Building community through retail

Every On store exists as a community space. Our Flagship store in Zurich – situated within On Labs – opened in June 2022 with a team dedicated to welcoming and building fans in our home city. Cheyenne Cosman, Flagship Lead Store Advisor, Jade Mason, Flagship Store Leader, and Udo Herbster, Flagship Lead Store Advisor, made it their mission to reach more people and spread our passion for movement, creating inclusive, welcoming programming and sweating all over the city.

Read on to find out how they’re growing our community and how good it feels to move and connect.

1. What are the ways in which we make our stores true community spaces?

Cheyenne Cosman (Cosy), Flagship Lead Store Advisor:

The main thing is to really invite all people from all different backgrounds, not just runners – to really make it inclusive. We want to make it a safe space where you can really grow, which is something you see now with the HIIT workouts we’ve just started and the running Kickstarter program for employees, and with the Run Club offering different paces, different groups, and it’s really more of a team effort. There are people who need some more time for a 5K, so we’re really adapting to that, letting everyone shine in their strengths. Just being accepting of all backgrounds.

2. On Labs and the first Zurich store is a destination – it’s not right downtown. How have you really worked to get people here to build the community in the first place since opening? 

Jade Mason, Flagship Store Leader:

That took a lot. The three of us sat together a lot with different strategies we could go through. At the beginning, when we first started the Run Club, we had maybe 10 people there, sometimes it would be 15. So, we started sending introduction emails to different fitness studios around Zurich, saying, “Hey, we're here now. This is our address. Come check us out. Come test some product.” Really introducing ourselves in the sports world. Then, we started collaborating on flyers for local hotels. We can bring our community to life for people who are just staying here for a couple of days and maybe just want to be part of something, even if it's just for one day.  It’s what Cosy touched on too: If you have that warm, welcoming environment, people are going to want to come back. Word of mouth definitely took it, but it was the strategizing at the beginning, introducing ourselves. We sweat at every single studio in Zurich just to introduce ourselves. With all of the things that we did together as a trio, I think our sales increased, our traffic increased, and our community increased.

Udo Herbster, Flagship Lead Store Advisor:

It really grew from word of mouth. Still, now we have new people coming every week. Last week we had maybe five or six new people. They come and they love it so much that they come again and bring new people. It’s really the experience itself. Now, we’re averaging 40 to 100 people a week. It's really grassroots.

3. What is the atmosphere then, if you're coming as a new person and you're maybe early in your running days – maybe you're not diehard yet, what would you expect? 


I try to really get feedback afterwards when I see people are just beginning. It's a hundred percent always, “Hey,  it’s so nice. I’ll come back, bring friends. I really liked the atmosphere, the energy you have here.” If someone is just starting out and is also at a slower pace, then we always have somebody at the end of the group. You'd never be on your own. It’s very important for us that we take care of everyone. 


Recently, Jade and I had the idea to also offer something completely different for people who might not enjoy running. There are people who've tried it and don't like it. So, on the same night as Run Club, we started a 30-minute in-store HIIT workout.  It’s really fun because we can move all the in-store installations and people still have the feeling that they're in the store. They see the clothes on the racks next to them and they can see it on us while we're using it too. And then we have On Ambassador Bruno leading, which is amazing. He brings a great atmosphere, great vibes, and he always adjusts the workouts too. The whole idea was yes, to make it more inclusive, and also to be a part of the Run Club by having it the same day. That's the idea, just building the community, making it bigger.

4. So it's been a year and a half, almost two years since the store opened. How has the community evolved, not just with Run Club, but also in the way you see the atmosphere of the store? 


It’s a long way to think back.  Touching on Run Club, thinking that we started with only 10 people, now we have people that have really bonded and have friendships. It's beautiful to know that a place like the On store created that and to take that away is really nice. And, also seeing different body types come out. At the beginning, we had our Swiss crew and now I think we're very diverse – different body types, different backgrounds, different languages, and everyone has their little hub, but they're all together. And I think that's kind of the beauty of it. And I think it's the same with our store. At the beginning, we didn't really know what to expect. We see a huge mix of ages, but it also shows up in the store staff we have. Our store staff is so diverse – not one person is from the same area. We have, I think, 16 languages on the team between 17 employees.

5. How do you stay connected globally to the other On stores in your programming? What differences do you see in the approach?


