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Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
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Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Tracksmith is a fitness brand that blends the city’s running heritage with attention to detail that has caught the attention of pro and amateur runners (like myself) alike. Their strategy of blending retro activewear with modern technology adds a refreshing twist to an otherwise futuristic-looking product category.
With new storefronts in London and Brooklyn now open, Tracksmith — and its founder Matt Taylor — has found its stride globally. After trying on their goods myself, it was easy to see why Tracksmith was gaining popularity, but that’s just half of the story. A brand can’t open retail locations left and right without some serious enthusiasm from its target audience. I had the opportunity to speak with Matt Taylor about the significance of running in New England, the role of physical storefronts, and growing a passionate community. Read on for his candid thoughts on all of the above.
Tracksmith is geographically branded as Tracksmith New England. What is it about the region that represents the brand?
MT: It comes up quite a bit. Provenance can be really important for a brand, but I think for us, that's where we started. In my mind, the history and culture of Boston and Greater New England are second to none. It’s the heart and soul of the running community. It's a race and a city that a lot of runners want to get to. Amateur runners see the Boston Marathon as the gold standard for qualifying in a race, so those factors make the area a natural part of the brand’s identity.
After Boston, what drove the decision to establish a retail presence in London and New York?
MT: We've always been a brand that loves to activate in person. Running is an activity that you're doing in the real world, so being able to interact with the community in person has always been an important part of our brand. From day one, we were doing group runs in Boston, where we started. During the week and weekends, we've been doing pop-ups since our first year. Everywhere from New York, Tokyo, and Berlin, to Duluth, Minnesota—and we’ve been able to bring various levels of the brand to life.
In addition to that, we've been hosting our own events which just keep growing every year. This summer, we're visiting 18 cities for our Twilight 5000, and there are two races per city. The tour includes 15 U.S. cities, and then Toronto, Mexico City, and London.
Furthermore, being in person has always been important in retail. However, it takes investment and expertise to do that right. So for us, it was more so a matter of time than anything else. We've had the Boston store since 2017. We planned to open our second store just before COVID, and thankfully, we hadn't signed a lease, although we were getting really close.
London and New York are two major cities in terms of sports, running, and fashion—so they were both obvious choices in the expansion.
We are a global running brand and running is a global sport. Unlike a lot of categories, it's easier to be a global running brand because of things like social media, Strava, and the travel culture that exists within the sport. People living in New York are flying to Tokyo and people in Australia are going to Singapore—it's crazy how much people travel to run and it’s a new phenomenon we’ve seen in the last 10 years.
How do you define your stores? Are they running stores, or are they Tracksmith stores?
MT: They're both. We don't view those things as different. Our brand fuses a lot of different things, which is what makes it unique. The experience in the store is going to feel like Tracksmith but with the familiarity of what you’d expect from a broader running store.
There are some great running stores out there, but the idea of a classic running store can feel quite outdated. I view our stores as a modern version of one with a stronger eye for detail, presentation, and customer experience—not a bunch of shoe boxes stacked up with clothes on a rounder. That's where the Tracksmith DNA comes to life, visually and aesthetically, in the sense that you instantly know who runs the shop the moment you enter. It's a hybrid.
How is Tracksmith utilizing its physical presence to strengthen the community it’s fostering?
MT: I’m thankful to have such a strong sense of community around our three stores. The Brooklyn location just opened, and London has only been open a month now. But even before they opened, we were already building communities in those cities, so we hit the ground running.
On Sundays, we'll get 100 to 200 people in the mornings to come out for a long run and mingle over some coffee afterward, and that is unique and distinct.
We’ve taken an important part of the runner’s lifestyle, the long run, and added our own platform to it that supports what they're trying to accomplish. Our routes are simple and we have pacers for all speeds, making everyone feel included. Plus, we’ll provide stuff like coffee and bananas. What might usually be a dreaded solo Sunday run can now become a better experience with these additions.
Are there any events or product launches happening this summer that current and future Tracksmith community members should watch out for?
MT: This summer we've got one of my favorite collections called Run Cannonball Run, and it’ll be a really small capsule.
During the summertime, the best thing is if you can run and jump into a body of water after a run. It's got so much fun tradition to it, so during the brand’s first year, we created the Run Cannonball Run Short. If you do that in regular running shorts, they're gonna get waterlogged and heavy, which makes them fall down. We worked with Speedo to find some fabrics that work well in that environment but cut them to look like running shorts and not a bathing suit. As that has evolved, the line has gotten bigger and we’ve been able to continue refining that product.
KEEP ON RUNNIN’
Eager to hear more about the brand? Check out my review of their collection from earlier this year. Or better yet, check out the irresistible product pages for their Eliot Runners or Van Cortlandt Shorts, two of my favorite items. After years of running in less-than-impressive gear, I can’t help but feel spoiled every time I lace up these days..