Running USA's State of the Sport 2009

07/15/2009 - 14:08

RUSA_logo2in300res_0.jpgPart I - Running Industry Expected to Place Well in U.S. Recession Marathon
The results are in. Considering that just about every running related stat is up, Americans have provided evidence with their feet and credit cards that running – as an industry, a fitness activity and a competitive sport – is indeed recession resistant.

Modest Declines Seen by Majority of Sport Related Companies

The 2008 wholesale figures for U.S. sporting goods provided by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) are not bad considering that was a year when the stock market dropped 33.8%.  Compared to 2007, the total wholesale dollars shipped were down only 3.2% to $66.3 billion, the sports apparel component was down 2% to $28.9 billion and athletic footwear shipments dropped 4.6% to $12.4 billion. NSGA’s “Sporting Goods Market Report Historical Data” offers a similar view of recent declines and provides a 28-year context. In 1998, sporting goods retail sales totaled $69.83 billion dollars in the U.S. After peaking in 2007 at $91.4 billion, NSGA’s estimate decreased to $79.6 billion in 2008 and is projected at $72.1 billion for 2009. Footwear sales also peaked in 2007 but is predicted to stay at the same level for 2009. Sports apparel, on the other hand, has been flat for the last five years and in 2008 with $10.6 billion in sales, was considerably lower than the 1998 total of $12.85 billion. 
But Running Products and Services Fared Well
In contrast to the overall sports industry, the growth seen in many areas of the running world from shoe sales to road race participation was impressive, especially in the context of the economy. NSGA’s “Sporting Goods Market in 2009” reports that retail sales dollars of the running/jogging category of footwear were up 5% (to $2.3 billion), numbers of running shoe units were up 2% and running apparel increased 1%. The larger corporations like Nike, adidas and Finish Line had their financial difficulties, but it was not due to their running products declining in popularity. And in the case of Runner’s World magazine which saw a decline of 0.8% in dollars and 6% in number of pages after strong growth in recent years, significant ad revenue disappeared from non-running entities like the auto industry.
Table 1: Jogging & Running Footwear Sales in U.S. (NSGA - 1)


Running Shoe Units

Running hoe Dollars
987 million
1.47 billion
2.19 billion
2.31 billion

Sales Channels - % of Units

Department Stores

General Sporting Goods

Specialty Athletic Footwear

Discount Stores

Family Footwear

Online Internet


Factory Outlet


Specialty Sport Shops

Mail Order

Running Specialty Stores
The 713 U.S. running specialty stores represented  by Leisure Trends Group retail sales tracking reported $649 million (a 5% increase) in sales for the rolling year ending in March of 2009. This compares very favorably to other industries tracked for the same time period – all outdoor retail (up 1%), specialty outdoor (down 4%), all snow retail (down 4%) and snow specialty (down 8%). The heart of the running specialty stores – running shoes – showed an even healthier record of 10% growth for the 12-months ending in March 2009. The apparel sales were down 12.3% for the same period. Running specialty stores are helped by the relatively small percent of apparel (16%) compared to shoes (70%). The best sellers were stability road running shoes, casual shoes, bra tops, insoles and socks. Leisure Trends predicts possible trouble ahead, because stores have decreased inventory.

Millions of Americans Running Away from Troubles

One reason the industry is healthy is that there has been a parallel increase in the running population. NSGA estimates that the total running population in 2008 was 35,904,000 – an increase of 18.2% over 2007! The Outdoor Industry’s estimate for number of U.S. trail runners in 2008 was 4,857,000, an increase of 15.2%.
Table 2: U.S. Running Participation Numbers for 2008
SGMA (1) Total Runners    Run/Jog at least once    41,130,000
SGMA (1) Core Participants    Run/Jog 50 days/yr    23,402,000
SGMA (1) Frequent Runners    Run/Jog 100+ days/yr    14,974,000
OI (1) Total Trail Runners    Run on trails at least once    4,857,000
NSGA (2) All Runners    Run/Jog 6 days/yr    35,904,000
NSGA (2) Frequent Runners    Run/Jog 110+ days/yr    7,783,000
Stories with headlines like “Sales of Marathon Goods Still Strong” (by Shira Springer, Boston Globe, April 20, 2009), “Running for Lean Times” (by Cameron Stracher, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2009) and “Fast Times for Jobless Runners” (by Reed Albergotti,, July 8, 2009), have helped promote the cost effective physical and mental health benefits of running to new audiences. The authors have observed strong interest in running products, event participation and training in spite and in some cases a result of the recession. Running is described by Albergotti as a way for the unemployed to run through their stress, get in shape with more regular training time and train for a cause that makes them feel that they can still be productive.
Upcoming State of the Sport 2009 reports will examine runner demographics, trends in race participation and the Largest Races in the world and U.S.

Sources for Part I

SGMA = Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. = 2008 SGMA Sports Research Partnership (with other trade groups - National Golf Foundation, SnowSports Industries, Tennis Industry Association and Outdoor Industry). Online survey was given sample of 40,174 people who represent the U.S. population. For more information, go to:
NSGA = National Sporting Goods Association. (1) = “NSGA Sporting Goods Market in 2009” and the Sporting Goods Market with Historical Data CD, based on retail sales in the U.S. projected from consumer interviews, (2) = NSGA Sports Participation in 2008, Series I. To obtain information on any of the NSGA products and services, email:, phone (847) 296-6742 or go to:
OIF = Outdoor Industry Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation Participation 2009 Topline Report”. For more information visit
Leisure Trends = Running Specialty Store Retail Sales Tracking as reviewed in webinar “How Healthy is Running Specialty?” by Elisabeth Stahura, Retail Analyst. For more information go to To participate in the specialty store panel and have access to complete details during the year, contact Greg Shoenfeld at = State of the Sport reports, many types of running data and lists of the Largest Races from past years can be found on in the "Statistics" section. For other questions about running trends and demographics, contact Ryan Lamppa [].

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