We began converting stores in 2013 and now conversions have become our fastest-growing category.  If you are an independent retailer, converting to Fleet Feet means that you will have immediate access to our industry-leading tools and resources that our franchise has been creating for the last 40 years and we will have access to the knowledge that you have garnered during your ownership.  That is the power of our franchise – the opportunity to work together and share ideas and best practices.  Come and work with us and become part of an exciting network of entrepreneurs who will never be content with the status quo, but will always strive to improve how we serve our customers and communities.

Hear what owners who have converted have to say.

I converted my store with an eye to the future – to make our business stronger and more relevant to our staff and customers.  Take a group of driven owners and combine it with the strong resources of Fleet Feet … that is a powerful combination.

– John Long, Minneapolis, MN, partner since 2014

It’s nice to become a part of a national brand that can provide big initiatives and tools like fit id.  This allows us more time to focus on the hyper-local element of our business -- connecting with and helping every customer who walks through that door with the best advice, products, and service possible.

– Sara Esterby, Clarksville, TN, partner since 2017

We saw an immediate increase in profitability when we converted.  It's the best choice I have ever made.

– Eric Johnson, Springfield, MO, partner since 2016

I met with Fleet Feet and was impressed with their commitment to the running community and the wealth of resources they have available to help stores grow their business.  I came away convinced that partnering with Fleet Feet would be the best way for us to build on our reputation for customer service and expand our reach and involvement in the community. I'm excited about the new products and services we will now be able to offer to our customers, as well the marketing and management expertise they can provide.

  -- Sorita Averill-Fitzgerald, partner since 2018

Conversion FAQ

How does converting to a Fleet Feet benefit me?

Our goal is to help you grow your business by providing tools, resources, and support to make everything you do more efficient and purposeful so that you have more time to focus on the keys to success: customer acquisition, customer experience, and staff development. Learn more about these tools here.

Do I have to rebrand as Fleet Feet?

Most conversion stores rebrand, but some co-brand instead. Either way, it is a slow and deliberate process—sometimes it can take several years. It is typically an “inside-out” approach. This means you will immediately utilize Fleet Feet tools for back of house and, over time, introduce the Fleet Feet name to front of house.

We work with you to create a communication strategy so that your customers understand what’s happening -- that your staff will still be there to help them, that you will continue to support the community, and that you will be able to provide them with additional resources.

What is the cost structure?

We pay you to rebrand and you pay us a royalty fee. The royalty fee provides access to all of our tools and support, the network of business owners around the country, and our corporate office staff (we have expertise in a wide variety of areas including operations, finance, marketing, real estate, store design, and more). Think of it this way: When you start the conversion process, you hire us as your consultants. Our goal is to be your best employee.

What is the conversion process?

It begins with a simple phone conversation so that we can get to know each other and learn how we can work together. If at the end of the call, we all feel interested in pursuing the partnership, we visit you and your store and invite you to our corporate offices in Carrboro, NC, to meet our team. During this time, you can also speak with other franchisees who have converted their independent stores and even attend one of our yearly national conferences. 

After this time and research, if we both feel a sense of alignment, you sign a franchise agreement, and we assign a Fleet Feet coach to oversee your onboarding process and tailor training to your specific needs.

Will the name of my company’s entity change or my vendor accounts?

None of these will change. You will continue to operate under your entity and your accounts and the sales reps with whom you work will remain the same.  These local reps will continue to receive commissions on your account.

Will Fleet Feet open another store in my market?

Upon execution of your franchise agreement, you will receive a protected area consisting of a population base of approximately 200,000 (provided the population does not exceed a 25-mile radius). We will not operate nor allow another party to operate a Fleet Feet retail store within your protected area during the life of the agreement.

Q&A with John Long, Fleet Feet Minneapolis

How long ago did you convert?  This store is still very much my baby.

We converted over three years ago, and we had discussions for a little over a year about converting. Our store was 30 years old when we partnered, and I had been in the specialty business as an owner since 1992. Over the years, I had developed friendships and working relationships with several Fleet Feet owners and senior employees on the corporate side and while I always respected the way they operated and conducted business, I didn’t think I would work with them.  In our market, we had built a long-standing brand in Marathon Sports, and it is still my baby in the sense that I have invested my entire professional and financial interests in the store.

Our business was the 3rd conversion for Fleet Feet. The 2nd store was Maine Running and both of our businesses had long track records of being successful and had been recognized as Top 50 stores many times. But through the owner of Maine Running, John Rogers, I got to know more about what Fleet Feet offers and I began to see how valuable a partnership could be.

What was it about Fleet Feet that made you want to convert?

The high standard the Fleet Feet owners set for improving our run specialty category was what finalized my decision. I saw the power of having 120 owners to work with and share our experiences and ideas with, to move forward and continue to support running and the health of our local communities.

