A recent survey of outdoor specialty retailers about trail running by Brooks in cooperation with SNEWS showed that about two of three respondents expected growth in trail-related sales over the next three years.
The survey sought opinions from store owners, managers and buyers about the evolution, status and future of the trail running market. Brooks plans a trail/adventure line of shoes and apparel for Spring 2005 and quality information to help in development, while SNEWS looked for insider information to share with its subscribers.
"This seems to shows there is a market, and it's not just contrived," said Stan Mavis, Brooks senior vice president of apparel and accessories, about the results, which have also been sent to survey respondents.
"What we have seen is that this running and cross-training category is viable and it's here to stay," Mavis told SNEWS.
According to the survey, Vasque is the leading trail shoe brand, tailed by Montrail and Merrell (nearly tied), then followed by Salomon, The North Face, and (tied) Nike ACG and New Balance, with the both Asics and adidas coming in at similar levels at the end of those brands named.
Just slightly more than one in five respondents said they carry "trail running-specific apparel," with those brands being lead by Patagonia, followed by The North Face, Pearl Izumi, Nike ACG, Sport Hill, Sugoi, Moving Comfort and Hind.
Interestingly, about one in four respondents said there are no problems with current trail running shoes available, although 22 percent said they are "not aesthetically pleasing," about 15 percent said they do not come in widths, and about 12 percent each said they ignore foot biomechanics, are ill-fitting, or ignore environmental conditions. None said they were "too gender specific."
Of those buying trail shoes, respondents said 59 percent were men; of those buying performance activewear, 53 percent were women. Trail footwear sales represented only 14 percent of all footwear sales in a store, which represented about 18 percent of total retail sales.
The survey was promoted in SNEWS, at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, and by email invitation to specialty outdoor retailers. Respondents represented 229 storefronts, with 53 percent of those answering the survey having only one store. Although not huge, Mavis pointed out that the results helped validate the brand's belief and create more of a direction.
He said Brooks is serious about this endeavor, one he has championed since the Pearl Izumi co-founder arrived there in November 2002 after a stint at Asics. But he says the product will not just be a color-up to get into the outdoor market. It will, he said, incorporate the company's current running shoe technology as well as other technology in development he can't reveal. He said the emphasis will be on "durability without weight."
"The category is driven by running," Mavis said. "It shows whether you are on the road or on the trail, running's still running."