RIA Survey Says: Specialty Run Channel Remains Resilient


A survey of more than 100-specialty run retailers conducted by the Running Industry Association reveals promising sales figures for the past year despite its challenges. And the survey also shows the growing role of ecommerce for run specialty retailers.

A key takeaway: 68 percent of run stores surveyed reported exceeding or being within 10 percent of their 2019 sales numbers in 2020. This is significant in lieu of all of the COVID-induced store closures back in March and April of 2020. The channel proved resilient and rebounded in the back half of 2020 with 39 percent of stores in the channel reporting they exceeded 2019 sales, and another 29 percent saying they were within 10 percent of the prior year.

Footwear sales held up strongest for specialty run retailers, but apparel sales percentages were within striking distance. Accessories bore the biggest hit with over two-thirds reporting flat or down compared to 2019.

Over 85 percent of reporting stores finished the year with a full staff or stayed within 90 percent of a full staff.

Run retailers are generally bullish on 2021 returning to pre-COVID-19 growth. Forty-two percent are already back to normal sales, and an additional 37 percent are confident about returning to normal sales volume by Q3.

Ecommerce has been a difference maker. Here are some key takeaways from the survey regarding ecommerce:

  • Last March, 27 percent of specialty run retailers surveyed by RIA said they were selling online. In 2021, that figure is now 86 percent. And 97 percent of specialty run retailers who are selling online expect their 2021 ecommerce business to equal or exceed 2020 sales figures.
  • Run specialty retailers reported 72 percent of their sales came via ecommerce in 2020. (versus 52 percent in 2019)
  • Most run retailers said they focus their ecommerce on products they sell in store.
  • More than half of running retailers reported that more than 80 percent of their online sales are to local customers, though 61 percent said they see their online sales growing beyond their local community in 2021.
  • Less than half (47 percent) of running retailers said they feel like their ecommerce business is supported by their brand partners.
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