For me, there were also four specific Fleet Feet initiatives that added to the value:

  1. Vendor relations: Joining Fleet Feet has a positive effect on your relationships with the vendors from both a pricing and support perspective. Our bottom line has improved and communications and programs with vendors have been enhanced from a local level to national support.
  2. CFO in a Box Program: We utilize the bookkeeping feature of CFO in a Box and it is invaluable for our team to execute and maximize our profits and maintain a clean and efficient bottom line. 
  3. Online Sales: We have a fulfillment program that allows us to work as a group to sell online and maintain an option for our customers and runners to purchase from locally-owned stores vs. the giants like Amazon and Zappos. This is a powerful tool that as a single door I could never afford to build or maintain.
  4. Marketing Programs: Fleet Feet, Inc. produces relevant and professional assets to use for our own purposes that reduce the time and cost we have to spend while improving our marketing efforts and helping us to acquire new customers.

Did customers express more positive or negative feedback to the conversion?  For example, did they feel like the store wouldn’t have the “local” feel anymore or were they excited about the new possibilities?

Fleet Feet Marathon Sports is the oldest running store in the Twin Cities and our conversion was simple in the fact that we shared our goal openly with our customers and staff -- to improve the business on every level. We co-branded the logos and did this over a period of 36 months to ease the transition and not alienate past customers while introducing it to new and old customers alike.

From a customer and community perspective, nothing changed at all as far as how we operated -- our local commitment and support remained the same. We maintained our heritage in store as far as art/logo and have been blending that over time as new programs arrive such as our fit id 3D scanner. Our customers realized that we were still Marathon and that the owner and employees were the same. Since then, we have improved our service with enhanced staff training and additional staff opportunities and this has been well received by all types of customers.

How long did the process take?

Getting on board with Fleet Feet happens pretty quickly in terms of the tools and support.  The team there walks you through it. In terms of our community, we have converted the store over a three-year period. We just removed our awning early last year and added the Fleet Feet logo and kept Marathon Sports Run/Walk est.1984 on the flap underneath. Having been in business for so long, I would say this process will be ongoing on some level for a few more years. It’s amazing how many customers arrive at our door who we have not seen in four or five years. We maintained our older customer lists and keep our point-of-sale account open to access all of our previous data.

How did your employees accept the conversion?

I spent time with them sharing the reasons I made the choice. I included the managers and buyers throughout the process, and this helped them see the benefits of joining Fleet Feet. I did have one very loyal employee who was skeptical, and I chose to send him to a workshop at Fleet Feet, Inc. for marketing managers immediately after converting. The result was he came home and not only felt better about joining Fleet Feet but became the biggest advocate on staff. He has since moved on and credits the Fleet Feet training and exposure for helping him attain a marketing job in Nike's running division. For the most part, they’ve all been very open and longtime employees immediately saw the advantages of enhanced training and a support system within the Fleet Feet group to answer questions and enter into discussions with others in similar job positions. 

Did you feel like a real partner with Fleet Feet during the process?  If yes, do you still?

Yes, the Fleet Feet, Inc. team is such a positive and informed group to work with that even after years in the business I was beyond impressed with their professionalism. I can say we have some of the best informed and intelligent folks in the entire industry on the team at Fleet Feet, Inc. and they're there to support us on all levels as equals. The word "partner" should be highlighted in the sense that they worked closely with me to make the transition work for our store. I still feel today that our needs and partnership are valued equally by both parties.

Do you still feel like your store is YOUR store?

Yes! On every level, this store is still a direct reflection of my goal to help our entire community enjoy the benefits of running and exercise. It does not feel any different on a day to day basis than before both for me and for my customers.  The only difference is the opportunities for our business have improved.

Resources

In-Store Experience

We focus on the in-store experience because we are passionate about every customer’s success.

Our exclusive 3D foot scanning system, fit id™ provides us with an unmatched fit process delivered by our expertly trained staff. We curate a selection of the best and latest product from our vendor partners, and our exclusive relationship with the Finnish running brand Karhu means Fleet Feet is the only retailer in the U.S. that offers its premium running shoes.

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Staffing

We believe that, as a brand, we have a responsibility to empower the next generation of industry leaders. We help you train and develop your employees in different ways: during year-round training workshops, with an online education library, and through our operating partner program.  

We provide training on:

  • Leadership and Management
  • Footwear and Apparel Buying
  • Marketing
  • Training Program Coaching
  • Merchandising
  • Product and Technology
  • Anatomy and Biomechanics
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Marketing

We build professional marketing campaigns and assets (both digital and print), so you can focus less on creating assets and more on what matters most: your customers. 

  • Our in-house marketing and design department provides materials to offset in-store time and resources.
  • We focus on both national and local brand-building moments that support your local market.
  • We curate relevant content to educate, inspire, and motivate potential and existing customers everywhere.
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Operations

We create operational efficiencies, so that you have more time to focus on growing your business. 

