Q. What do cat food and running have in common?
(Hint: the answer has more to do with shopping habits, not the actual products.)
The recent swallowing of Whole Foods by Amazon had Chicken Littles everywhere proclaiming the impending death of large retailers, including my wife’s favorite haunt, Costco. So I visited my favorite investing website. Did they think Costco was in trouble? One commenter didn’t think so.
“Cat food at Costco must be really expensive,” the poster wrote. “Whenever my wife goes there to pick up some cat food the bill ends up being $150.00.”
Uh-oh. My wife had just been there, and for the same reason. Was the cat food just as expensive at our Costco? See for yourself:
Now I could get snippy about this, but it’s not worth it for two reasons: 1) I do not like sleeping on the couch, and 2) it would make me a hypocrite. For I suffer from the same syndrome, just at a different store.
Last fall we visited our daughter in Richmond and as usual we wound up in Carytown, a shopping district loaded with specialty shops and restaurants. My wife and daughters got sucked into the kitchen supply store, and when my tolerance for the place ran out, I told them I was heading to the nearby running store “just to look around.”
Which I did. And talked running with the staff. And tried on some shoes. And bought a pair. They didn’t cost as much as the Costco cat food, unless you throw in the other stuff I got. I blame my family for leaving me in there so long. But I did need those shoes. For some race or other. I forget now.
So you might think that local running stores are safe from the online competition that plagues other small retailers. Well, kind of. And kind of not. Although the number of people running continues to grow, sales are flattening out, and small independent stores are being acquired by larger chains, although many try to preserve that small, local atmosphere. Read more about this here.
While I’m a bit intimidated inside a Costco, a running store feels more like a club to me. I much prefer to “try before buy” with running shoes and gear, and I appreciate the staff’s knowledge (and that they’ll talk running with me). It’s also fun to try out new shoe styles or concepts; it’s where I found out I liked the ultra-padded Hoka One One, and don’t care for Newtons, with their convex soles.
So I get most of my running gear at stores rather than online. But ultimately, quality of the experience makes the difference. Do they have a good selection, reasonably priced? Are they willing to take the time to find something I like? And how well do they know what they carry? The day I get the attitude of, “I don’t know, this is what we got” (think Radio Shack’s last years) is the day I find another store, local or not.
So my wife came into the running store eventually to find me, and I rather sheepishly showed her the shoes I’d purchased. We ended up there a bit longer while she picked out some socks.
If Costco ever decides to sell running shoes, I am in BIG trouble.