May 20, 2022

America’s Post-Pandemic Spike in Online Demand for Running Gear

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon

It’s time to lace up a new pair of running shoes and start stretching for Global Running Day! On the first Wednesday in June, Global Running Day is meant to inspire everyone from seasoned marathoners to casual walkers to get moving.

As the leader in global ecommerce acceleration, we’re constantly curious about the forces impacting shifts in consumer behavior. So, to celebrate Global Running Day, we decided to do a deep dive into the online sales for running gear to answer a few burning questions:

Key Questions about Running Gear Online Sales

  • When do running gear sales spike?
  • Which types of running gear and supplies see the most online demand?
  • Has COVID-19 impacted, positively or negatively, the demand for running supplies and gear?

To answer these questions, our data science team analyzed market demand for a range of running gear and supplies on Amazon over the past three years. A few of our key findings at a high level:

Topline Data and Insights

  • Demand for running clothing and accessories is highest during the holiday shopping season through the New Year
  • Running footwear experiences the highest demand during spring and early summer
  • COVID-19 has had a mixed impact on demand for running gear and equipment
    • Demand for clothing and accessories shot up in first weeks of lockdown in 2020
    • Demand for running shoes didn’t increase until 2021
  • Women’s running shoes and gear have experienced far larger increases in demand post-pandemic than men’s
    • Demand for women’s running shorts was up 305% in 2021 vs 2019
      • Demand for men’s was up 159%
    • Demand for women’s trail running shoes was up 262% in 2021 vs 2019
      • Demand for men’s down -9%

Let’s dig into the data.

When Does Demand for Running Gear Peak?

To start out, we wanted to see when Americans are shopping for new running gear like running shoes, clothes, GPS watches, hydration vests, and more. So we examined weekly demand for all related running categories and items in 2021 and the first few months of 2022.

To support New Year resolutions, demand starts the year somewhat high then dips in the early spring before climbing back up at the end of the year. January 2022 actually saw an all-time high for running gear, with even more people running into resolutions season

Running gear can consist of everything from new shoes, to shorts, to a shiny new running watch, so does all running gear experience the same seasonal demand? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Demand for Running Gear by Category

First, here’s a breakdown of which categories in our combined view held the most weight:

In 2021, running clothing saw the most demand of any running-related category in our analysis, with “running equipment” falling not far behind. Men’s running clothing and women’s running clothing also saw a ton of demand, so it’s likely the trendline in our first graph is primarily showing us when demand is highest for running clothing in particular.

We then determine whether some of these items are impacted by seasonal demand.

Demand for Running Gear–By Type

Let’s start by comparing changes in demand for different types of running gear and equipment:

Running shoes saw demand surge in early 2021, spiking in early spring and topping out in mid-April. So far 2022 has seen far less demand for running shoes overall, something we will investigate in a long term analysis later in this article.

Running clothing and running equipment see remarkably similar trends that, as we expected, match our combined view chart–demand increasing during holiday shopping and peaking in New Year’s resolution season.

Due to warmer temperatures and greater access to outdoor runs, as you might expect, hydration belts see demand peak during the early summer and drop significantly over the winter.

The priciest item in our analysis, running GPS watches and units, relied heavily on two promotional events–Amazon Prime Day, when demand surged by 71%, and Black Friday, which brought a 35% increase.

Running Gear Demand by Gender

Of course, as we saw in our analysis above, running gear is often split between men’s gear and women’s gear. So let’s take an even closer look by comparing some popular Men’s and Women’s categories, starting with types of clothing:

“Running clothing” as a general category for women and men alike both saw demand peak during the holiday shopping season through early January 2022. But when we drill into specific types of clothing we see clear seasonal differences.

Running shirts for men and women both see their highest demand levels in March and April. As for shorts, men’s shorts experience most of their demand over the early summer months, while weekly demand for women’s shorts has shot up to well over double the typical weekly average in spring of 2022.

Running Footwear Demand

Now let’s take a closer look at footwear:

Running shoes and socks of all varieties see very similar trends, with demand climbing steadily through the spring and into early summer before dropping to around average levels in the fall and continuing to drop over the winter.

Now that we have a general sense as to when different types of running gear experience the most demand, let’s look back even further to see what kind of impact the pandemic has had on demand for running gear.

Impact of COVID-19 on Demand for Running Gear

It’s clear there are significant seasonal trends when it comes to running gear, but one thing we noticed in many of the graphs above is that spring 2022 had a slower start than the same time in 2021.

That led us to wonder if 2021 was a particularly big year for running, and if that was something the pandemic might have driven?

