2006 Annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey

Retailers aren't afraid to tell us what they think, and we're not afraid to tell it like they say. Hard to imagine this is the fourth SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey. More and more, we hear from manufacturers dying to get on or move up a particular list in our survey—or get the heck off a particular list (and you know which one we mean). The beauty of this survey is, one, it’s done anonymously and retailers trust us: We won’t tell a soul who said what, ever, promise, cross our hearts. Two, we are independent (no suppliers, no trade show organizers, no associations scanning results), so retailers know they can tell the truth and won’t have a supplier bite them in the back for it. And, three, it helps the entire industry know where we stand and what needs to improve. As in past years, we once again had huge participation from retailers we contacted and asked to participate by letter, email and telephone starting in April.
Author:
Publish date:

Retailers aren't afraid to tell us what they think, and we're not afraid to tell it like they say.

Hard to imagine this is the fourth SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey. More and more, we hear from manufacturers dying to get on or move up a particular list in our survey—or get the heck off a particular list (and you know which one we mean). The beauty of this survey is, one, it’s done anonymously and retailers trust us: We won’t tell a soul who said what, ever, promise, cross our hearts. Two, we are independent (no suppliers, no trade show organizers, no associations scanning results), so retailers know they can tell the truth and won’t have a supplier bite them in the back for it. And, three, it helps the entire industry know where we stand and what needs to improve. As in past years, we once again had huge participation from retailers we contacted and asked to participate by letter, email and telephone starting in April. We matched last year’s rather astounding return rate of 37 percent, which had climbed significantly each of the previous years. Can’t argue when more than one in three retailers contacted take the time out of their busy days to tell us what they think. No matter how a manufacturer thinks it’s doing, bottom line is, it’s the manufacturers’ customers—the retailers who sell their products—who can tell you really and truly how you are doing. Forget analysts, forget local media, forget your own staff, the retailers are on the frontlines and they know how you treat them, what customers are saying and what’s selling … or not. Our goal with this is not to point a finger at someone who dropped off a best-selling list or jumped onto or higher on a “most difficult" list. Honestly, the overall picture tells us a lot more about how the industry as a whole is doing in the broad scope of retail. As always, we hope the results will ignite a bit of discussion and debate.

To review our protocol again: The retailers who answered us are some of the best, representing all types of stores and tens of millions of dollars in sales and every single manufacturer out there. They are small stores, big chains, mom-and-pop operations, or investor-funded. They are in small towns and large metro areas. They all answered our standard questionnaire (it hasn’t changed in its four years for best comparison) and, for the second year, they responded online. The questions were all open-ended, meaning we did not predispose participants with a company list to check. They had to think up the names they put down all on their own. That said, we don’t claim to be statisticians; nor do we claim this survey is pure science. We ask questions, we get answers, we tally them, and we relay how it came out. What’s always interesting for us is comparing how the results shift from year-to-year. If you want to check that out and don’t have your own GearTrends® magazine archive (for shame!), you can download all our past publications by going to www.GearTrends.com/magazines. Oh, and if you are a retailer and you were inadvertently left off our list and want your voice heard next year, send us an email at survey@snewsnet.com and let us know your contact information.

But, now, the show is about to begin...

>>OVERALL



In your opinion, who is the "best" supplier in the business?*


Vision Fitness -- 16%

Precor -- 14.2%

Life Fitness -- 10%

True Fitness -- 7%

Bodyguard -- 7%

PaceMaster -- 5.4%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Bodycraft, Body-Solid, Cybex, Hoist, Horizon, Kettler, Lamar, Landice, Lifecore, LifeSpan, Nautilus, Octane, TuffStuff, Vectra.



Were there huge shifts on this list or what? Yeah, or what. In the last four years, Vision has become dominant, and this year it claimed the No. 1 spot for the first time. Granted, the company has also gained wider distribution, which can simply mean more votes, but if it weren’t doing a good job, it wouldn’t get the votes. Still, we noted that a few gave the company top honors, but still noted a few more “issues” in QC and service over last year. Congrats, Vision, but watch out….Life Fitness and Precor have been dancing with the top spots, trading off a bit. Last year, Life Fitness took a resounding leap ahead, but then lost the lead this year by a long shot, albeit with a slimmer margin between itself and the others ahead of it. Said one retailer: “Precor makes a high-quality product that I know is not going to be a service problem down the road. If there is a problem, they are very good at resolving things quickly.”

True Fitness has continued to slip each year since we began, though it dug in its fingernails to hang on to a top five spot, but barely. Our fourth- and fifth-place companies, Bodyguard and PaceMaster (a.k.a. Aerobics Inc.), however, have jumped onto the top list for the first time. We bet there’ll be some celebrating in those HQs and rightly so: Bodyguard has been through a lot of changes, but still managed to climb upward, while PaceMaster is more of a blip on the screen in size compared to its neighbors on the list. Landice, however, fell out of the top group. Again “missing in action” from any votes whatsoever was SportsArt Fitness, with Hampton, Harbinger, Keys and York joining that less-than-desirable list. On the other hand, Lamar gained votes for “best”—no small feat for a small company that didn’t even exist nearly 18 months before this survey kicked off.

Other newcomers were Cybex, Bodycraft, Kettler, LifeSpan, Lifecore and TuffStuff. No, none had great numbers of votes, but every little step counts. Interesting to note is that 20 companies gained at least one vote as “best,” while last year only 16 did. We suppose that’s a good thing since that means retailers think more companies are doing a very good job, while fewer totally dominate. About newcomer PaceMaster: “They have excellent customer service, technical support, and a genuine concern for the success of their dealers.” And about newcomer Lamar: “I found them to be right on top of things in both sales and service.”


Which supplier do you consider the "most difficult" to work with? 

