By BETHANY BIRON
Roller skates are undergoing a major resurgence as Americans turn to nostalgic pastimes and outdoor activities to stay entertained and keep spirits high during the pandemic.
Retailers ranging from big-box stores to popular roller skate brands like Moxi Roller Skates and Impala Skate are struggling to meet overwhelming demand – reporting limited stock, high sellout rates, and extensive back orders.
The roller skating boom comes in tandem with demand for both nostalgic fashion and pastimes that “offer a light-hearted escape from reality” and a salve for “quarantine boredom,” according to Ashley Graham, analyst at retail market intelligence company Edited.
The pandemic has spurred a nostalgic resurgence of everything from tie-dye to Blockbuster, and now its adding another beloved American pastime to its list: roller skating.
But, in recent months, Americans eager to lace-up and hit the streets have been hard-pressed to get their hands on roller skates as overwhelming demand has led to supply chain delays.
According to Google data, searches related to roller skating nearly quadrupled from March to May, and interest in the activity has led to lower inventory and back orders everywhere from big-box stores to specialty brands such as Moxi Roller Skates and Impala Skate
Several styles on the Dicks Sporting Goods website are currently listed as “limited stock” while Moxi – one the biggest roller skate sellers in the country, which sells vintage-inspired skates in whimsical colours and patterns – announced on Friday that it is temporarily pausing sales of American-made rollerskates to work through its current order backlog.
The pause comes after Moxi implemented a series of measures to respond to the surge, including opening a second factory “to keep up with this new demand, which is at a record high in roller skate history” as well as hiring an influx of employees, the company wrote on Instagram. Its primary factory was forced to close for five weeks early on during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus, according to the company. Many Moxi orders have been delayed for more than three months, as a result. And some customers are still awaiting skates they ordered in May. In a recent interview with HuffPost, Moxi CEO Michelle Stein said sales of the skates – which retail for upwards of $US400 – increased by 1,000% in March.
“No one in the supply chain was prepared for the increase in roller skate popularity,” Moxi, wrote on Instagram. “This is why the ETAs of our domestic skates has changed so much.” Meanwhile, brands like Impala Skate have similarly taken to Instagram to share restock updates and keep customers abreast of sellouts, availability, and order delays. Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop, another major purveyor of roller skates, has also informed shoppers on its website that “due to the high volume of incoming orders, inquiries, order fulfillment may take longer than usual.”
‘A light-hearted escape from reality’
Current market conditions haven’t stopped Americans from lacing up and hitting the pavement, or at the very least, looking the part. According to Ashley Graham – analyst at the retail market intelligence company Edited – the roller skating boom comes in tandem with demand for both nostalgic fashion and pastimes that “offer a light-hearted escape from reality” and a salve for “quarantine boredom.”
“During lockdown, many people have been turning to outdoor activities to combat their cabin fever and nostalgic hobbies like roller skating have seen a resurgence in popularity,” Graham wrote in an analyst report.” The relaxed and laid back feel of the sport offers a welcome antidote to the current situation, as well as providing both physical and mental health benefits.”
Specifically, Graham wrote that skating has gone hand-in-hand with the the resurgence of retro styles like crop tops, fanny packs, flared pants, and knee-high socks.
She added that the roller skating and its aesthetic has also been bolstered by social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, which have seen an increase in skating-related posts and influencers, as well as imagery tied to classic films set in the 1970s featuring the hobby such as “Boogie Nights” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
“As with many subcultures and aesthetics, the roller scene has been amplified by social media connecting its community,” she wrote.
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