Let’s start by examining the weekly demand once more, but this time starting in January 2020, starting with a view of all types of running clothing:

Demand absolutely skyrocketed shortly after the early lockdowns in 2020, increasing by 86% from the week of March 22nd to the week of March 29th.

Footwear didn’t experience the same type of surge, so it seems that most people who were looking to do more running in the early weeks of the pandemic felt they didn’t need a brand new pair of shoes to do so.

2021 catapulted demand for running shoes to new heights, perhaps driven by all the new runners who picked up the habit during the first year of the pandemic.

To get an even better understanding of COVID’s impact on running gear, let’s finish our analysis by looking back even further.

Impact of COVID-19 on Running Gear–By Type

Taking a monthly view allows us to go back even further, so here’s how each month compares starting back in 2019:

Here we see compelling evidence that the pandemic has driven long-term increases in demand for running clothing. The surge that came in April of 2020 bucked previous seasonal trends, and we’ve seen monthly demand stay above pre-pandemic levels for every month of each year since.

Running footwear, meanwhile, saw demand actually drop below pre-pandemic levels in 2020, then surge to all-time highs in spring of 2021. This gives further weight to our hypothesis that the early pandemic saw a lot of people stock up on running clothes and head out in an older pair of shoes. Then, in the following spring, enough of the new runners had stuck to it enough to invest in new running shoes.

2022 has seen demand remain behind 2021 levels, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on this trend as we enter late summer and early fall.

Naturally, we wanted to see if different types of running gear experienced different pandemic-related changes in demand.

Impact of COVID-19 on Running Gear–By Gender

Women’s running tights saw the biggest increase in year-over-year demand from 2019 to 2020. Women’s and men’s clothing accessories as well as women’s trail running shoes all saw demand more than double.

Again, not all types of running gear had a huge 2020, with women’s running skirts and shorts, mens running shoes and trail running shoes, and men’s running shorts all seeing annual demand drop significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Next up, here’s the same look at annual demand during year two of the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic averages.

Demand for women’s running gear was up significantly in 2021, with demand for shorts up over 300% compared to 2019, while women’s tights and trail running shoes all saw demand up by over 200%.

While some men’s gear was also up (men’s running clothing and accessories in particular), our analysis suggests that women were far more likely to have picked up running during the first couple of years of the pandemic.

For a clearer picture, let’s wrap up with a closer year-over-year view of some of these categories.

Here we see just how much demand has surged for women’s running shorts over the past few years. 2021 brought big increases across the board, and 2022 has seen demand absolutely skyrocket to new heights.

Men’s running shorts also experienced a huge 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020. 2022 has also started strong for men’s shorts, and even though it’s nothing compared to the surge in women's shorts, it’s clear there are still plenty of new runners hitting the streets and trails this year.

And when we take the same look at men’s and women’s running shoes, we again see that women’s running gear has seen a much larger pandemic-driven boost than men’s.

Women’s running shoes saw demand in 2020 lag behind pre-pandemic levels, then 2021 brought a massive spring surge.

Women’s trail running shoes enjoyed even larger surges in demand, both in 2020 and especially in 2021. 2022 has also started the year strong suggesting this trend isn’t going anywhere.

This isn’t what we see for men’s shoes, though.

2020 saw demand for men’s running shoes drop in the beginning of the pandemic, and they’ve stayed there every month since, with 2022 bringing new lows.

Trail running shoes did see demand surge in 2021 after a particularly slow 2019, but only at levels that were around what we saw pre-pandemic. And once again 2022 has seen demand drop to new lows.

Finally let’s close with a look at the most expensive item in our analysis, GPS running watches:

2020 saw demand start the year off remarkably strong, then drop significantly in early spring and remain well below pre-pandemic levels throughout most of 2020 only surpassing pre-pandemic levels in October likely thanks to Amazon Prime Day being postponed to that month.

2021 also saw demand lag well behind pre-pandemic levels, and while Prime Day did bring a boost in June, it fell far behind the spike during 2019’s Prime Day in July.

Key Takeaways for Brands

Our data tells a complicated story when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on running gear. It’s clear that many Americans stocked up on clothing in the early days of the pandemic. Demand for running shoes, meanwhile, didn’t really pick up until the following year, with women being far more likely to buy a new pair than men.

There’s also clear evidence that people weren’t really looking to invest in pricier running gear, for instance choosing to rely on older GPS watches, even though it’s clear that more people than ever are choosing to hit the roads and trails.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how seasonality (weather and behavioral) and promotional periods (such as holidays) impact demand for their products on online marketplaces. Drilling into the details like location, gender, and price points provide specific action items for marketing and creative strategy.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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