Retail helps runners go the distance


This online retailer provides exceptional service – while rewarding customers for donating used shoes.

When Mike Conforti started, a New Jersey-based e-retailer for runners, he wanted to provide an exceptional online experience. Not content to merely provide his customers with a convenient way to shop, Conforti was determined to do it in a socially and ecologically responsible way.

Giving runners the same positive experience online as in the store is a challenge mastered by

Conforti had already embraced superior customer service as a fundamental value of his brick-and-mortar running stores, Sneaker Factory Running Centers. Giving runners the same positive experience online – personal consultations, expert advice, quality running products, easy returns and exchanges – all while protecting the environment would be the challenge in creating

As a longtime customer, Conforti approached UPS's global logistics experts to discuss plans for his new venture.

Good for the sole

Discarded running shoes can take 100 years to decompose in a landfill. Instead of throwing them out, Conforti created a program motivating customers to return their old shoes in exchange for "Kindness Cash," which can be spent at Conforti's company then donates the old shoes to global nonprofit organizations such as Soles4Souls that send shoes and clothing to people in need.

"We collect old shoes from our customers at our cost," Conforti says. "We needed a solution that met our operational needs as well as the needs of our customers and nonprofit partners, while keeping our margins on a profitable track to long-term success."

Accomplishing the complex chain of deliveries in an efficient and environmentally conscious way takes expertise. Bruce Harris, a UPS account manager, increased visibility into shipments by integrating WorldShip® and Quantum View® Data with's internal systems. With these UPS solutions, Conforti can easily see which customers have shipped back their used running shoes, allowing him to reward them with Kindness Cash as soon as the returned shoes enter the UPS network.

"UPS has implemented solutions that save us more than 500 hours a year in labor costs," Conforti says. "Instead of processing the donated running shoes ourselves, returned shoes go directly to our nonprofit partners."

A carbon neutral difference

Delivering donated running shoes directly to Kindrunner's nonprofit partners saves more than time and money. It eliminates an extra step in the shipping process, reducing the carbon footprint of each donation.

"We wanted to get our customers' used shoes to people in need without increasing our carbon footprint," Conforti says. "UPS helped us develop a system so that the shoes don't get sent all the way back to us for redistribution but go directly to a nearby charity."

Using UPS technologies, the customers get a printed label that directs donated shoes to be sent to a location limited to an approximate 600-mile radius from the customer's home. According to Conforti, sending the shoes directly to his nonprofit partners' regional locations has also reduced their return shipping expenses by more than 30 percent.

Conforti also invests in UPS's carbon neutral shipping option. For as little as pennies for ground packages, he works with UPS to purchase carbon offsets that minimize the impact his shipments have on the environment. UPS then uses the funds to support certified environmentally responsible projects around the world.

"Using carbon neutral shipping was an easy decision," Conforti says. "I started to help people but also to create a sustainable for-profit business that makes sense."

Keeping customers running back

Running a sustainable business also relies on providing a positive customer experience. Delivering quality service without a lot of wait time keeps consumers happy, and easy returns are especially important for online businesses such as

Conforti touts free shipping, and he also offers free returns and free reshipping to guarantee his customers' satisfaction. Working with UPS technology, Conforti can better manage his inventory along with his Kindness Cash rewards program to save time and resources.

"Competing on price as an online business can become a race to the bottom," Conforti says. "Kindrunner's success is based on having a strong relationship with our customers and taking care of the things they care about – receiving high-quality products and services without sacrificing environmental and social responsibility."


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