Tough Times Ahead for Trail Running?

If the release of the third quarter financial results of two outdoor retail conglomerates yesterday is indicative of outdoor industry as a whole, the industry and, in turn, outdoor sports may be headed for tough times. For starters, Montrail’s parent company Columbia Sportswear reported that while there was no year-over-year change in quarterly Montrail sales ($2 million in both ’07 and ’08), the January 1 to September 30 numbers for both years show 9-month Montrail sales fell 15% from $11 million to $9.3 million. Similarly, Deckers Outdoor’s results note that its Teva brand sales were flat year-over-year for the third quarter. However, sales of Teva’s sandals were down and results only remained flat due to the introduction of close-toed Teva models within the past year.

It remains to be seen whether the results of these two brands are indicative of a slowdown in the outdoor industry as a whole. Neither is it known what impact such a down turn would have on core outdoor and fitness brands’ sponsorship of races and ultrarunners (big sponsored teams, small teams, individual sponsorship), not to mention the effects on product development, the elimination of troubled companies (there’s a great diversity of trail shoe companies at the moment), and additional barriers to outdoor start ups, which often produce some of the most innovative gear.

We here at can’t imagine not running due to a slow down in the economy. Reduced to its basics, running is a fairly inexpensive sport requiring only occasional replacement of shoes, infrequent replacement of clothing, and rare replacement of gear… if the gear is even necessary. We can, however, imagine entering or, at least, traveling to fewer races.

What do y’all think about the possible slow down in the outdoor industry? Is it happening? Anyone have thoughts on what the effects of such a slow down would be on trail running? Any of the outdoor industry folks care to chime in? (You can comment anonymously or contact iRunFar for to share an anonymous tip, if you prefer.) How ’bout our retail readers… what’s life like at the sales rack and register these days?

On the runner side of things, have you or will you alter you running or racing due to the current economic debacle?