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On the Road Again: Bikes, Running...and Rollerblades

19 Jul, 2020

By: Michael Popke

We already know that both running for fitness and recreational cycle tourism are trending up since COVID-19 but here’s something you may not be aware of: Inline skating (you might have lost track of it after the mid-90s back in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers era) is back in a big way. In fact, sales of skates have experienced a 300 percent increase.

With many ballfields closed and health club members hesitant to resume working out next to strangers, it’s no surprise that individual outdoor recreational activities are getting stronger interest.

“The U.S. performance running market has turned a corner during the COVID-19 pandemic,” declared SGB Media at the end of June. “Dollar sales rebounded in mid-May and in the week ending June 20 grew by 30 percent compared to last year — the highest sales gain in a given week since the start of 2020, according to The NPD Group.”

“We are seeing a renewed interest in and commitment to health and fitness take hold, and I expect performance running will be a real beneficiary in today’s COVID-19 world,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry advisor “With sales declining on an annual basis and athleisure becoming the driving force in footwear, it has been a mixed bag for the performance running footwear market; however, the current environment could work in its favor. We should see running benefit in the COVID-19 recession, as this market has typically performed well during recession[s]. In addition, consumer inclination towards more practical purchasing and social distancing bodes well for the continuation of a positive running trend.”

The latest statistics stand in contrast to a Running USA report released in March, just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold of the United States. According to the organization’s data, the number of runners registering for organized races in the United States was down slightly in 2019, continuing a six-year gradual decline of mass participation in recreational road racing. The industry peaked in 2013, Running USA noted, when 19 million runners crossed the finish line at U.S. running events over all distances.

Even back in March, though, Running USA predicted that “2020 will certainly be an anomaly when it comes to participation trends, given the large number of races that have already had to cancel previously scheduled events due to COVID-19.”

Bicycling is picking up the pace, too. Manufacturers report dramatic sales spikes that have made it challenging to keep up with demand, according to CBSNews.com. Sales of adult leisure bikes were up 121% in March alone, and they were up 75% in April, according to BicycleRetailer.com.

“Consumers are looking for outdoor- and kid-friendly activities to better tolerate the challenges associated with stay-at-home orders, and cycling fits the bill well,” NPD sports industry analyst Dirk Sorenson told CBS News.

“We saw panic buying on bikes in the lower price range, around $400,” added Bevin Carroll, co-owner of Bicycle Sport, a bike shop in Vero Beach, Fla. “People were just coming in and were going to buy anything we had on the floor at that entry price level.”

But the fact that inline skating is also on a roll has surprised equipment manufacturers in the industry.

“Going back to what we would consider the start of the 2020 season, sales were flat to previous years,” John Rushin, marketing manager for leading inline skates maker K2, told GearJunkie.com. “At that point, there was no indication that something big was about to happen. Then, once we got into April, we saw sales and interest in inline skates increase dramatically.”

Similarly, Rollerblade (another leading manufacturer) reports a 300% sales increase in recent months.

“Whether it’s an Instagram post of my friend walking her dog (or more accurately, being pulled by it while on skates) or the increasing number of socially distanced park-goers gliding around the paths, there is an uncanny uptick in inline skating,” noted GearJunkie.com writer Adam Ruggiero.

Just don’t go looking for the Power Rangers too.

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