Running and Then Some
What’s in a name? Adam White is staking the future of his Peoria, IL shop on new branding that honors his store’s running store past, but also nods to the present, where running shoes coexist with lifestyle dresses and outdoor apparel.
In March, White unveiled RC Outfitters, the new identity of Running Central, which he bought in 2008 and has been serving Peoria since 1977.
“Having running in our name was a competitive disadvantage,” White says. “There are more people who don’t identify as runners at all who might now come in. If we’re fit specialists, which we are, why do we set up more hurdles [for everyone to feel welcome]? We sell dresses, we sell denim, we sell khakis, wool sweaters, cashmere sweaters, and winter outdoor coats,” he adds.
The store recently rebranded to broaden its appeal. “There are a lot of people who do our sport who don’t identify as runners, and there are even more people who don’t identify as runners at all who might now come in.”
The merchandise mix has been evolving since White moved the store to its current location five years ago, which gave the store more floor space to play with. Today, the store stocks Dish and Duer performance denim, lifestyle apparel from prAna and Toad&Co, and outdoor looks from Kuhl, Icebreaker and Lole, among others.
“We thought about changing the name when we bought the business 12 years ago, and we ended up changing just the logo,” he says. “But when we moved down here again five years ago, we strongly considered it again: The business had grown, but we had a lot of brand equity in the name, and it seemed with what was happening in the state and local economy compounded with the growth of dot-com business, it was a risky investment. But [since then], we’ve been hearing from people in the community that they’re not catching on to what we have here, and that’s been the nudge.”
After resolving privately that branding needed to change two years ago, White worked with several firms on concepting new logos and names, and on working out the logistics of new branding. (Will a new logo read well embroidered on a polo shirt? How will a new font look emblazoned on an awning?) He also took the time to run his new business plan by vendor partners to get their buy-in — and in some cases, marketing dollars to use for the change. When he had everything in place, he says, he told the store associates and the public that the location was closing for a one-day facelift for the store’s fifth year, and revealed the real reason for the close in an all-staff meeting. (The facelift part wasn’t a fib: To fit the store’s new name, the shop got some new paint and a tweaked layout in addition to new signage.)
Of course, RC Outfitters is still a running store, and in the wake of the new branding, White doubled down to make sure the store’s running customers knew they were still top of mind. The store added more free fun runs, including a Monday night women’s run and a second Saturday run, and White’s sister company, Shazam Racing, offered a timed 5k in celebration of the new store name that was free to the first 400 entrants, and saw a total of 600 people run the Sunday afternoon race.
Merchandise wise, the store is continuing to represent the full run specialty experience: Sneaker options from stalwarts like New Balance, On Running, Saucony, Brooks and Hoka One One as well as emerging styles like Salomon’s road running shoes and 361 Degrees shoes are all on offer.
White says response to the new name has been gratifying.
“The 99.9 percent of the general public who has responded to me as well as to our team members have been overwhelmingly positive and excited. They like the mark and like the name and think it makes sense — and they’re excited about the running expansion,” he says. “And I’ve had numerous people stop me on the street and say they’re going to come in — and they’re not runners.”