless shoes for the less fortunate in Richmond, attended dozens of Sports Backers training team workouts and pre-pandemic hosted fun runs every Tuesday night.
In Their Words: “Our customers make our stores great. We serve a broad range of needs, from people who are looking for comfort on their feet to elite runners. We learn so much from this range of fitting experiences that we are continually growing and able to help more people. Additionally, our staff consistently provides a high-quality and unique shopping experience that keeps our customers coming back. Their product knowledge and need-specific know-how make them the best in the business.”
The Award: “We are so proud and humbled to receive this award for the third year in a row. We strive every day to work in service of the community around us. This award shows us that we are making a difference and living by Fleet Feet’s nine core values.”