Sports lovers all over St Andrews will be excited for the new active lifestyle shop that opened on Market Street last week. The Saint sat down with the owner and podiatrist, Sara Boardman and two managers, Ashley Penman and Irena Najy-Vizitiu to discuss the business and its vibrant new look.
The business, which has existed for 25 years on Argyle Street as a podiatrist, has expanded into its broader range of active wear and accessories over the past two years. In the back of the shop is a podiatry clinic wjere the former physiotherapist to the Red Lions, the English rugby team, works. Treatments on offer range from basic foot-care to biomechanics assessments using cad/cam technology as well as personalised feedback on how movement affects pain. Additionally they sell a wide range of shoes, active wear and accessories, with personal fittings as standard.
The shift in location necessitated the extensive redevelopment of the Market Street shop; the guts were torn out and the interior was built completely anew. This has resulted in a modern, fresh interior, approved by the high-end active wear brand Bjorn Borg. The brands stocked by the new shop include Bjorn Borg, New Balance, Saucony and Brooks.
Whilst the selection may be more expensive than a generic trainer, the price has the technology built into the price because, as M. Boardman emphasised, the price affects the quality. Whilst certain brands cannot be found at Podofit, this is because all sizes from three up, including half sizes, are stocked, and there is a limit on the quantity of shoes that can be held.
The aim is to appeal to both town and gown, as evidenced by their loyalty scheme, which was chosen over a student discount. This will thank loyal customers and attract repeat business, even when the students are not in town. The scheme is currently in development, however if customers keep their receipts they can be added to their rewards later.
Every part of the shop has been fully thought out, from the brands specially selected for their quality and technology, to the shop fittings chosen for their sustainability from local suppliers. An efficiency advisor suggested using sustainable, ecofriendly technologies, such as the rubber flooring, which maintains high levels of hygiene, as well as being sustainably made. The led lights and infra-red heating system keep costs low and have minimal impact on the environment.
The move itself was incredibly stressful for the team; alongside the redevelopment of the Market Street premises, 1,200 shoes had to be packed up, transferred and logged, a new till system set up, and an advertising campaign built.
Whilst the biggest change for the shop has been the location, Ms Boardman has also noticed a difference in customer behaviour. The shop had previously been a destination; customers came to the shop for the services it offered rather than discovering it through browsing.
However, since opening on Market Street, particularly because of significantly greater footfall, more people have been happening upon the shop after being attracted by the colourful shoes and gear in the windows. Even before they opened, when the windows were covered in paper during the construction, they cut eyeholes so that people could take a peep inside if they were curious. However this footfall brings many of the problems small shops have to deal with when faced with the might of the internet. The phenomenon of customers spending a long time with the consultants choosing the correct shoe, then buying a cheaper version online, undercuts small retailers whilst the customer benefits from their expertise free of charge. However, Podofit is not as badly hit by this as other retailers are. The main source of their income is not in retail, but rather in the physiotherapy and podiatry.
The brands chosen also have a policy of supporting small retailers. Certain retailers sold in Podofit do not sell shoes online cheaper than what they would be in stores. This reduces the impact of the undercutting phenomenon and supports repeat business.
The business has ambitious aims. There are hopes to open a second shop further south at some point, perhaps closer to Cumbria. However, after such a stressful move, the main focus is Market Street and building the business’ presence within the town.