This past weekend marked the 10 year anniversary of Running Warehouse becoming an online retailer. As we celebrate this milestone, we are reflecting on how much has changed in the past 10 years.
Started at the bottom, Now we’re here
Running Warehouse started from humble beginnings in San Luis Obispo. With only three employees (Joe, Jonathan, and Jessica) handling the day-to-day operations, everyone had to wear a lot of hats. When I asked Joe Rubio about what his job consisted of back them, he told me: everyone did a bit of everything, from picking and packing orders, to answering emails and phones, working the retail floor, purchasing product, receiving purchase orders and writing descriptions for the website. They balanced working the retail floor, online order fulfillment and custodial duties. But when you are only shipping 5 orders a day helping 5-8 customers a day in retail, you don’t need more staff.
Jonathan noted that once we hit the double digit mark (10) in orders shipped, we maintained at least that number for a week. At that point, he felt the online business would be successful. It only took one month for online sales to out pace the retail store, but the retail store had only started 4 months prior. Nowadays the retail store does 10 times the business it did in 2006 and the online store is 80 times bigger.
With the growth in sales, there was a need to hire more employees. The first part-time employee was hired 3 months after the website went live and two months later 2 more part-time employees were hired. All three were track athletes from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As the business grew, new employees tended to be friends and fellow students of existing employees. As such there was and still is a very friendly vibe at RW. Even now with 80 plus employees.
10 years ago, Running Warehouse carried 50 brands. Nothing to sneeze at, but today we’ve nearly tripled the number and carry 142 brands (though we dropped a few brands along the way). We started with well-known brands like adidas, ASICS, Brooks, New Balance, Nike and Saucony, but had smaller brands like Inov-8, Montrail and Pearl Izumi. While we had a large number footwear brands at the start (17), we have seen some of them go, but have grown our selection to 24 footwear brands. Among them are brands like Hoka One One and Altra, both of whom did not exist when we started.
In apparel, we witnessed the birth of Oiselle, the re-branding of Hind to Saucony (a San Luis Obispo company acquired by Saucony’s parent company) and the acquisition of InSport by New Balance. We carried The North Face apparel line in our first year of business and their first year in the running segment. The fit was initially a little big for runners (needed to size down), but the fabric was right. Now their Better Than Naked line contains some of our best selling shorts and jackets. We started with 15 apparel brands and with the recent addition of Patagonia are up to 26 brands.
In the beginning we didn’t know if people would buy nutrition online, so we started with Gu. Back then they just made gels. Yep, our nutrition category had one product: Gu Energy Gel. We have seen Gu expand their offering to include hydration products, chews (formerly known as Chomps) and ultra endurance Roctane. With the success we had with Gu, it was obvious we needed to expand our nutrition selection. We first brought in Endurox and Accel Gel, then added PowerBar and Clif products. Next was Hammer Nutrition, Nuun, and Honey Stinger. After hearing repeatedly from the college staff that we should carry Sport Beans by Jelly Belly, the product was reformulated and finally met are requirements for a nutrition product. We added Fluid (another San Luis Obispo product) a while back and our most recent additions are Tailwind Nutrition, which has taken the world by storm, and Trail Butter. From one brand to eighteen, nutrition has by far seen the greatest expansion of any of our categories.
In the world of accessories, there were no hydration packs when we started and foot pods were way more popular than GPS for getting speed and distance. Now, hydration packs are our top selling products within hydration followed by handheld water bottles. The Double Bottle belt which once dominated the category, is but a blip on the screen. As far as speed and distance goes, it’s not even really the name of the category anymore. It’s now known as GPS and Garmin reigns supreme. We remember when Nike+ was a big deal with it’s in-shoe, replaceable foot pod, but that no longer exists and new technologies are on the horizon. Where will tech be in 5 years? We hope we are here to find out.
It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyways) that you are why we’re here. With a staff full of passionate runners, we are your friends, your family, and the runners you see while you’re out on your daily run. We’re ultramarathoners, track stars, mom runners, dad runners, lunch runners – you name it. And that’s why we love serving you, our customers. We get you, because we are you. We can relate to your needs, because they are our needs, too. We want to see you succeed as a runner, because your success is our success. We can do this through providing you with the best customer service in the industry and through offering quality products that we have tested. We don’t just stand by you, we run with you.
Thank you for sticking with us for this past decade. Here’s to the next 10 years of doing what we love!