Working to Get it Right: Efairness for Small Businesses

photo 1Potomac River Running first opened for business in the spring of 2003. Two young families with a passion for running wanted to create a resource for runners in the Northern Virginia region, so they banded together and opened two shops to serve their communities. Twelve years on, the company has eight doors and the passion for delivering great customer service to thousands of runners remains the foundation of our business.  During this same time period the evolution of the internet has forever changed the landscape of retail, but areas remain where the internet alone is insufficient.

Ever since the first specialty running store opened its doors, businesses like ours have helped solve problems on an individual basis.  With studies placing the running injury rate on an annual basis between 40-56% for each runner, sitting down with a customer to discuss injuries, goals, running background and other factors is a critical step to ensuring that the footwear being selected by an individual matches their unique needs.

From a mechanical perspective, everyone is built slightly differently, and as a result, has different needs. Is your foot slightly narrower in the heel than average?  Do your arches flex significantly when full body weight is applied?  Is there rotation in your tibia & fibula when you run, and if so, to what degree?  All of these are questions that the internet can provide answers to in general terms, but there is still significant guesswork involved.  Our stores, and stores like ours, make it a priority that all staff are not only capable of answering these questions, but the ones that the consumer might not be aware to ask. In the analysis of recording someone running, the conversation about history and goals, the process of narrowing down the correct shoe size and type, we offer something that simply cannot be achieved by navigating a website.

Given that our process is our product, we always work to get it right, even if that means the customer has to try out a pair of shoes for a run or two before they know for sure that the shoe is for them.  We take pride in helping people, and our stores and many like ours give back to the local community by sponsoring youth track events, hosting races, offering training programs and free group runs.

We often have folks come in, spend half an hour with our staff and then leave with the intent of buying online to avoid paying sales tax. There is room for both local retail and online in the running community, but incentivizing the use of one over the other by allowing a loophole in tax law to remain is unfair to small businesses, as well as to customers. Congress has an opportunity to put local and online businesses on equal footing with the recently introduced Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015, which closes the online sales tax loophole by requiring online retailers to collect sales tax.  Small businesses run an economic race against other businesses every day – it’s not fair to let online competitors have a head start.

If you are in the Washington, D.C.,-Northern Virginia area, stop in and check out our store. You will be offered excellent service, excellent products, and you will also find us proudly supporting efairness in our windows.

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