There's a difference when you go global. In LA, the Run Club is on Thursday because Venice Beach Run Club is there with 200 people every single week so they work together now. New York does two Run Clubs a week, Wednesday and Sunday, one for a slower run. Paris is becoming huge right now and they have an amazing group coming out every single week in Miami. So, we all have a Run Club. We all have amazing turnouts, but there's no set program behind it. We want to make sure that they have that Explorer Spirit to tap into themselves and maybe one week they go to the track and then the other week they do a downtown course. They can choose that.

6. You had some really great one-off events too last year in Zurich. How do you plan those? 


On the one hand we look at how we are doing sales wise, traffic wise. Do we need something to push something? So then we can tap into the relationships we've already built with people who have a big reach on social media and do something fun. We’re building the community but also pushing towards our store goals. Pride is also a big thing for us as a company and with the goals that we have in mind, we really want to show our commitment to different communities in the city and on a team level too.


We talk to marketing every week and we align with strategies. Udo talks a lot with our community lead Kevin based on what athletes are we going to have with us. We had an OAC run last year and those runs have a hundred people show up. We have the Cloudmonster runs. So when we're in that push for the run category, we lean more towards our Run Club activities and then when we're in Movement or Outdoor, that's when we tap into more of our store events. We have a bunch of different things that we do, but we always make sure that it aligns with the overall marketing strategy.

7. When you're reflecting on the past year and a half, is there anything you're really proud of, some highlights?


There were a lot of special Run Clubs. For example, the Get Weird 2.0 Cloudmonster run. We had 145 people and we did one big route. The whole group moved together and at one point it was from one bridge to the other by the Limmat River. It was really an amazing thing. This year, I remember just a regular Wednesday,  there were 60 people, and this made me super proud. One week, we had two young guys coming from super far after school. They travelled here from outside of Zurich for 45 minutes just to run with us. This made me really happy knowing they like this community so much.


There are so many moments. One of the big standouts for me was the Surfer Swap event. One of our founders put in the newspaper that people in Zurich could come and bring an old Cloudsurfer back and swap it for a new one when we launched the new shoe. We had our Tech Reps; we had the Brand Experience team; we had a bunch of people in the store. We had a huge line up. We had organized a DJ, food trucks. It was just so much fun and we had 200 people sign up to get in. It's moments like that where we work with so many different departments that it also shows the bond we have with them and how when we come together we can build something super special.


The Pride event was, I would say for 2023, it was the thing that I'm most proud of. We ran it from the store, and we came up with everything. Just seeing the community come together for a united cause and something that's really going to make people feel good. We had a little glam station with two drag queens that just made you look even more fabulous with feather boas and then the workouts, stretching sessions. We opened it to the public and to the office. It was just a very colorful, very beautiful day. And I think for the team, it was just super fun.

8. When you think about how the community could evolve, what are you looking forward to? What's exciting about the future?


Definitely the second store opening in Zurich. That's a big one for all of us. But for me personally, it's the new HIIT workouts – that’s my baby. I really want to see that grow and become as big as Run Club is now. We’re hitting different targets, making it more inclusive in terms of body sizes and capabilities and strength and just making our community bigger. I would say this is my main focus for 2024 because we have solid foundations with most of the studios in Zurich. And then, of course, Pride. I think Pride is also just something that the entire team looks forward to, speaking to different communities and supporting them.

"For me personally, it's the new HIIT workouts – that’s my baby. I really want to see that grow and become as big as Run Club is now. We’re hitting different targets, making it more inclusive in terms of body sizes and capabilities and strength and just making our community bigger."


Yeah, doing everything bigger and better this year. Taking all our learnings from the year before and just putting those into action. We came out with better apparel sizes, larger apparel sizes. So, we can evolve our community through that too. How do we get people in extra large clothing or how do we showcase our mannequins that every size is welcome? Growing with the company goals and the vision. And, yes, we’re going to be opening a second store. It's going to be downtown, in the Old Town. Having two stores, it will be cool to see what the community can do. If we can have 140 people show up 15 minutes from downtown, just imagine what we can do right downtown.


For me, it’s also what will happen with the second store – we have a really big core that shows up nearly every week that's getting bigger and stronger. Then we’ll see, should we expand it for a new store? Or do so many people show up every week that we need to split it? Do we have a second Run Club on a different day? There's also a vision that we have other stores in other countries or cities setting up a Saturday or Sunday Run Club. So this is something I'm really excited about and hopefully something we can build up to.

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