Acting quickly as the coronavirus pandemic began to make an impact on run specialty retailers – store closings, disrupted supply chains, cancelled races and runs – the Running Industry Association (RIA) reached out to its members in late March to gauge the actual extent of the disruption on its members’ businesses.
The results are startling — offering both bad news and perhaps a ray of hope as the industry reacts to these unprecedented challenges.
“Anecdotally we knew that the channel was in crisis, but it became clear very quickly that without hard data we wouldn’t be able to fully understand what was really going on out there,” explains Terry Schalow, RIA executive director. “We all know it’s bad, but how bad? How are retailers adjusting? What time frame are we looking at before things get truly dire? We needed answers to these questions in order to craft the appropriate support plans.”
Realizing that it was an industry-wide problem, the association sent the survey out on March 24 to every retailer in its database and it is providing the results from the more than 100 retailers that responded to every running brand. “We feel strongly that the entire run specialty community needs to be a part of the solution, so we’re pulling every store and every brand into the conversation,” Schalow explains.
The three major takeaways from the research:
- Retailers are down big in March and expect be down even more in April. But May projections show a bit of expected improvement, so they’re somewhat bullish that recovery is on the not-too-distant horizon.
- The vast majority of retailers in the channel are moving aggressively to keep sales flowing in the face of store closures. For example, they’ve quickly ramped up curbside pick-up and home delivery services and a whopping 91 percent have jumped on e-commerce platforms, or are actively exploring that option.
- The situation needs to improve, fast, or the channel is going to be facing permanent damage. The majority of stores reported that they can only keep paying furloughed employees for one to three months. Even more concerning are the 31 percent of retailers who say that if this crisis extends for that long they’ll be forced to close permanently.
“It’s important for the entire specialty run community to understand the full context of the issues we face so we can collectively work on solutions and, eventually, a plan to emerge from this and get back to business,” Schalow adds.
RIA will be conducting a follow-up survey as the situation develops to better understand the trends. “We certainly hope to see an up-trend, but if not we’ll at least have the data we need to make informed decisions and craft action plans,” Schalow says. “Regardless, without the data we’re just feeling our way around in the dark.”
While this survey addressed the challenges retailers are facing, the association will be sending a vendor survey within the next week so retailers can understand the challenges that their brands face as well.
“Everyone is feeling the pain, but we want to understand the challenges to every facet of the business.,” Schalow concludes. “That information will allow us to focus our energies to ensure that all members of this community are able to meet the challenge.”
Anyone who wants more information is welcome to visit the RIA COVID-19 Resource Guide. RIA has also added the COVID-19 Retail Survey, along with a lot of other helpful information:
RIA Survey Results ...
Current Store Status
(as of March 27, 2020)
Doors Closed 68.4%
Doors Open 10.5%
Open, Reduced Hours 14.7%
March 2020 Sales vs. March 2019
Sales Down 21-40% 25.8%
Sales Down 1-20% 23.7%
Sales Down 41-60% 21.5%
Sales Down 61-80% 14%
Sales Down More than 80% 9.7%
April 2020 Projection vs. April 2019
Sales Down More than 80% 29%
Sales Down 61-80% 23.7%
Sales Down 41-60% 20.4%
Sales Down 21-40% 17.2%
Sales Up or Flat Negligible
Reason for Hope
May 2020 Projection vs. May 2019
Sales Down 21-40% 26.9%
Sales Down 41-60% 18.3%
Sales Down 61-80% 16.1%
Sales Up or Flat 17.2%
Sales Down 1-20% 12.9%
SALES AND MARKETING
What strategies/platforms are you using to capture sales?
Online orders/Shipping from store
Taking advantage of vendor drop ship
Home delivery 67 stores
Curbside pickup 64 stores
No, but exploring it 29.2%
Connecting with customers
Using social media 91 stores
Sending emails 78 stores
Phone calls 33 stores
Laid off or furloughed staff?
Yes, some of staff 49%
Yes, entire staff 21.9%
Paying wages while furloughed?
Yes, but not full wages 22.9%
Yes, full wages 14.3%
How long can you maintain wage support for furloughed employees?
1-3 months 62.5%
Less than one month 35%
Cash reserves on hand
1-3 months 51.1%
1 month 28.9%
3-6 months 15.6%
How many months can you manage to keep your business going before you consider permanent closure?
1-3 months 31.1%
3-6 months 27.8%
6-12 months 12.2%
RIA Unveils COVID-19 Resource Guide
The Running Industry Association (RIA) has assembled an online resource guide to assist the run specialty community during this challenging period. The RIA COVID-19 Resource Guide is a collection of relevant information on a variety of topics to help keep run specialty businesses afloat. The RIA is opening this resource up to members and non-members alike in an effort to support the entire specialty run channel.
Among the topics:
Brand Support Reference Guide
Staying Connected with your Customers
To be added shortly are a number of other topics, including Employee Resources, Peer Sharing and Online Sales Platforms.To access the guide:
Click here for the full RIA report