  • Buying and inventory management tools
  • Comprehensive business insurance
  • Best practices for organizational structure
  • System-wide gift card program
  • Cloud-based POS
  • Cleanest industry data
  • Category benchmarks to help identify growth opportunities
  • Trend analysis and sales forecasting
  • Customer survey platform to provide a forum for customer feedback and referrals
  • An accessories distribution center so you can buy all your accessories in one place
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Ecommerce Solution

In a quickly-changing retail scape, where our customers shop is important to us. We are committed to helping them find exactly what they need when they need it, both in stores and online. Our brand-wide e-commerce system quickly and easily plugs into your local business. Here’s how:

  • Orders fulfilled locally at store level
  • Sales commission paid to your store
  • Customers access localized inventory with an option to buy online and pick up in store
  • Creates an endless aisle that meets customers on their terms
  • Helps reduce special orders
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Finance

A well-run back-of-house creates a healthy front-of-house. Our revolutionary CFO in a Box program allows you to hire us to perform many of your back office finance functions so you can focus on running your business.

We streamline the invoice process for you with an online approval system, reconcile your bank and credit card statements, and review your financial statements with the goal of hitting the financial benchmarks necessary to run a healthy business.

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Email Platform

We understand the importance of staying in touch with your current and potential customers. Our email platform provides key benefits that allow you to eliminate repetitive tasks and focus on other parts of your business.

  • A library of prebuilt newsletter templates with articles about products, nutrition, injuries, and more. The best part? You can select which articles to include and add your own content specific to your local market.
  • Access to a library of relevant images. 
  • A built-in communication hub that links our corporate team with franchisees and franchisees to other franchisees to ensure that you and your employees always have the most up-to-date tools and best practices.
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Vendor Partnerships

With Fleet Feet, you will gain national account recognition with accompanying discounts, invoice terms, discretionary funds, and access to exclusive product. Plus, we have dedicated vendor brand managers who work in-house to drive opportunity and collaboration. 

We help facilicate the opening of your vendor accounts and work closely with all key brands including, but not limited to, Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike and Saucony. Plus, Fleet Feet has the exclusive on all Karhu running products. We guide you on product assortments but don't mandate what you carry and don't carry.

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Meet the Owners of some of our Conversions

Aaron and Andrea Samansky

Fresno, CA

They bought Sierra Running Company (which originally opened in 1999) in 2004 and converted in 2014.

Previous Occupation: Aaron worked in the oil and gas industry as a wireline engineer and Andrea was a stay at home mom.

John Rogers

Portland and Brunswick, ME

John originally opened Maine Running Company in Portland in 2005, added a Brunswick location in 2009 and converted both in 2013.

Previous Occupation: John spent 18 years on the vendor side of the business. He held senior leadership roles in product marketing, development and management at Reebok and was the VP of Marketing at Mizuno.

Katina and Lou Guzman

Fayetteville, NC

They originally opened The Runner’s Spot in 2014 and converted in 2017.

Previous Occupation: Katina was a pharmaceutical representative. Lou spent 24 years in the Army, the final 16 stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville.

Eric and Lissa Johnson

Springfield, MO

Eric acquired Ultramax in 2016 and converted that same year. This store originally opened in 2008.

Previous Occupation: Eric managed this store since it opened in 2008. Prior to that, he was a Health and Fitness Supervisor for the County Park Board.  Lissa is currently an Accounts Payable Supervisor.

Mike Fronsoe

Monroe, LA

Mike acquired Fit Right active in 2017 and converted that same year. This store originally opened in 2011.

Previous Occupation: Mike did sales for Merck and Company.

John Dewey

Greensboro and High Point, NC

John originally opened Off ‘N Running in 2003 and added a High Point location in 2012. He was the first independent owner ever to convert. He converted both stores in 2013.

Previous Occupation: John was a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer.

Sorita Averill-Fitzgerald

West Reading, PA

Sorita opened A Running Start in 2004 and converted in 2018.

Previous Occupation: Sorita worked in pharmaceuticals, human resources and sales.

Travis and Sara Esterby

Clarksville, TN

Travis and Sara opened The Runners Hub in 2012 and converted it in 2017.

Previous Occupation: Travis remains active duty military and Sara was an office assistant.

Independents Who Are Selling

Are you thinking about selling your store?  Please reach out to Robyn Goby, VP of Development, by filling out this form. She will email you to set up a time to talk and provide you with all of the details you’ll need including how we value stores, the process, and more.

Robyn

Meet Robyn, Your New Best Friend

Hello! As the corporate office’s longest-tenured employee and Vice President of Development, I will be your first point of contact. Whether you dream of opening a new franchise, operating a store, converting your independent running store, or selling your independent running store, I can walk you through the process, answer questions, and help you to make your dream a reality. ... But I’m not the only one! You’ll also meet Brian, Frank, Lisa, Matt, Vicky, and others who will help you with site selection, lease negotiation, buildout/remodels, training, and on-boarding in all aspects of operating a Fleet Feet store. I encourage you to submit an inquiry form to start the process. We look forward to meeting you!

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