Can the Wuhan coronavirus be contracted by opening a box of running shoes that came from a factory in China?
The answer is no, it cannot. The deadly virus is primarily transmitted by sneezing, coughing and personal contact. But that was a real question posted recently on a social media page dedicated to running shoes, portraying some of the uneasiness and unknowns about the illness as it relates to the running shoe industry. And understandably so. As of mid-February, the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China had killed more than 1,300 people and infected more than 60,000 people worldwide. But the impacts to the running industry appear to have been relatively minor so far.
Running Insight talked to representatives from several U.S.-based running shoe brands and found that most companies had restricted personnel travel to China beginning in late January. A few admitted experiencing canceled meetings, factory visits and production delays due to temporary workforce quarantines and factory shut-downs in China. Those delays and restrictions could extend through early March, but the impact of the coronavirus doesn’t appear to be widespread or hugely impactful as it has been to the electronics, automotive or the cruise industries.
Because most leading running brands are producing most of their major shoe lines in factories in Vietnam, it’s generally mid- to low-level product lines that have been affected. However, it should be noted that some materials and shoe components outsourced from China have delayed production in other countries. Several brands reported having to fast-track some of their special, next-generation long-distance racing models that are debuting this month at the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta, as well as some of the newfangled spikes that will debut prior to the U.S. Olympic Trials track meet in Eugene, Ore., in June.
While those will result in some financial impacts, it doesn’t appear that U.S. retailers will experience any significant lags in delivery schedules for summer and fall shoe deliveries.
The most notable impact to the running industry has been the postponement of the 2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships, which had been slated for March 13-15 in Nanjing, China. That meet has been rescheduled for next winter. But given that it’s an Olympic year, only a handful of U.S. athletes were expected to compete in that meet.