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Interview with Category Manager André Navratil: Connectivity & Community as next steps in running

All of Europe is running—in marathons, city runs, or just as a leisure activity. And no wonder, because with the right clothing and shoes, this is a sport that can be practiced anywhere and at any time of the year. Gadgets that were only used by professional athletes in the past—smart equipment like training watches and trackers—have become part of all runners’ basic equipment now, no matter at what level they are running. They measure every step taken, the speed, pulse and distance run, and form the basic foundation for connectivity in the sport of running. Virtually no other field is seeing as rapid a development as this one. And beyond the technology, runners are looking for a sense of belonging. The SPORT 2000 blog editorial team talked to the Category Manager of Running André Navratil about the latest trends. One thing is certain: Running communities are increasingly becoming a way of life for dedicated runners and have great potential for sport retailer.

André, terms such as connectivity and community are an integral part of the Running Category. How do these approaches change the running segment?

Technical and personal connectivity is gaining ground very fast in the sport of running. For sport retailers this represents a great opportunity to differentiate themselves from conventional stores by building communities and through technological features. Specialized running stores are not just there to provide goods, but have become a popular meeting place for keen runners of all ages and abilities

In what way does SPORT 2000 try to go with this trend?

With the Absolute concept, we have developed a retail format for specialists, which creates a new experience for the customer in the store. In addition to the core competences, such as giving the best advice and individual tailored service of high-quality sporting goods, Absolute retailers also uncompromisingly implement community building. The focus always lies on a selected category. The first doors are already open for the running and team sports. An expansion to the other categories is planned step by step.

How can sports retailers implement the community building approach?

The community building offer has many aspects. Retailers can offer group training courses for various skill levels, seminars about running and the use of high-tech equipment for individual foot analyses. All these offers are popular with customers who are keen runners. One best practice Example is our Absolute Run store in Bonn. The owner has uncompromisingly implemented community building in addition to its core skills. He offers customers weekly training runs together with a professional partner and regular in-store seminars on running. The store also features a 14-meter running track, including a high-speed camera, where customers can test running shoes directly.

What is the challenge for the retailers in terms of running?

In addition to individual advice, the retailer’s future tasks will also be to cover this customer need. The ability to combine all this in one package, connecting all areas perfectly, will be what makes sport retailers successful in the future.

In addition to the overall change in the Costumer Journey in the running segment, there is also what the material trends that will prevail in the future?

Yes, definitely. Comfort, shock absorption and the efficient use of energy provide the greatest opportunity for the manufacturers of running shoes to differentiate themselves on the market. In particular, the trend towards lighter but better shock-absorbing shoes that also improve the rolling tendency of the feet is developing fast. We partner up with the best brands to always offer our customers the latest innovation.

Sustainability is a topic that nowadays not only occupies the industry itself, but also the customers personally. Do you see potential for running?

Sustainability, too, is becoming increasingly important in the running business. Brands are increasingly taking responsibility for ensuring the entire supply chain—from production of the goods to the final disposal of the goods by the end consumer—is as sustainable as possible. The first results from well-known brands are running shoes made partially of recycled materials and the manufacturing of more sustainable sporting fashion.

About André Navratil

André Navratil is the category manager for footwear and equipment for running, training, leisure, team sports and fun sports. As most of his working time is dedicated to running, he prefers more variety in his leisure sporting activities: Some of his most favorite activities include cycling, snowboarding and e-gaming. He trained as an office clerk and retail specialist at ANWR GROUP eG. Navratil worked for SPORT 2000 Germany as product manager for the snowboarding division until 2014, and gained his first experience in e-commerce as joint head of the platform boardscout.de.

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