Running Boom continues

Apr 15

Jogging has its fanatics in every country, but in Japan the sport has a fast expanding base of some 10 million people of all ages. Perhaps more than many countries, the enthusiasm for pounding the pavement is matched or even exceeded by the love of accessorising the daily ritual.

As anyone walking around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on a Sunday will have noticed, Japan is witnessing a boom in jogging. As delighted sports retailers have found, the running craze has brought an equal enthusiasm for a huge diversity of kit to go with it. Ever since the first Tokyo Marathon in 2007, the number of joggers in Japan has risen consistently each year, with an estimated 10 million joggers in 2013, up from 7.5 million in 2008. Tokyo’s recent acquisition of the Olympics is likely to spur the population on only further.

The benefits to both sports brands and retailers alike have been significant. Yano Research estimates the number of running shoes sold overall each year has risen from 15.6 million pairs in 2009 to 18.8 million in 2013, with jogging driving this growth. A key theme has been the increase in the number of women participants in the sport, and the concomitant expansion of more fashionable running shoes and apparel, both for women and increasingly for men.

In addition, brands are seeing a growing polarisation in consumption with an expanding entry level base and an equally fast growing prosumer segment of amateur athletes willing to spend heavily to get the best. The opportunities for amateur athletes to actually compete are also on the increase, with the number of races rising by more than double digits last year, and even then most races are quickly oversubscribed, suggesting pent up demand for more, and concurrent strong growth in prosumer running gear in the years ahead.

Another new theme helping to raise prices for running gear is the growing appetite for devices that link to smartphones such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike and Apple’s Nike+ collaboration, as well as a myriad of social sports apps that use social networks to motivate users.