Trends & Features

Growth trend

In 2013 the UK economy appeared to move in the right direction, posting its strongest growth since 2007. This growth, combined with the continued fall in unemployment, which now hovers just above the seven per cent mark in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, gives us an indication that we may finally be beginning to see the green shoots of economic recovery.

But how have the economic developments impacted the sport industry and in particular the running category? Are we seeing similar trends within this market? With full year 2013 data now available from the NPD Consumer Panel, this gives us a great opportunity to examine the running category in the UK.

Positive news
In light of the wave of more positive news regarding the UK economy, the UK running footwear market, which is valued at £321 million, experienced growth of just over five per cent during 2013 compared to 2012 in the latest NPD Online Consumer Panel data.

Upon closer inspection, this in fact continues the growth trend witnessed within this category in recent years. In reality, the performance of this category is less to do with the economy and more influenced by the increasing participation levels of running in the UK (according to Sport England) and the impact of manufacturers introducing performance running footwear, which is also fashionable. We are seeing more and more performance running footwear being worn on the high street and for non-sporting activities.

Younger consumers
As we see participation levels rise and manufacturers launching more fashionable running product lines, it is understandable that the growth in 2013 in the running category was driven by younger consumers. In particular, the demographic group aged 14-24 experienced the strongest growth of all. Another factor influencing the growth of the sport among younger consumers could be the relatively small financial outlay required to go running, as opposed to a gym membership.

Having said that, these 14 to 24 year old consumers still want to look good while wearing their running footwear. When asked what the main factor influencing their purchase of a running shoe was, number one was “The product looks good”. Retailers should be sensitive to this demographic group and make sure they are meeting their needs.

The second quarter of the year is traditionally the most important within the running category, as manufacturers release their new season’s models in time for spring/summer. As the UK saw in the New Year, we experienced some of the wettest weather on record in the first quarter of 2014. With large parts of the country still very much soggy underfoot, it remains to be seen if the traditionally strong second quarter of the year for the running category may be even bigger this year, as runners put off their purchases until the waters subside and the roads are cleared.

Reason to be optimistic
Looking forward to spring/summer and with better weather hopefully around the corner, the running category may continue to go from strength to strength, recording strong growth within the context of a sluggish economy that is on the path to recovery. As the burden on disposable income is lifted and consumer confidence is restored, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the category.

The NPD Group monitors the sales of sports footwear and apparel in many countries around the world. For more information visit or call the NPD Group sports team on 01932 355580.

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