Retailers Upbeat on Marathon Sales

With the first fall marathon season since the Boston bombings set to kick off this month, running retailers said neither safety concerns nor stricter security measures are dampening runners’ moods — or their spending.

“If [the bombing has] done anything, it’s fueled the enthusiasm for the event — and especially the drive to run Boston. We have runners trying to get qualified, hoping they get a spot there [for next year],” said Deb Hawney, manager of the Dick Pond Athletics location in Schaumberg, Ill.

Hawney and other retailers are prepping for The Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.

“People have moved on from the [Boston] incident and are excited to be running,” said Mark Rouse, owner of Runners High ’n Tri in Arlington Heights, Ill. And that excitement extends to marathons in general, he added. “The Milwaukee race is real close, and there are smaller marathons and regional races. Everyone seems to be pumped up.”

Kris Hartner, owner of Naperville Running Co., agreed that the overall enthusiasm for marathons is high. His store has a large number of customers training for both the Chicago race and for the inaugural Naperville, Ill., marathon set for November. “Boston [got] everyone cranked up. Everyone wants to run this year,” Hartner said.

The retailer noted his store is bullish heading into the traditionally busy fall season, especially as August was an “all-time record” month for sales. “We’re not complaining. There’s steady growth,” Hartner said.

In the New York area, stores also are expecting strong sales surrounding the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.

Shawn Marlovits, owner of the Fleet Feet Sports location in Hoboken, N.J., said that last year’s cancellation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has fueled excitement and participation.  “A lot of people are not only doing New York but a couple of the other big fall marathons,” he said. “There’s maybe a little more anticipation this year for the marathon than in prior years, based on everything that happened last year.”

“[Marathon-time business] is great — always. It’s Christmas for Super Runners Shop,” added Jovan Zow, manager of Super Runners Shop’s Upper West Side unit in New York.

And Zow predicted anxiety about the Boston attack is unlikely to change that. “Security will be tighter, [but] I don’t think it will stunt the New York marathon. In fact, it will actually do the opposite,” he said.

New York race sponsor Asics will continue its normal marathon activities, including a limited-edition version of the Gel-Kayano shoe celebrating both the event and the sneaker’s 20th anniversary.

As for security for upcoming events, the Chicago and New York marathons have announced changes to their standards. Chicago runners will now have to show identification to pick up their race packets, and all runner belongings will be stored in see-through bags distributed by the race organization.

“In close collaboration with the [New York Police Department] and our federal, state and city agency partners, [marathon organizer New York Road Runners] partnered with one of the world’s top security firms to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of our existing security program,” a spokesperson for NYRR said in a statement.

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