Comparing Gainesville’s Running Stores – Part 2

Welcome back to day two of the 2011 Gainesville Running Store Royal Rumble.  Yesterday’s battle tested Gainesville’s four running-specific stores in the areas of parking availability, location and overall accessibility.

After two royal rumble rounds, Lloyd Clarke Sports and The Sports Authority, both 1-0 in competition, are looking down at Fit2Run and Gainesville Running and Walking, both 0-1 and one loss away from elimination.

Round 3: Online Presence

Lloyd Clarke Sports: LCS has an easily navigable website that allows customers to browse the inventory and shop online.  The store updates its Facebook page regularly, and LCS does have a Twitter account, but it has not been updated since September.  The store’s Digg and StumbleUpon pages are completely inactive.

Fit2Run: Turn on your speakers, and you’ll immediately notice why I can’t bear to be at F2R’s website for any extended period of time.  Aside from the unpleasant background noise, the site is easy to navigate and frequently updated, but does not offer online shopping.  The store’s Facebook page is updated daily, and they also an active Twitter account.

Gainesville Running and Walking: Google “Gainesville Running Store” and the first listing will be for GRW.  Props.  Unfortunately, the website is basic and bare.  No online shopping, and the “Products” page really needs some work.  GRW does update its Facebook page, but does not have a Twitter account.

The Sports Authority: With over 450 stores, SA had better have a functional website, and it does.  Phew.  You can browse the store’s products and shop online, too.  Facebook page? Check. Twitter account? Ditto.  The force is strong with this one.

Round 3 Winner: The Sports Authority (2-0)

Round 3 Loser: Gainesville Running and Walking (0-2) *Eliminated*

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The standings after three rounds:

The Sports Authority (2-0)

Lloyd Clarke Sports (1-0)

Fit2Run (0-1)

Gainesville Running and Walking (0-2)

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Round 4: Customer Service

Lloyd Clarke Sports: I’ve been to LCS roughly 10 times in the past two years, and I’ve never been disappointed with the service or attention I’ve received.  I’ve found the salesmen and women at LCS to be extremely knowledgeable about footwear and also about running form in general.  Furthermore, I recently had an employee go out of her way to answer a set of questions I had about Vibram FiveFingers for my Vibram trend piece.  Much appreciated.

Fit2Run: The Gainesville Fit2Run has only been open since August, but I’ve had a chance to visit the store three or four times now.  The employees have been friendly each time, and the ones that I’ve chatted with were serious about their own running.  In fact, I always seem to end up in a discussion about neat places to run in the area, and I’ve learned about a few new spots because of the Fit2Run staff.  They’re also very knowledgeable about the store’s products; earlier this week I was explained the difference in outsoles among the various FiveFingers shoes and how those outsoles cater to different running surfaces.  On the other hand, I have emailed the store’s owner twice now (his email address is available on the website) and have received no response either time.

The Sports Authority: I have visited Gainesville’s SA three times now, and I’ve always left with the same general impression of the employees there.  They are friendly and willing to help, but if you have specific and/or detailed questions about, for example, a particular pair of running shoes, you’ll likely have to ask elsewhere.  When I visited the store earlier this week, the salesman helping me was happy to retrieve a pair of shoes my size from the back of the store (twice) but admitted he was not a runner and didn’t seem to know any more than I about the shoes I was trying on.

Round 4 Winner: Lloyd Clarke Sports (2-0)

Round 4 Loser: The Sports Authority (2-1)

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The standings after four rounds:

Lloyd Clarke Sports (2-0)

The Sports Authority (2-1)

Fit2Run (0-1)

Gainesville Runing and Walking (0-2)

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Round 5: Running Product Selection

Lloyd Clarke Sports: By my count, LCS has about 190 men’s running shoes on its shoe wall and about 200 women’s shoes on the wall.  There are about 10 pairs of shoes, at any given time, on sale and set aside from the shoe wall.  LCS also carries 17 styles of Vibrams, as well as other minimalist shoes.  Some other running-specific products you’ll find in the store include: socks, compression sleeves, shorts, shirts, flasks, gels, watches and too others more to include here.

The Sports Authority: The SA has two small shoe walls for men’s running shoes and two more for women’s running shoes, with each wall holding 35 shoes.  The store also has a Nike shoe wall holding some 50 pairs of shoes.  There are also roughly 10 pairs of shoes on sale and set aside from the shoe walls.  The SA does not carry Vibram shoes, but does carry other minimalist shoes including, as of Tuesday, adidas’ venture into the minimalist world: the adidas adiPure Trainer.

Fit2Run: Fit2Run, like the SA, has two shoe walls, one for men and one for women, each holding about 150 pairs of shoes.  The store carries seven styles of Vibrams for men and nine styles for women.  Although there are no obvious shoe sales, F2R does offer a 10 percent discount on all store mechandise to its Club Fit2Run members.  F2R also has an obscene amount of running accessories including: apparel, watches, gels, powders, magazines, muscle-massage devices and much more.

Round 5 Winner: Lloyd Clarke Sports (3-0)

Round 5 Loser: The Sports Authority (2-2) *Eliminated*

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The standings after five rounds:

Lloyd Clarke Sports (3-0)

Fit2Run (0-1)

The Sports Authority (2-2)

Gainesville Running and Walking (0-2)

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Come back Monday, when I will crown the 2011 Gainesville Running Store Royal Rumble Champion.  Will it be Gainesville’s established veteran running store, Lloyd “Lightning Foot” Clarke Sports, or will it be the brash newcomer, “The Fabulous One” Fit2Run?

-Ben

About Benjamin Markus

Media professional seeking employment opportunities.
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