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Brooks CEO on $1 Billion 2021: ‘A Record Year Across Every Metric We Track’

Brooks Running eclipsed the $1 billion annual revenue mark for the first time in 2021 after a year that saw the running footwear industry continue to thrive on new consumer habits. For the full fiscal year, the Seattle athletic performance company saw revenue jump 31 percent year over year to $1.11 billion.

The U.S. total running shoe market increased sales by 20 percent in 2021, according to data from The NPD Group’s consumer tracking service. Brooks’ annual performance aligns with the pandemic-accelerated trend that saw consumers gravitate toward socially distanced outdoor activities.

But Brooks has continued to be a significant success story in the athletic specialty and sporting goods (ASSG) channel, according to NPD’s December 2021 retail tracking data. Last year, Brooks earned the top market share in adult running shoes, with a 4-percentage-point year-over-year share increase to 28 percent.

Brooks says it has doubled global revenue since 2017.

The company’s total 2021 growth outpaced its 2020 gains, when revenue jumped 27 percent to almost $850 million, even as issues such as Covid-related factory closures dominated the year.

“The pandemic-related supply chain disruptions significantly affected global business operations with mandated factory closures leading to production disruptions, as well as product development inefficiencies due to an inability for product and sourcing teams to travel internationally,” the company said in a statement. “Brooks pushed through these challenges, prioritizing product quality, service and timely communication with manufacturing partners, and customers.”

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Across all U.S. retail channels combined, Brooks was the second-highest ranked adult performance running footwear brand in 2021, with 19 percent dollar share. After gaining 2 percentage points year over year, the brand saw sales growth in the category of 37 percent. NPD found that Brooks produced the industry’s top two franchise styles for adult performance running footwear throughout 2021, with the Ghost at No. 1 and the Adrenaline GTS in second place.

Illustrating Brooks’ growth within its own channel since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the footwear retailer’s direct e-commerce revenue in North America grew 149 percent over 2019 levels. Brooks’ EMEA business grew 25 percent in revenue year over year. Momentum occurred across all countries and distribution channels including specialty retail, general sporting goods, and directly on BrooksRunning.eu.

“Brooks had a record year across every metric we track,” Brooks CEO Jim Weber said in a statement. “Crossing the $1 billion threshold is especially gratifying as it reflects the outcome of a 20-year focus and commitment from our global team to inspire and serve runners better than any brand in run. We enter 2022 with strong demand for Brooks products in all retail channels as the only major brand exclusively anchored in performance across the run lifestyle, from sport enthusiasts to fitness seekers. I am optimistic the best is yet to come for the run community and for Brooks.”

Unlike many competitors and other players in the footwear industry, Brooks doesn’t break out its earnings, as it operates as part of the larger consumer products segment at multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. The firm expects to publish its 2021 annual report on Feb. 26.

Brooks did, however, share 2021 highlights, such as its commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 alongside the coordinated introduction of the Ghost 14 shoe. Ghost is the footwear seller’s highest-volume style, with Ghost 14 serving as the company’s first carbon-neutral product.

Last year, Brooks also introduced the Aurora-BL shoe from the brand’s BlueLine Lab. The Aurora leverages biomechanical and product engineering, including DNA Loft v3, a nitrogen-injected cushion compound, and a decoupled midsole is designed to support natural movement.

This year the performance footwear brand plans to build on its current retail partnerships within its multichannel distribution structure, and reach runners when and where they shop.

“With a backdrop of increasing global participation in running, the company will continue to invest in mining human and science-based insights; engineering fit, feel, and ride; leveraging proprietary technologies; creating compelling franchise products; and delivering designs that connect emotionally with customers who are looking for the best products available in run,” Brooks said in a statement.

The company also said it made progress in attracting and retaining diverse talent, adding 147 new employees in the year and achieving a North America-based workforce with 35.7 percent BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) employees, up 2.6 points from 2020.

Brooks also highlighted the inclusivity it fostered within the running community in 2021, continuing its leadership in and support of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC). The company spotlighted stories of diverse runners across several identities through the “Who Is A Runner” video series and announced sponsorship of Angel City Elite, a professional running team actively working to bring more BIPOC representation to the sport. Josh Kerr became the brand’s first athlete to win an Olympic medal, taking Olympic bronze in the men’s 1,500-meter dash representing Great Britain.