They understood digital marketing but needed a snow plough

Audi TT

The Hero of The Hour

It’s a Saturday,  18 December,  in the UK. Heathrow is closed owing to the snow. Our Farmers’ Market also closed early. Sally and I spent £164.02 in Waitrose before they closed the car-park, too.

Staggering under the weight of food, booze and surfactants, we got to the car, which is the Audi TT on the right, and crawled down the Holloway Road to a new store, opposite Hornsey Lane, where Arsenal is now based. We were crawling because we were in a white-out. In an hour, we received four inches of snow, which is roughly ten centimetres.

The new store is the latest from The Sweatshop.

It used to be The Running Sweatshop, and is run, appropriately, by Hugh Brasher. He is Chris and Shirley Brasher’s son. Shirley won three tennis Grand Slams, playing doubles, and Chris won the Olympic Gold Medal for the steeplechase at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. I was three at the time, so I don’t remember it, but I do remember both Chris and Shirley well.

Chris was UK chairman of Reebok, and I was his Board Account Director at Lowe Howard-Spink. I thought he was rather wonderful, which he rather liked. In return, he was very helpful to me.

Anyway, last week I received by email an offer from The Sweatshop via Runner’s World online. I’ve run twenty marathons and several ultra-marathons including The World Trail Running Championship in 1996. I came 180th out of 580. In addition to Reebok, I’ve also worked on the marketing and advertising for ASICS, Skins, New Balance and Inov-8, so I know a bit about sports marketing.

The new Sweatshop store was more or less empty. I was there because my email voucher offered me two pairs of running shoes for the price of one. Great! This was the time to get fit again, lose weight, run like a gazelle, and pull the birds.

Yes. They sold the shoes I wanted. Yes, I could have two pairs. Yes, I am a supinator and a forefoot striker. Yes, I need a wide fitting. No, they didn’t have the shoes in stock. Yes, if I paid now they’d get the two pairs in. Yes, they’d call me. And did I know the shoes are on sale at a discount – £60 rather than £80? No, I did not. Hurriedly, I handed over my credit card.

So, I was buying two pairs of New Balance neutral stability running shoes for £60, when the normal price would have been £160.

I asked the manager how sales of Skins are going. Jamie Fuller will like what I was told. And then I asked how the store’s launch was going. Poor chap. He thought for a moment.

“Well,” he said, “we’re halfway through the day, and we haven’t a hope of hitting our target.” None of the staff, many of whom had come from the East Finchley store, had any idea how they were going to get home.

Digital marketing got me into the store. I was more or less given two pairs of running shoes at 37.5% of their usual selling price. But few other runners turned up because of the snow. I was the only customer in the store with a digital voucher.

If you run, or go to the gym, or generally workout, please visit this shop in Holloway, London, N7. They’ve had a rotten start which they didn’t deserve. What they do deserve is our custom.