When I signed on to write here this week, I was asked to take a look at Fast Company‘s “Customers First” package and when I did I was delighted to see the company of an old friend of mine’s was listed: Title 9 Sports, run by Missy Park.
I first met Missy when she was just getting to company up and running — out of sheer frustration, having walked into too many sports equipment and clothing stores and being ‘dissed by the male sales help. She figured out a way to be able to fit a bra over the phone and her mail order business was up and running. More recently, I interviewed her to find out about her move into physical retail space and she told me a story that is just an elegant example of why she’s on the Fast Company list and what retailing could and, I think, should be. A neophyte runner came into the shop in Boulder and said she was going to be running her first marathon that weekend. She’d heard the forecast was for rain, so she wanted to buy raingear. The manager reached down under the cash-wrap and pulled out a large garbage bag, cut armholes in the corners and another for her head and said, “Use this.”
She explained that while rain gear might be helpful at the start of the race, once she’d been running for awhile, it would be too unforgiving and the runner would want to shed it — with no place to toss it. The garbage bag strategy on the other hand provided a lightweight, easily shucked alternative. The immediate sale was lost — but the long-term relationship with the customer was forged. Missy’s company is, of course, privately-held, so she’s not chasing her tale to make sales numbers for the street — but she is a business person, in it for the long-haul.