03/06/2010 - 00:00

Pair has passion to run their own race

03/06/2010 - 00:00

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JASON Nuttman started West Perth-based The Running Centre with Raf Baugh after more than 15 years in the retail and brand management business.

Pair has passion to run their own race

JASON Nuttman started West Perth-based The Running Centre with Raf Baugh after more than 15 years in the retail and brand management business.

With a marketing and business development background, Mr Nuttman spent a number of years with Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company.

After working to set up consumer-friendly and well-designed retail outlets, he last year decided it was time to take all his experience and develop a retail outlet focused on his passions – running and triathlon.

“The opportunity arose when my athletic coach (Raf Baugh) and I were talking while running one day,” Mr Nuttman told WA Business News.

“Raf Baugh is a pro-athlete and physiotherapist. His background has given us valuable insight and credibility in the Australian market, both with his athletic accomplishments and his successful running coaching business, Front Runner.

“Both Raf and I had a real passion for starting a small business focusing on running in WA and our unique skills combined well to allow The Running Centre to be born.”

In just five months, the small business has amassed 1,500 customers, with its product range even securing the endorsement of elite athletes including Steve Moneghetti.

The business’s competition is categorised in four areas: large national outlets such as Rebel Sport; online retailers; local franchised stores such as The Athletes Foot; and local speciality sports retailers such as Runners World.

Targeting keen athletes and people with active lifestyles, The Running Centre has developed a fitting process overseen by Mr Baugh.

The process ensures that the company fits correct styles of sports shoes to an individual’s foot.

With many of the bigger players “price fighting”, Mr Nuttman said The Running Centre needed a different approach to compete.

“We faced rather large challenges in developing the business and acquiring brands that we could range in store,” he said.

“Many of the existing retailers in Perth had agreements with suppliers and the suppliers were very reluctant to deal with us.

“We were continually faced with objections and challenges from suppliers and many times Raf and I were left scratching our heads asking ‘why are we the ones having to plead to suppliers to sell their products? Shouldn’t they be asking us to be a part of our business?’

The root cause of this objection, and what suppliers were asking the business partners, was why they were different to the existing retailers in Perth, and why should the suppliers risk upsetting existing customers?

Despite this hurdle, the pair pushed on and slowly, after gaining approval to stock Asics – a key brand in the Australian sports market – many other suppliers agreed to be come on board.

The business partners developed a comprehensive plan that led to the development of a unique fitting system and training of staff in shoe fitting.

“We wanted to strive to be a running store set up by runners, with runners working in it all with a technical understanding of running,” Mr Nuttman said.

“As we faced these challenges we refined our business model and used some of the objections from suppliers initially as the basis for some of our key business decisions. Where we located the business as an example, that is West Perth, as there are no other competitors in West Perth selling similar brands.”

The partners also invested many hours of research and, coupled with their years of experience in coaching running squads, recognised that a very high proportion of clients were medium to high socio-economic people who were time restricted but aware of the need for a professional, medically-based running specialist.

Market research showed that many consumers fell into two categories: those aware of the need for correct footwear and actively searching for expert retailers; and consumers who do not know about correct footwear fitting and buy on price.

“Our main competitive advantage is we are a small business that only employs runners who understand intimately the equipment we sell and are trained and monitored by a qualified physiotherapist,” Mr Nuttman said.

“Only having one shop allows us to maintain this consistency of service and level of expertise.

“The consumer who does not know about correct foot ware fitting and buys on price … our biggest opportunity is in the runner who has not been correctly fitted in the past, they are also our biggest challenge.

“We need to educate people about the importance of proper shoe fitting to ensure injury-free kilometres, nothing is more frustrating for someone wanting to get fit, get past an injury or work towards a goal than being sidelined by incorrect equipment that leads to an injury.”

 

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