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Supply chain shortages leave Canadian running shoe retailers uncertain

Pandemic-related shutdowns and labour in Southeast Asia have created a discrepancy between supply and demand

With two months until Christmas, run specialty stores are facing a dilemma: with so many new runners needing product, demand is at an all-time high, but pandemic-related supply chain issues in southeast Asia have created a bottleneck, slowing down the flow of goods manufactured in those countries, and many running retailers are uncertain in anticipation of a global deficiency.

Tu-Dong garment factory in Northeast Vietnam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As many as 75 per cent of running shoes worn by Canadians are made in Vietnam, a country of 95 million people that experienced extended lockdowns as COVID surged in the region in 2021, forcing a halt to manufacturing. The delay in production has caused global inflation rates to soar, with retailers across Canada questioning if they will receive enough product from the brands to meet the demand. 

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Lynn Bourque, the owner of The Runners Shop, a run specialty store in Toronto, says that some brands have told her that they have run out of shoes. “Because of the closures, everything now is being bottlenecked, and these delays will go into the spring and fall of 2022,” says Bourque. 

Lynn Bourque, owner of The Runners Shop, a run specialty store in Toronto. Photo: Canadian Running

Jason Stanton, the owner of Running Room Canada Inc., which has 80 retail locations across Canada, says he made the mistake of reducing orders in 2020. “With the pandemic hitting in March of 2020, we backed off orders, as we didn’t anticipate the demand of the new runners in the sport.” 

But there is more to the crisis besides the shutdown of the factories in Vietnam. “The brands aren’t taking as many orders as they used to, and they don’t have the staff to fulfill the demand in the supply chain,” says Pierre Léveillé, owner of Boutique Endurance in Montreal.

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Limited supply combined with surging demand has driven prices up. Multiple sources report that brands are charging higher prices to retailers, who in turn must pass on those increases to consumers. “Prices are going up, and the entry-level price points will feel the pressure,” says Bourque. “We have been told by the top brands that all new models will see a price increase of at least $10.” New models that were planned for spring 2022, are likely delayed to the fall. Léveillé concurs: “Although new models have been released from the brands, we are only able to purchase the older models for our store.” 

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“It isn’t that industry is running out of shoes – there will be shoes for everyone,” Stanton says. There are different models of every shoe on the market. You do not have to wear the latest model, your favourite colour or the shoe you’ve worn for 10 years. Now is the time to broaden your horizon and try something new.