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Local vs. Online. The struggle is real.

This is an excerpt from my interview with Brandon Frank who owns Fleet Feet here in Meridian Idaho.  I asked him about why should someone buy in his store over buying shoes from their own couch.  This is a huge issue for retailers in any industry.  Just ask Circuit City.  I thought the conversation that ensued was wonderful.

Matt: I think that every industry has changed for the past 10 years. And so much has gone online.40:03 Ten or 15 years ago your competition would have been the footlocker down the street or something like that. It is totally different now, There are massive online retailers like amazon and Zappos. And Zappos is owned by Amazon.

Brandon: Yeah

Matt: So I’m wondering how you compete against 40:31 an online retailer from someone who wants to buy a pair of shoes from their couch. They can get any color, size and brand from their own home. I’m wondering what your two cents are on having a brick and mortar store. Because ten years ago, none of this existed. So I’m wondering how you combat 41:01 that, and what your mentality is toward competing against these giants. Because convenience is a huge role in buying decisions these days. Some people go ”I can buy an insurance policy right now while I’m talking to you. I go to and I could buy one now.” You can get mortgages and cars. And I understand. We struggle the same way. I want people to buy insurance and come here and meet the people face to face and build a relationship and have lifelong costumers. But that’s a different challenge 41:30 than it was a long time ago. I don’t have people walking in and buying insurance like in the old days. So what is your mentality on that, and how do you compete against that? What is it like for you?

Brandon: I think that is a great question, and this question is being had all the time. I really believe in the value of person to person contact.41:59 And you don’t get that on online purchases. You don’t get those personal conversation, and in our case, that personal fitting. And so we are more than just a place where you buy shoes. We’re a place where you’re gonna get personal attention, personally fitted. We’re gonna ask you a series of questions that are gonna be personal to you 42:29 , and that are gonna resonate with you. And I’m gonna give advice and help people move forward. I think that if you really boil it down, we’re giving you a hug. Sometimes physically, but most of the time, just an emotional hug. And people don’t get hugs that much anymore. You don’t get a hug from your phone or from your laptop. I know it feels good to get on there and do two clicks on 42:59 Amazon and have it shipped to you.

The other reality too, and I don’t think people know this, but for every dollar you spend on a local business, instead of sending it somewhere else, it’s doing so much for the jobs and the local economy. I think it’s like: For every dollar your spend on a local business, 80 cents stays local. But if you go on Amazon, it’s like 40 cents.  There’s a huge difference 43:31 between the level of support you’re giving our local community. And I think that when you experience our store and experience a personal insurance salesman or mortgage employer, whatever kind of industry it is. I think overall the experience is a lot better and fuller, and they are overall more happy with what they purchase. The amount of people we see in our store after they made a purchase 44:01 , they say ”yeah I ordered this shoe because I heard it was really good and then it gave me plantar fasciitis, which is the most common foot issue. It’s an injury, usually from a shoe not being supportive enough for the person. And I’m like ”yeah, that was the wrong shoe for you. Amazon couldn’t get that information from you”. So, it’s like we have to have a passion for it and we have to have a passion for retail sales and for person to person business.44:32

The way we met, I do that all the time. I stop people walking in front of my store and I say ”hey your shoes are broken down. My name is Brandon I’m with Fleetfeet, come on in and let me take care of you.” And I think we have to have the courage to really stand up for what we do and what we believe.

That being said, we just had a customer that came in the other day who asked if we had a particular shoes and we said ”no but we’d be happy to order it for you”. And he said ”no, I’ll just get it on Amazon. 44:58 And, we’re helping to move with the times. So we actually have an online store. So you can go on there and shop from home, and you can buy it from there and it still goes through our store, but it will ship from a different location. And so we’re trying to change with the times a little bit. I mean, we have an ipad in our store and costumer can go on it to find the right color and all of that. So it’s not like we’re stuck in the mud and simply refusing to change. We’re trying to embrace the technology, and embrace the value that technology can bring to you, while staying really true to our roots,45:33 which is customer service and person to person service.

Matt: Farmers did something similar a few years back, where you can go on and get a quote and buy a policy. I don’t think we do a great job with it. We don’t lead with that in our advertising because that’s the kind of business we want to be. We don’t want people shopping insurance online, although it’s newer for us.45:56  We knew we were bleeding business that way. We knew that some people were buying online from the comfort of their home, so instead of changing our model completely and going like ”we’re gonna get rid of all of our agents and were gonna go all online”, They chose to evolve. And a lot of companies are the same way. AllState Bought E-surance, so we bought an online auto brokerage after the huge crash of ’08. We bought AIGs auto business 46:31 which is 21st century. It didn’t work out as much as we wanted it to but…. The big retail chains are trying to evolve because there is a need for it.

It’s not the only need, but it’s a nice feather in your cap. If you have someone come in your store and they know that you can get them anything they want in color or size and fitting, 47:00 though you may not have it in stock, there is a comfort to that. Thinking ”I’m gonna go to Brandon’s shop. I need a pair of On’s. I know what color I want and if he doesn’t have it he’ll get it for me.”

Brandon: Absolutely. You know, the other things that we’ve been trying to do really really well, is that we have 100% guarantee on everything we sell, so I tell people ”You will never get stuck with anything that you buy from us”. That’s really important as we’re developing relationships.47:28

Matt: Do you get a lot of returns on that guarantee?

Brandon: Yeah, we do. And to be honest I get exited, I get energized.

Matt: It’s an opportunity.

Brandon: Yeah, there’s so many ret where I see a bag walking in, they’re like ”ugh, a return it’s gonna be an exchange and I’ll spend all this time and it’s not gonna get any money”. No, here’s a person that bought something from us, it didn’t work out, and now they’re coming back to us for more solutions 47:58 . So they know that we can solve this problem. And now it’s just figuring it out. Let’s take the information we learned from that last one.


None of my Business on ITunes.

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