Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting a Great Running Deal (part 4): Online Shopping

For the fourth and final blog in the Best Deals series I want to look at online shopping. For some this may be their best environment to shop if they do not have a running specific store in their community. For me I end up getting maybe like 25% of my gear online. It certainly is the easiest way to shop as you can simply sit in front of your computer or other smart device and shop away.

When shopping online I first make a list of things that I want to keep in mind when I shop. These items are elements that will help to save me money, address poor decisions, sizing issues and how to simply get the best overall deal. For me I take the knowledge I have gotten shopping in general (lessons I have shared in earlier blogs of this series) and add the following additional items to my list. Those items are:
  • Free Shipping – I try as much as possible to find free shipping on any online order. Whether it is paying a couple of dollars more on one site to save even more to get the free shipping. Or possibly saving up my order to get the shipping for free after I reach a certain dollar limit. The levels vary from site to site. For amazon.com the level is $25 but others that are running related start at maybe $75 on average. But if you get a pair of shoes you should be over the minimum. The same is true for a few shirts or other gear. It is pretty easy to get free shipping on most sites one way or another.
  • Returns – Look at the return policy for a site before buying. Can the item be returned? By when and for what reasons? What is the cost of the return and is it on my dollar? Many online sites will have you pay for the return. I look for those that will cover the cost. Also see if you will get refunded directly back to you credit card or if you have to take a store credit. I rarely if ever buy from a online company where I cannot return the item for whatever reason.
  • Bonus Stuff or Specials – I like free stuff. If you can find a good deal that also will give you some free stuff as well take it. It may be a decal, shirt, book or whatever but it is free. When it is not free many stores will off a promotional item for a really good price. This gear may be something with the store’s name on it or a race/event that sponsored. But often times it is good name brand gear that has been labeled with the store name. Again these stores simply want to get rid of the gear and will offer the stuff to you for 50-70% off the retail price of the gear typically. I have a lot of promotional shirts, hoodies and socks I use. Great for training and I look for these types of offers everywhere I shop online. Such gear may have socks of $2-5 or shirts for $5-10.
  • Member Promotions/Clubs – Some companies or sites have you enroll in their “club” to get special promotions, free shipping or whatever. For some it is a way to get you on their marketing list and it costs you nothing. But in some cases it is a more traditional club where they want you to pay $10-75 a year for the benefits. I sign up for the free clubs just to learn about their sales or to get special promotions. At the moment I really do not see any value with me paying to get into a club for what I would think is the same level of sales I can find elsewhere. I also do not like to be “locked” into a site due to the club and maybe finding myself feeling more obligated to use them. But it is a personal choice and do what you believe is best for you in the long run. I can only think of maybe two sites that I would consider paying for such benefits if they ever offered it. But for now I will hold off on any such pay clubs.
To start here is some less specific shopping site to possibly find running gear on or through. In a couple of these sites you will be able to search for running gear in general or even specifically to see if there are sales on it. The other two are locations that most will be familiar with and can once again use it to possibly find gear they are interested in.
  • TheFind.com – This is a great site that is a search engine for any product online. Simply type in the product you are looking for and it displays where the product is sold and what the price is. I use this to get a feel of what the sale price is for the product and what stores may carry it. I have found that often the sale prices listed seem to be sale or only for a limited color or size. On top of that originally I was not overly familiar with many of the stores listed. I was cautious about where to buy gear and slowly researched some of the stores I found. I know have a handful of stores that I feel comfortable dealing with.
  • Slick Deals – For over ten years I have looked daily at this website. It is a collection of what online deals are hot for the day. An old boss turned me onto this site when I first moved to Cleveland, OH. I have spent so much money because of this site I think I should ask for some reimbursement from him at this point. But running gear does pop up on a regular basis. This is a good way to look at or search one site for where there are sales for running shoes or gear.
