After the November 10 issue of Running Insight+ previewed numbers 6-10 of the 21 most important issue facing run specialty in 2021 – the complete list will appear in the special December 1 issue of Running Insight – we promised numbers 1-5 would be unveiled in this issue of RI+. So here are the top five as determined by the editors of Running Insight, but with one twist — they are not listed in order of importance. We leave that to you, our readers, to determine which you think are the most important issues facing the business as we turn the page to 2021.

Running retail’s resiliency

The invasion of the novel coronavirus brought unprecedented challenges to American society. The pandemic forced many running retailers to temporarily close their stores, halted group events and thrashed normalcy. By and large, run specialty weathered the storm and running retailers should enter 2021 with solid confidence that they can – and will – adapt and flex to market forces, which is important as uncertainty persists.

The slow return of group events

Fun runs and local races have long fueled run specialty business, enabling run shops an energized, social way to connect with customers. While such events have slowly returned to areas across the U.S., they are far off pre-pandemic levels. Lacking such deep-seated opportunities, how will running stores keep customers engaged, motivated and excited about what they can offer?

Carbon-plated footwear … beyond.

Carbon-plated footwear was not invented in 2020, but it certainly made deeper inroads into the market during the Year of COVID-19. A plethora of exciting new models hit the market in 2020. In the meantime, brands have begun playing with other propulsive plate materials. Such spirited innovations have galvanized run specialty, empowering the “two-shoe talk” with customers, providing stores something fresh to promote and boosting top-line revenue.

Coronavirus-driven categories

COVID-19 ignited new product categories at run shops, while invigorating other established product categories. Masks and facial coverings became an entirely new revenue stream for most shops – and arguably the biggest marketing opportunity of the century for those with a promotional slant – while existing categories like hydration and home care, including PT tools and the relatively nascent market of massage guns, caught fire.

Tokyo Olympics

Moved from 2020, the Olympics are slated to begin in Tokyo in late July. The Summer Olympics have historically placed running on a grand stage and cultivated heroes. Here’s hoping the Olympics proceed as planned and inject energy into the sport – and inspired traffic into running retail.