No, this isn’t a joke. It’s for real and I need to make a confession.
About 20 years ago, my good friend and mentor Ken Dooley and I decided to have dinner at The Ale House in Newtown Square. As we opened the door to the restaurant, we noticed a new business opening next door. It was a running store. Ken and I began talking about the new store remarking that we didn’t think it would last long. The rent had to be high, they served a narrow niche market and we thought the burgeoning internet would hurt their business. He and I ate at The Ale House a few times over the next year or so until Ken moved out of the area. Every time we ate there we always commented, to our surprise, that the running store was still open.
Fast forward to present day. The running store is still open, although it moved to another location in the shopping center. Ken and I based our inaccurate opinion on only 3 factors: perceived high rent, a perceived small market and the internet. We based our opinion on no research. We didn’t know anything about the market itself and the service provided by the store among other unknown factors. So much for being marketers.
I’m not a runner (if you met me in person, you’d figure that out immediately) but I now buy sneakers at a running store. I choose to shop at a running store because I receive expertise. Good sneakers are expensive and I don’t want to throw money away on potentially buying crappy sneakers. Here’s why good sneakers are so important to me – a few years back I developed plantar fasciitis and a friend recommended Hoka sneakers and he told that he buys his at a local running store. To me, good sneakers are really important. I wear them everywhere.
While still I don’t know anything about the running market, every time I go there to buy new sneakers, the staff member has a brief conversation with me to make sure the Hoka model I’m buying is still the right sneaker for my specific needs. I can buy the same sneaker on the internet for the same price I pay at the store but I can’t get the same service from the internet. Now I know why these stores exist and why the one in Newtown Square survived.
The lesson learned is that some marketing research would have prevented me from making that dopey assumption.