As more people get off the couch and hit the streets, two shops specializing in running gear are growing to meet the demand.
Locally owned New England Running Company on Enon Street in Beverly is expanding its store, while the Greater Boston Running Company, which is part of a nationwide chain, opened its sixth running store, in Vinnin Square in Swampscott in September.
The news comes at a time when runners seem to be everywhere on the North Shore. Some are training for the Boston Marathon, but many are simply running to stay fit and be part of a growing community.
“I think the sense we have on running, it’s perceived it’s more attainable than it ever was,” said Brett Reily, district manager for Greater Boston Running Company. The sport does not require much specialized equipment or a particular venue.
And as participation grows, so does competitiveness among businesses in the running industry.
“It’s definitely stronger,” said Dave Menosky, owner of New England Running Company. “There are just more sources for buying shoes online. The big-box stores are carrying more on running. We have to update our game.”
According to a report by the nonprofit Running USA, participation and athletic shoe sales hit an all-time high in 2012, when at least 51.4 million Americans laced up at least once that year, an increase of 2.8 percent from the prior year. Of those, 29.5 million were considered core runners, a jump of 2.9 percent, says the survey, citing figures from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Running and jogging shoe sales totaled $3.04 billion in 2012, up 23 percent from 2011, the report says, citing figures from the National Sporting Goods Association. About 44.6 million running shoes were sold in 2012, up from 29.4 million in 1998.
The trend, however, has been away from specialty athletic footwear shops, as percentage of sales from these stores has dropped from 22.1 percent in 1998 to 18 percent in 2012. General sporting goods stores, discount stores and online sales have shown significant sales gains, the report states.