  • Ebay – I look here every once in a while for gear. If you are patient you sometimes can find discontinues or clearance items that a company or store is selling. You may also find individuals selling older worn gear or stuff they never used. I have bought a couple of pairs of shoes on eBay that were newer used by the owner and were about 60% off. Most of the time I buy off of eBay or its sister site Half.com running related books or DVDs. Most of what I get from these sites are media related. So if you are patient enough you may find something, but typically I have found that the prices are a little high compared to what you may find elsewhere.
  • Half.com – for books and movies this is the first place I look online. Affiliated with eBay this site has all kinds of media for discounted prices. It is not an auction type of site but does have vendors or mostly individuals selling their goods online. The pricing is based upon the popularity of the item and the condition. I can find some really good prices on books and DVDs there. But I do have to remember that shipping will impact the final price for the item. I think right now the shipping on an item is like $3.50. So keep that in your mind when you are shopping on the site. I try and figure out what an acceptable overall price is for the item and really try and stick to it. A cool feature s that you can jump to the eBay site and looking for that item from the item page. So it’s almost like shopping on two sites at once.
The following list is where I personally look for running gear deals online. It is my short list and yours may certainly vary from mine. Explore online sites, Google or do whatever you do to help you find gear now. Maybe refine your approach to online shopping by adding some of the items below. But in the end come up with what works best for you to save money online.
  • Vendors – Almost all running gear companies have an online presence online. More importantly they have an associated store online as well. Typically the store has their products for full retail but you may be able to get hard to find or locate gear through these sites. But they often do have a clearance or sale page as well. I know the Brooks and the Nike sites may have sales for 10-20% off. As the seasons change and or a New Year rolls around these prices may get down around the 50% mark. But as always the selection will be limited. Also look for coupons or promotional codes as well for the sites. I know Nike has codes on a regular basis to help with the overall price. You can get some good deals through these sites if you keep your eyes open and look for a coupon or code as well.
  • Sporting Goods Stores – Traditional sporting goods stores will have an online presence was well. I discussed them last time about their sales and clubs. Online I do find that they have a much larger inventory to shop from. I have found styles and sizes online that I could not locally. The same will then be true for clearance or overstock items. Check often to see what they have and also look for their sales or promotional codes. These codes will give you another 10-20% on average. These stores do tend to keep the prices online higher for longer, so just be aware that until they really are getting limited on their stock will you see any big jumps in discounts. Just look for those promotional codes if you are close to your magic price and try and get the best deal you can.
  • Running Specialty Stores – There is a lot of online running stores. Many are smaller shops that want an online presence in some fashion. Most of these stores have the typical selection of gear that everyone else has. So in most cases I don’t see any real value in shopping at them because I doubt if they can discount like larger online stores can. But I do like the stores that are very specialized in some niche of running. There are some very good speciaialie4d stores now for trail running or minimalist running online. These stores will have the broader selection of gear for those types of running. So it is very likely that you will find gear here that you will not elsewhere. The sales on these sites will be limited or at least less likely than larger stores. But there is the possibility that you will at least get some discounts on harder to find gear through these sites. So try the best you can and maybe just maybe you will find some good bargains.
  • Running Clubs/Organizations – As I stated before many running or Tri clubs have running and or cycling gear branded for them. I know the Tri club I belong to have a lot of gear branded at their office. The gear ranges from bottles and socks to helmets. I have bought a few running shirts and even a cycling jersey from the club over the years. Check with them as they get a new vender, clear out old inventory or change their logo or colors. If these clubs or organizations have an online site or presence check there as well. You may find more of a general listing of their gear than a more formal store would have. So if you see something contact them and see what they have currently an what the price is. You may be able to even work out a deal for older gear. I doubt if you will save a huge amount on such braded gear but you many find them wanting to work with you if you buy more than just a couple of items.
