AUSTIN, Texas — Retailers shopping The Running Event, held here Dec. 7-10, said an unprecedented selection of bright, saturated tones in the athletic market for fall ’12 would appeal to a customer base ready to embrace color.
“It’s all about color, in all things,” Robb Finegan, co-owner of two Fit Right NW stores in Portland, Ore. “It’s a new word I need to get in my vocabulary.”
Fresh hues, especially in franchise shoes, give customers a reason to buy, Finegan added, but placing bets on the right colors and combinations will add a layer of difficulty.
“It’s the inventory issue that I worry about,” he said.
Vendors including Asics, Pearl Izumi, Mizuno, Brooks, New Balance and Saucony were showing amped-up jewel tones and eye-catching combinations of brights to make the shoes look fast, aggressive and young.
Chris Alderman, VP of Runners Roost in Lakewood, Colo., said the younger generation should wholeheartedly embrace the trend toward colorful looks. “That consumer is 100 percent on board. They’re all about that kind of stuff,” he said.
But Alderman cautioned that adding color should not come at the expense of options for the more traditional shopper. “The older consumer still grativates toward the more conversative colors.”
Also top of mind for running independents: the growth and evolution of the minimal category.
Jeanine Sylvester, owner of Runner’s Alley, based in Portsmouth, N.H., said her barefoot and related shoe sales have grown steadily during the past year, from representing roughly 5 percent of the business to close to 15 percent at the end of this year.
“More people are asking about it and aware of it,” she said.
Ben Hernandez, manager of a Run for Your Life store in Charlotte, N.C., pointed to an emerging opportunity in shoes with features and constructions that bridge the gap between barefoot and traditional mainline product.
“I see a bigger push with what I call the transitional shoe movement,” he said.
Johnny Halberstadt, co-owner of the four-store Boulder Running Co. chain based in Boulder, Colo., said his mission is to interpret the different minimal shoe offerings for consumers and ensure they understand what product, if any, is appropriate for them.“It’s [our obligation] to show the options,” he said. “It’s our duty to give a more realistic picture.”
But Fit Right NW’s Finegan said that at the end of the day, the increased attention shoe designers have been giving to materials, construction techniques and biomechanics in the wake of the minimal explosion has been a positive development for running footwear, even outside the core barefoot category. “It has made the core shoes better,” he said. “That’s the best thing that’s come out of it.”