As specialty retailers, we know the importance of community. This is an industry that is inherently entwined with its towns and cities, especially smaller shops that are integral to the villages we call home. We host fun runs and bike rides, we teach kids how to climb and watch them grow into experts. Community, we
all know, is our middle name.
But what we often forget is that we are also a community. Though we’re all selling the same things to the same folks, it’s not about competition. It’s about leaning on and learning from each other to give our mutual customers the best experience in our store and, as a result, the best experience out there in the great outdoors.
Chad Pickard of Spoke-n-Sport understands the verisimilitude of these two communities. Perhaps that can be attributed to his long personal history with small, independent retailers—a career he began at just 14. “My mom told me that working for a small business will look really good on your resume. She was right,” says the longtime cycler (that passion began even before the retail experience). Pickard’s spent the past 28 years in the specialty retail industry; after spending 5 years at a big box store, he returned to a local specialty retailer, which he eventually bought.
So what’s kept Pickard in the industry so long? Passion, for one thing. For his job, the sport, and their conjunction. And sharing that passion with others. “My favorite part of my job is teaching staff that they can change lives. Empowering them to lead customers to products that could change their lives,” Pickard says. “It sounds like we are miracle workers. We might be. There are so many stories about our customers using cycling to overcome challenges. My favorite story is seeing a friend’s mom ride a bike for the first time at the young age of 65.” It’s a marked influence on the community, and his genuine interest in the people who come into his store, that defines Pickard and Spoke-n-Sport.
That affection for his customer and his sport translates to all aspects of his store, and he knows it. “What really sets us apart is our involvement in the community,” Pickard notes. “We are actively involved with both casual and competitive events. We are active in cycling advocacy at the state and local level. It’s one thing to be on the sales floor selling a product to a customer. It’s a completely different ball game when you are out there using the product within the community and creating comfortable environments that they can participate in.” His words strike at the core of what we do; we’re not just selling products, we’re building lifestyles and relationships.
Like Pickard, almost all of us realize the importance of the community around us. But Pickard always remembers that he’s part of a specialty retail community, too, and that the two are often one. Pickard is fostering that sense of interconnectedness within his city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He’s uniting a group of specialty retail stores there to come together this spring to participate in GEAR training through the Mann Group.
Whereas some may view his actions as risky or giving an advantage to the competition, the thought never crosses Pickard’s mind. His priority is fostering community—both between retailers and in the greater Sioux Falls population. He explains, “Great Outdoor Store and 605 Run Company are two stores that I shop at and two stores that I see my customers at as well. I don’t just want the best for my customers at my store, I also want them to get incredible customer service at other specialty retailers Over the years I’ve gotten to know the owners of some of these stores and truly do care about their success.” Making these customers happy is good for everyone.
When it came time to unite his fellow specialty retailers, Pickard knew where to turn: The Mann Group. He has a long history with the retail experts; in fact, he began working with the Mann Group nearly 10 years ago when his entire staff went through our training. “What I love about Dan and Leslie is the unwavering confidence and joy they bring to the training table,” he says. Pickard is excited to bring the expertise of the Mann Group to his own staff and the other members of the greater specialty retail community of Sioux Falls.
It’s truly a situation of mutual beneficence. By helping other local retailers, Pickard helps himself and the customers about which he clearly cares so much. We’ve mentioned before the idea that creating a passionate sportsman is good for every specialty retailer, be them big or small, specialized or broad. That’s not a customer you’ve helped create, it’s a passionate lover of the outdoors. And that’s a win for everyone.