Trends & Features

The rise of accessories in the running market

Just like footwear and apparel, accessories for running have also developed significantly in recent years and there is now a wide range of different products to cater for all of the needs of the runner.

Companies classify their ranges differently e.g footwear, apparel, accessories, equipment, nutrition, electronics etc. There are a wide range of products available for the runner outside the key categories of footwear, apparel and socks and I will touch on several in this article. We classify our product offerings into: footwear, apparel, socks, equipment and accessories.

So what accessories are available now and how have they developed in recent years? The list is endless – gloves, hats, nutrition, fuel flasks, gel carriers, waist belts, heart rate monitors, phone armbands, sunglasses, arm pockets, caps, headbands, visors, LED lights, packs, backpacks, bibs, laces, creams, to name but a few.

Some have been available for years, but are now so much improved or developed, whilst others have been relatively new developments, in line with trends or actual needs and requirements, or in line with the significant growth and popularity of running. Indeed I looked at one website that listed 14 essential accessories for training for a marathon!

Fabric and yarn technologies have made hats and gloves warmer, quicker drying and more breathable.

There is a lot more focus on listening to music, or training programmes whilst running these days so there are a variety of related products to carry smartphones and similar devices.

Heart rate monitors, GPS running watches, smart technology, for example, have really progressed and every aspect of the run can be analysed. Technology, as we know, develops at a rapid pace and it will be interesting to see what the future holds.

Fashion has and continues to play a big part as well, especially in line with the big increase in the percentage of women running and the ‘athleisure’ trend. Fit, style and co-ordinated colours have also developed significantly in recent years and without doubt will play a bigger part going forward.

Perhaps because there are now more accessories available and runners want to carry more things with them on the run, this has resulted in the availability of arm, waist and wrist packs and carriers to accommodate all of these items.

As we know apparel these days has a lot more pockets for the same reason. Years ago, most runners who wanted to carry a door and car key with them on the run, simply held it in their hand, or shoved it into a small fairly basic fob pocket in their shorts!

A really interesting development in recent years, has been the awareness and use of nutrition and hydration, both pre, post and during training and racing. Back in the 70’s/80’s many long distance runners only drank water and it was very rare for them to carry water on a long run. Even in long distance races and marathons, there was rarely a water station before the ten-mile point!

Dr Ron Hill often tells the story when he won the European Marathon, in Athens, in 1969, when it was so hot that the tar was melting beneath his feet. He didn’t take a drink for the whole of the race, and not long before passing the longtime leader, Gasston Rolants, from Belgium, he noticed an empty plastic cup on the ground and thought that Gasston must have been suffering and was weak!

Nowadays, many runners actually run with fuel flasks and use gels both in training and racing and the science behind hydration and nutrition has developed accordingly. In fact to conclude his story, Ron (Hill) does add that if the products and knowledge had been available in his day, could they have helped him to run faster?!

For retailers accessories are a really important category, but often neglected or the mix is not balanced correctly in store, or moved to strategic positions at key times of the year, e.g Christmas.

The weather can play a significant part too – when it’s cold and wet, hats and gloves need to be merchandised alongside related apparel. Likewise when the nights get darker earlier in the autumn, reflective accessories should be merchandised with related apparel in store or in the shop window. Hydration products, caps, visors, etc, should be in prominent positions particularly during really hot periods, such as we have experienced this summer.

With such a range of different accessories available retailers need to maximise their shelf space efficiently too – ensuring a good mix of products rather than stocking too many different brands of the same product category.

‘Good, better, best’ is always a way to differentiate products, so as to offer the consumer a range in line with their needs or budget.

Many runners like visiting their local running store and will often buy a new accessory or latest gadget.

Retailers should also remember that a lot of runners (especially those new to running) won’t be aware of all of the accessories available and their relevant benefits, so they need to ‘educate’ the consumer and in turn brands need to ensure that products have sufficient information on their packaging, as well as carrying out in-store training or adopting online training programmes such as Myagi.

Add on sales are often neglected, but cannot only benefit the runner and consumer experience in store, but also boost sales and profits, which should be a key driver for all retailers!

So, to conclude, I have only touched on a few of the different accessories available today and without doubt there will more and new developments in the future. The majority are all useful and beneficial to the runner and consequently offer a lot of opportunity to retailers for those essential add on sales.

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