Runners are all about overcoming obstacles. But for three-plus years, Atlanta’s West Stride has had a lot more than a hurdle to leap.
“There was a big pile of dirt in front of my store,” owner Genie Beaver said with a laugh, recalling the lengthy construction of a Whole Foods in the shopping center that houses her business.
Aside from the large visual distraction, sections of Paces Ferry Plaza were fenced off while the construction took place, and several businesses were forced to leave to make room for the supermarket. It also left many West Stride customers wondering about the status of the business.
“We had a call a day asking if we were still open,” Beaver said.
Despite disruptions, the storeowner said sales didn’t fall off precipitously. According to Beaver, the company took a hit in 2017 and remained flat the next year. But after the Whole Foods opened on Dec. 12, 2018, sales at West Stride skyrocketed.
In the last four months, Beaver said the store has experienced bumps of 30% and 40%.
She explained, “Our existing customers are checking in more frequently, and we’re also getting new people who have never seen us before. That combination makes a big difference.”
West Stride’s brand partners couldn’t be happier that the store is back on track. “They are a phenomenal partner. When we have a new shoe that’s ready to launch, they’re always first in line to say, ‘Yup, we’ll carry it for you,’” said Matt Weber, Brooks’ sales rep for Georgia and Alabama. “They support our initiatives, they carry our full line from head to toe, and the store is crisp and clean — it’s a perfect retail environment.”
Weber, who identified West Stride as a top sales volume performer in his region, is also looking forward to seeing how new customers react to its community-focused events, which he said are a hit in the area.
“They do a ton with local schools, which is something a lot of stores struggle with. They do spike nights, where local high school cross-country teams come in and get fitted for spikes, which have really fallen off the map in recent years,” he added. “And they have one of the marquee events in Atlanta [called] Fun, Fit and Feminine, which they put on every year — it’s just gangbusters. They have to cap the amount of women they invite because it’s the hottest ticket in town.”
Although the improvements are welcome, Beaver has had to make several adjustments on the fly because of the influx of return customers and a new, unexpected audience.
“We need to adjust what we’re carrying and have to buy a little bit more. We’re learning about the newer customers, and we may need to have more fitness-type footwear options than we do today, like training shoes,” Beaver said. “Right now, we’re trying to learn our business again because it’s not what it was 10 years ago, and it’s not what it was three years ago.”
Beaver has also discovered developing purchasing trends among the store’s consumer subsets. West Stride’s high school runners are snapping up styles from Nike and New Balance, while its older male shoppers are buying the latest from On and Hoka One One. And female consumers aged 30 to mid-50s — the store’s main demographic — are picking up looks from New Balance, Mizuno and Brooks.
Despite sales growth, Beaver has no plans to use the momentum for expansion. Instead, she’s reinvesting in the 3517 Northside Parkway location, which included an interior remodel that was completed this month.
“I’m satisfied with one store,” she said. “I love having a community shop, I love knowing the people who come in, I love being able to support my staff and keep them for years and years. We’re able to do special things here because we are one door.”
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