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Brooks CEO: We're benefitting from a 'secular running boom'

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Many Americans picked up running during the COVID-19 pandemic for fun, health, or peace of mind. One big beneficiary of this explosion of popularity is running stalwart and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) owned Brooks Running.

“We found out that running is COVID friendly,” Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber told Yahoo Finance Live. 

“We saw after the retail shutdowns and stay at home orders in, in late May, people started running and sales began to match that. So we’re up 27% year over year, last year, just an amazing outcome in a very difficult and challenging retail environment. And this year, our momentum has actually accelerated.”

Weber said the company is experiencing a “secular running boom,” which has driven Brooks revenue up 57% year to date. Brooks Running has also continued to take share from rival Nike (NKE). 

Matt Powell, senior sports industry adviser for The NPD Group, tells Yahoo Finance that Brooks is not only taking share from Nike — but the brand is number 1 when it comes to women’s performance running. A byproduct that Webber says is naturally by design.

“It’s always intentional to add customers to our brand. We’re so focused on runners. We have been exclusively now for 20 years. All of our marketing, all of our communication is focused on people who put one foot in front of the other,” Weber said.

“And I think when shopping went all digital last spring, we benefited from that. I just think we were present with a fantastic product at a time when a lot of new people were coming into running. So yeah, we love adding customers to our brand and they have lots of choices so it’s very competitive.”

Brooks Ghost 14  — Brooks Running
Brooks Ghost 14 — Brooks Running

First carbon-neutral shoe

The company, founded in 1914, just launched its first-ever carbon-neutral shoe, the Ghost 14. Weber says that the company will purchase enough high-quality carbon offsets to equal Ghost 14’s carbon footprint. The newest version of the Ghost will focus on converting traditional polyester textiles to recycled polyester alternatives that have lower carbon emissions. Approximately 60% of the upper textile raw material inputs are recycled, providing significant improvements over previous Ghost versions.

“We’ve been focused on sustainability for well over a decade. Part of it is because of our brand, people run outside. So we heard from customers early on. They wanted to know the impact that we were having in the environment,” he said.

“There are some other carbon neutral products in our industry, but they’re often concept products. They’re really not high volume products and so in our industry, this is equivalent to maybe the Ford F150. The Ghost is one of the best-selling shoes in running, and now it’s carbon neutral.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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