For months, Medved Running & Walking Outfitters in Rochester, N.Y., had been plotting the debut of its online store. The stateside arrival of COVID-19 accelerated that action and has subsequently helped the family-owned run specialty shop endure as its brick-and-mortar store remains closed to the public.
“The online store’s been going well,” reports Dan Medved, second-generation owner of the 36-year-old retail outlet that bears his surname. “We had been working on flipping the switch [with e-commerce], and COVID-19 put a charge into that.”
On March 19, Medved’s online store went live with thousands of products ranging from top-of-the-line performance running footwear to reflective vests and energy gels. Other running retailers across the U.S. have similarly debuted or broadened their existing e-commerce presence amid COVID-19, including Ohio-based Second Sole and Naperville Running Company in suburban Chicago.
“In the short-term, e-commerce is the most efficient way to make sales and service customers,” Medved says.
While Medved Running & Walking had a short-lived e-commerce play in the mid-2000s, store leadership discontinued online sales amid soft ROI and frustrating inefficiencies. Late last year, however, store leadership explored resurrecting e-commerce, acknowledging vast changes to the retail landscape and improved technology that could more seamlessly incorporate store inventory.
“We felt it was important to let customers know what we have so they could pre-shop, while we also recognized that a good chunk of people in 2020 want to shop online. We might as well give them the opportunity to shop on whatever platform they want,” Medved says.
Over recent months, a team led by full-time employee Dave Farrands laid the groundwork for Medved’s e-commerce launch, a diligent process of tweaking descriptions, photos and the like to ensure a polished online presence. As restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic mounted in mid-March, however, Medved’s e-commerce efforts transitioned from a marathon to a sprint.
“We were adapting to COVID-19 by promoting curbside pickup, phone orders and free shipping, but the online piece took on greater urgency as COVID-19 spread,” Medved says.
The day after Medved Running & Walking’s online store went live, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential business in the Empire State to close on March 22.
With his company’s online store now active, Medved has spent recent days sharing the news via social media posts, including videos on YouTube and Facebook. Farrands, meanwhile, has continued incorporating product, a seemingly never-ending task that included adding over 2000 shoes to inventory on March 25.
Medved says many customers are grateful that their running store remains accessible in these uncommon times. One man, in fact, posted a screenshot of his online order receipt on social media, saying that he was happy to be supporting his local running store.
“An online store doesn’t replace the sit and fit, but, in both the short term and moving forward, it’s another way for us to engage customers,” Medved says.