Spotlight on Specialty presented by Saucony features Scranton Running Company

Welcome to the second in our series of articles showcasing specialty run and outdoor retail stores focusing on their commitment to trail running through their in-store programs, brand inclusion, events and more. Spotlight on Specialty is presented by Saucony.

Scranton, Pennsylvania is often recognized as the set of the popular comedy series, The Office, but the history of this town of nearly 80,000 residents hearkens back to the days of coal mining and steam-powered locomotives, as well as electric trolleys. In fact, the city’s nickname, The Electric City, and the annual Steamtown Marathon, are just two ways Scranton celebrates its history.

For the past nine years, Scranton residents have had another reason to celebrate, that is when the Scranton Running Company opened its doors. During that time, owners Matthew Byrne and Matthew Rosetti have created a following with their community-driven focus and support of local events including a successful trail running series at the nearby Montage Mountain Ski Resort.

SRC supports trail races for all ability levels at Montage Mountain Resort.

Our executive director Nancy Hobbs had a conversation with Matt Byrne about what makes his store special.

[Nancy] What are some trail running-related programs your store is involved with.

[Matt] We have two trail running events that we have supported over the past seven years, which we started in conjunction with Montage Mountain Ski Resort located about five miles from our store (the resort opened to the public in 1984). We do the registration, timing and some of the fundraising. One of the goals of the ski resort was to keep it active year round and this was one way in the off-season to get people out exploring the trails. It has been a really good partnership primarily because the management is forward thinking and shares our values of community outreach.

The Black Diamond Running Series includes the Mainline 5K, held in June and the Iron Horse 8K in July. In 2019, our store also provide timing and support for the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships at Montage Mountain, the first trail championship hosted in Pennsylvania. We also support the Howland Preserve 5 Miler, celebrating year two on October 5.

Matt (blue shirt) leads runners in a cheer before they hit the trail at Montage Mountain Resort.

We previously organized a 10K trail race, but we have found that our target market in Northeast PA is comprised of those just getting into trail running and the 5K/8K distance has garnered more entrants. For the races, we have worked with a few brands like La Sportiva, and Altra to have demo shoes at the trail races and we typically see a spike in trail shoe sales in the store following the events. Our goal of course is to get people as regular customers.

In terms of trails nearby, our store is located across from the Olive Street trailhead on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. With a surface of crushed limestone and asphalt, it is a good introduction to easy and fairly flat trail running. On the extreme, there are some ATV trails nearby which are very rugged, so we have both ends of the spectrum. Lackawanna State Park is about 15 miles north of us and the park offers a great trail system with a mix of groomed trails, variable terrain with climbs, roots, and rocks.

Our focus with customers seeking information about trail running is mostly one-to-one mini-discussions. We have done talks and presentations in store related to injury prevention with podiatrists and physical therapists and we have the local knowledge to conduct some programs directed to trail running and we are open to doing this in the future.

[Nancy] How have you showcased trail-running brands and products in your store?

[Matt] We’ve incorporated a Trail Section as part of our shoe wall which is featured separately from road varieties, but in the same area. We’ve also displayed other trail products including hydration vests and trail style-laces, with our other road running accessories. We also carry Trail Runner magazine.

[Nancy] What is one positive lesson you have learned from integrating trail running programs into your store.

[Matt] You never know who within your customer base may get into trail running, especially after hosting shorter trail races like our 5K! We’ve seen a lot of runners of all levels not only try out our races, but develop a passion for trail running.

[Nancy] What advice do you have for other store owners who have yet to feature trail?

[Matt] Despite having a smaller trail running shoe selection than that for road shoes, note that trail shoes can vary widely brand to brand in terms of foot shape, fit, and cushion level, so don’t hesitate to carry a few different styles. Also, certain trail shoes have a potential market with non-trail runners (hikers, cross-fit enthusiasts, and runners/walkers in wintry conditions), so consider your other customer bases.

Matt raced for the US Mountain Running Team at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

[Nancy] What are three tips for individuals considering getting into trail running

[Matt] As with any running program, start gradually and consider the terrain you’re used to and injury history. For instance, if you have a history of rolling your ankle and mostly do road or indoor running, start very slowly on very light and forgiving trail surface like smooth gravel or dirt road.

Don’t be afraid to adjust pace accordingly, as many trail terrains will dictate a somewhat slower pace at the same effort.

Consider not only the weather conditions, but other safety factors, including lighting – there’s generally no street lighting and less light pollution, and with more tree cover it may become dark more quickly in the evening. We sell headlamps and reflective vests…a whole section for our customers to light up the trails.

[Nancy] What percentage of sales do you generate from trail running shoes?

[Matt] 2.5% of footwear sold are trail running specific shoes. 1.8% of our overall business (revenue) comes from trail shoes.

[Nancy] Has the percentage of sales in the trail running category increased at your store over the past three to five years? To what do you attribute the increase/or if you have not realized an increase in sales…any reasons for zero or negative growth in trail?

[Matt] There hasn’t been a noticeable change to speak of. Generally, zero growth from 2016. Not sure why. As mentioned before, we do see a spike in trail running sales following trail races we support and that trend will probably continue.

Here is a list of 2019 trail running races supported by Scranton Running Company:

Scranton Running Company Contact information:

In addition to Scranton Running Company (SRC), there are three other run specialty stores within the SRC portfolio, two Brooklyn Running Company locations in New York, and the Valley Running Company in Forty Fort, PA.

Matt (far right) was part of the first US men’s team to win a team medal at the 2008 World Mountain Running Championships.