  • Overstock/Clearance – I have found some great online companies like Joes New Balance that sell overstock running gear. As for Joe’s they sell overstock or discontinued New Balance gear. The prices for these types of stores will vary but they do tend to be generally a good deal. But as with any onlinee store look for special promotions or sale codes that come out for special events or holidays. I have shopped at Joe’s and got some running clothes there before. Maybe some trail shoes are in the future from there as well. Others like the Department of Goods has a more hit or miss of the gear they have. Many more vendors and outdoor type of gear that is on the site. The inventory various for most sites and you have to keep a close eye on what is there and try and figure out when new gear is added. As with any site that has this type of overstock inventory, if you see something you want you better put it in your cart and buy it then. No guarantees that it will be there if you come back later. One word of warning, on some sites the price listed is the lowest price for that item based upon the one size they really want to get rid of. Be careful, the price may and most likely will be different on more popular sizes or colors. Just check to make sure you are getting what you want for the price you through you were before you hit the confirm button at check out. I almost got burned recently on this very situation.
  • Race Sites – Even online you can sometimes find clearance gear from major races. Once the race is over and the big push for a shirt or other gear is over the races want to get rid of the stuff. So look at their site and see if the gear is listed on sale. If not, write them and see what they will do with the gear and or if you can buy something at a reduced rate. On a related note I know that some race gear can be found on sale through the major vendor that produced it. I often see the Boston marathon gear on the Adidas site and the Marine Corp Marathon gear on the Brooks site. So remember to check with the vendors as well.
  • Cycling and Tri stores - We have a number of bike shops in the area for all of the cyclists and triathletes we have locally. Don’t forget to look here for gear as well. Sometimes they have running clothes, shoes and nutritional items as well in their shop. Stop by and see what they carry and when their promotions are. I know that some of the Hammer nutritional stuff I use is not carried in a lot of the stores around here. But I have had really good luck finding it in a couple of the bike shops. So check these out as a secondary source for your gear and other needs.
Here are some of my favorite online sites for running gear.
  • Running Warehouse – This is my favorite running store online. Great company that has a vast selection of running shoes and gear. It’s free two day shipping both to you and for returns. The regular prices are typically maybe 10-15% off from what I can tell. But I shop their sale or liquidation pages for better buys. Add to that some additional discounts on holidays or special events and the prices are pretty good. I doubt if I get less than 50% off with comb9ning everything most of the time but I can at times. I bought a handful of spikes a few years ago and got them for like $10 a pair.
  • REI – REI is one of my favorite stores for anything to do outdoors. Unfortunately there are no close retail outlets near me so I have to do everything online for them. Running gear wise they do carry a fairly good selection of shoes and other gear online. I typically shop primarily on their clearance page. I have bought a fair amount of running clothes, especially jackets, on the site. I find that these clearance items are last season’s gear or even a couple of three seasons old. In most cases that is not a big deal for me. The prices are on average 30-50% off on these clearance items. Something they will be even more discounted it they have limited stock. REI also has online sale codes around the major holidays as well, so another 10-20% off or even free shipping if you can find it.
  • Left Lane – I stumbled upon this site just a couple of weeks ago. The site has at any given time several vendors listing some overstock items on the site. The prices can be up to 70% off the item but I think averages closer to 50%. The items listed seem to be just a handful for each item and or size. For example, I bought some sunglasses on the site a few weeks ago and it seemed that there was only one pair for that style. Once I got them the item was sold out. I believe that for any new follower of the site you get a $10 credit. So at least you can get something discounted from the very beginning. Shipping on this site is like $6 to start so keep that in mind as well. So far I have seen hiking, running, skiing, cycling, skateboarding and general outdoors stuff on the site. I have liked the running gear I have seen, so I would suggest following this site.

With this blog I am wrapping up the Best Deal on Running Gear series. I hope that in some small way that I have helped you all to find some new approaches and locations to get deals on running gear. If you run across any great buys or get a super good deal, let me know. I always like to hear when someone gets a great deal on something.

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