How Roblox is helping The Athlete’s Foot win in a competitive kids’ market
Gaming app Roblox is used by nearly 60 million people around the world every day, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 16. For brands, it presents a rare opportunity to speak directly to a consumer demographic that may not be holding the purse strings, but still accounts for a significant amount of spending. “It’s always a challenge to find something that’s engaging and meaningful to that age group of six to 12 year olds,” Ian Taunton, general manager of The Athlete
e’s Foot, told Inside Retail.
“It’s easier to talk to parents through different media channels, but having something that children can align to…The Roblox platform is one of the biggest platforms for that age group at the moment, and I think that’s the right place for us to talk to our customer base.”
The Athlete’s Foot recently became the first Australian retailer to launch a unique game on the platform. Fitopia recreates a classroom and schoolyard environment in a virtual world where kids can play, complete brain twisters and puzzles and navigate obstacle courses inspired by the brand’s in-store fitting experience.
“It’s been a really positive experience for us,” Taunton said.
With its foray into Roblox, The Athlete’s Foot has joined the likes of Burberry, H&M and Nike in exploring the metaverse, something that Taunton believes all retailers should be doing.
“There’s no doubt that The Athlete’s Foot being engaged in this gaming space is exciting for us. It’s dipping our toe into the space, but it’s also allowing us to build back end expertise within our support office on how we can bring these things to life,” he said.
“We are watching, we are learning and when there is something to commercialise and engage with that is good for the business and good for our customers, we’ll definitely be part of that.”
Tough year ahead
For the foreseeable future, however, he believes that bricks-and-mortar will remain central to the business’ success. And having unique services and world-class products, no matter which channel, is going to be key.
“The Athlete’s Foot has got a really strong heritage and history around product and team. It’s always at the centre of what we do,” Taunton said.
“From a product point of view, we’re going to continue to look at improving our range and the way we bring our ranges to market with our brand suppliers.”
When it comes to growing the brand’s retail team, the next year is shaping up to be considerably more challenging.
“It’s probably been the most challenging year for team recruitment in retail that I’ve had in the last five or 10 years And that’s something we’ve always had real pride in at The Athlete’s Foot,” he said. “The training that we give to our team members, the engagement we have with our team members, and the expertise that we have with our team members.”
The Athlete’s Foot typically employs podiatry students, physiotherapy students, chiropractic students looking for part-time work to support themselves while studying, but the days of having drawers full of resumes are long gone.
“We’ve definitely had to use different methods of recruitment in the last six months, no doubt,” he said. “But the fundamentals haven’t changed.
“Talk to your team about your brand proposition, talk to your team about your training, talk to your team about the remuneration, incentives, and programmes you have around recognition. I think the brands that do that well, will continue to win. The brands that don’t do that well will continue to find it more challenging and more difficult.”
Similarly, Taunton is going back to basics to guide the business through what is shaping up to be a volatile period for discretionary retail.
“There’s no doubt the next 12 months will be volatile. But The Athlete’s Foot is a brand that’s been in Australia for 45 years, and volatility and changing market conditions is part of retail. It always has been, and I think it always will be,” Taunton said.
“We cannot control what happens in the macro. What we can control is having a red-hot customer proposition, having great community engagement, great community relationships, and the best in class with our team on the shop floor. So when customers do engage, they talk about us.”
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