The Running Biz: U.S. Athletic Footwear Sales up 2 percent (in our world, pretend running shoes up 17 percent, real running shoes down 10 percent)


Welcome to the Running Biz, my new series on the business of running. In this frequent new column, Larry Eder (c'est moi), will try and intepret various goings on, and then try and provide some suggestions on how to improve the daily challenges of our culture.

And now, we begin...

Okay sports fans, as a public service, @runblogrun will translate the newest stats from the land of Athletics Footwear, courtesy of Matt Powell at NPD. Seriously, Matt Powell is a statistical diety. The guy gets our business and provides honest, and thoughtful commentary on a business that is, quite frankly, a hot mess.


But, how to interpret?

That's why you are reading this!

Athletic Leisure is the theme right now, and Matt Powell does not believe it will change for a while. That does not mean you should not be prepared for the coming changes.

Athletic Leisure, aka pretend running has grown 17 percent this year, with total sales of $9.6 billion. Real running, aka performance shoes is down ten percent, to $7.4 billion in sales.

Athetic footwear is up 2 percent overall to $19.6 billion in overall sales, with average price static at $58.16 per pair.

So, if you are one of about 700 local running or local combo running/sports culture stores across the U.S. and you are focused on the top of the pyramid, $140 average price (about $2 billion of that business), how do you interpret this?

1. Numbers are better now than in the 1990s. Mark Twain noted, "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." We have always believed that 70-80 percent of running shoe sales were for non-runners, and we know that is important.

2. Performance running may be down, but that is $7.4 billion! Brands like HOKA ONE ONE, ON Running, New Balance, Brooks are all picking up performance sale. That is because of the collapse of Mizuno, and the declines of ASICS America over the past 18 months. If a brand does not support its business, it will loose market share.

3. Do you need to be a player in pretend running or Athleisure? Of course you do, a few models that are lower priced, and differentiated from your specialty retail running product. Brands like Skechers have the Walking and Running at $70 price points in their stores. But note the performance product that they make. Why don't you have beginning running and Athleisure at $90-$100 in your stores?

4. Key influencers are very important. Some brands, like PUMA, are hiring local influencers to speak out via social media. adidas has RunBase cultures around the world. Nike supports running events and local social media influencers. Major brands like adidas, Nike, New Balance have sponsored athletes that now run, race and do social media. For the younger athletes and consumers, they want to relate to the athletes and they identify the athlete ambassadors with the brand. But most important, and the brands forget this, are the local key influencers. You know, the runner you see out every week when you take the trash out in the morning. Used to be that most wore ASICS, but not any more, now, many brands have that runner. Funny thing is, brands take these runners/influencers for granted.

5. Local support for running stores is key. If brands want the local running channel to survive, they need to take this culture seriously. Our suggestion? Remember regional running media? We are still there. Local websites, local social media, local print (yes) all build your brand still. Brands need to build better content for the local running stores and tell the story. Runners see brand info on websites, social media and print as reinforcing the messaging. While over 70 percent of under 35 consumers are on mobile almost all day, the number of 10-13 percent of key influencers reading print is key. If you want to see breakout per age group, send us a note to [email protected] and we will provide a report).

6. Running is here to stay. So is walking...Running is not going anywhere, but people are lazy. Major brands are all selling online. And the local running store brands become less and less of their business, but that is okay. Focus your business on brands that sell, and brands that support your business. Make sure your website is updated, newsletter is good and you have relationships with local running magazines and media, so you can get additional media content with your advertising.

7. Cut down your events and extracurriculars, focus on doing less, making it better. Kris Hartner of Naperville Running Company in an interview (noted with link on his name), suggested race director cut back on making new events, just make existing ones better. For example, if you have a running club, if less and less are showing up at 4 workouts a week, then do two workouts better. Focus your business and support key groups, like local high school teams. Also consider RRCA clubs and local college teams. Look, most college teams get nothing for free, and have to purchase all. 1.4 million high school kids at 16,000 track and cross country programs. 160,000 college and jr college athletes in track and cross country. 250,000 RRCA members in 2500 clubs. Yet most running stores know NOTHING of this grass roots culture.

8. Athleisure will always be there, but the move back to serious running shoes will happen once again. Watch for trail, athletic trail all coming around once again. Always look for new brands, new products and learn about the new trends in the sport.

To read the column on U.S. Athletic shoe sales, please go here: Athletic shoe sales increase 2 percent in 2017!

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required