Nautilus -- 40%

Keys Fitness -- 12.5%

Life Fitness -- 8.9%

Precor -- 5.4%

Diamondback -- 4.4%

Landice -- 4.4%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Cybex, Hoist, Horizon, PowerBlock, SportsArt, TKO, True Fitness, Vision, York.

Whoa, boy, did we have a runaway “winner” here, and this is not a category that a company wants to take hands-down. Nautilus has topped this category every year, but never has it so dominated. Even last year it earned “only” 27.6 percent of the vote. Last year, for the first time, we didn’t allow participants to decline to answer, forcing them to make a choice (that applies to all survey questions, but surfaced most frequently here). Interestingly, the industry seems to be focusing its ire on Nautilus, meaning a true diffusion of votes among all other vote-getters. Only Keys—now ranked second, up several places from the last two years—received significantly more votes. (Last year, it reaped 6.9 percent.) Everyone can learn from the comments about Nautilus: “They are unorganized, unresponsive and generally hard to deal with. They need to be more accessible, return calls quicker, and not leave the dealer hanging.” “Nautilus needs to commit to specialty or big box. Not both.” “The absolute worst. Non-existent customer service, poor quality products, ineffective communication from headquarters to dealer, out of stock on everything from products to parts. Need to improve...EVERYTHING.”



But being the “best” doesn’t preclude you from being interpreted by some as being “most difficult,” as we can see by high placements of Life Fitness and Precor. About Life Fitness: “Our most difficult supplier due to poor communications in many areas from no confirmation on POs, shipment status, etc. We never had a Life Fitness rep come visit our stores to aid in training. Big company mentality.” And about Precor: “Self-righteous; superiority complex.” Even Vision got a thumbs-down: “They are too ego-driven for us. It is their way or the highway.” One participant voted for TKO and wrote, “They need to answer the phones.” Hmm, if the person read SNEWS® now and then, he would know that TKO is struggling through bankruptcy and maybe had a reason to not answer the phones. On a positive note: A few companies didn’t appear on the “most difficult” list this year although they had in the past, including Bodyguard, Cap, Evo Fitness, Star Trac, Tuff Stuff and Tunturi. And SportsArt, which leapt onto the list with gusto last year out of seemingly nowhere, had its negative votes slow to a trickle. Overall, in looking at the comments about “most difficult,” the gripes center on service and communication. Talking to people and actually listening, and being nice all the way around can get a company really, really far.


What are you three overall top-selling product categories, best seller first, of all types of equipment and accessories?

No. 1

Ellipticals -- 51%

Treadmills -- 33%

No. 2

Treadmills -- 53%

Ellipticals -- 35%

No. 3

Home gyms (all kinds) -- 49%

Bikes (all kinds) -- 32%

Here's the major turnaround we were expecting. Last year, we noted that ellipticals had been progressively gaining on treadmills for the No. 1 position. This year, the elliptical screamed past treadmills without looking back. For background, in 2005, treads earned 60 percent of the No. 1-seller vote, while in 2004, they earned 79 percent. In fact, in 2004, ellipticals were still noted as the second-place No. 3 seller. This year, not a single respondent noted ellipticals as selling below No. 1 or No. 2 overall. No. 3 still belongs to home gyms, although its lead over bikes has decreased (a 17 percent lead this year vs. a 45 percent difference the previous year). We had a few retailers mention functional trainers in the "other" category so maybe that diluted its No. 3 votes. With functional trainers gaining strength, they may deserve their own category next year. Everything else just drops off the list, although flexibility products and free weights seem to be holding their own too.


What is your overall fastest-growing product category?

Ellipticals -- 68%

Nothing really held a candle to ellipticals. Again. What was interesting to note, however, were a couple of categories that gained a handful of call-outs as fastest-growing, namely, selectorized dumbbells and, specifically, functional trainers. Both obviously offer variety that can't be beat, for those retailers that know how to sell them. Although yoga/Pilates, core training and accessories didn't get enough votes to be named overall, a couple of comments are worth noting. Said one retailer regarding yoga/Pilates: "Yoga/pilates is the only breakout category this year. We added Stott Pilates to the lineup and have had a great fast-growing new category." On a related note, another retailer said, "We embraced the accessories market this past year and it has really taken off. Balls, Bosus, tubes, mats, etc. Small-ticket items kept the floor traffic moving. Not every sale has to be $2,000." (These comments confirm what we’ve been saying— retailers should pay more attention to these types of products.)


>> CARDIOVASCULAR EQUIPMENT



What are your three top-selling cardiovascular equipment product categories this year?

No. 1

Ellipticals -- 51%

Treadmills -- 40%

No. 2

Treadmills -- 49%

Ellipticals -- 37%

No. 3

Bikes, recumbent -- 98%

This basically re-emphasizes the answers to overall top-selling product categories, above, which ellipticals bested for the first time this year. Same here: For the first time, ellipticals crept ahead of treadmills for the No. 1 spot but stayed a tight second in No. 2. You can tell that treadmills are doing a dive, just slipping behind the elliptical, which consumers tend to perceive as a better workout with lower effort. This year, for the first time, we broke out recumbent and upright bikes as well as indoor cycles and found that it was a run-away vote for recumbent bikes in the No. 3 slot. Uprights still seemed to come in pretty strongly in fourth, but below No. 3 there’s just a wide mix of products, with indoor cycles still showing pretty well too.


Specify the brand names of your three top-selling treadmills.

Vision Fitness -- 15.2%

PaceMaster -- 12%

Precor -- 9%*

Landice -- 9%*

True/Fitline -- 7.6%*

Life Fitness -- 7.6%*

Horizon -- 7.3%

Nautilus/Bowflex/Trimline -- 6.1%

Bodyguard -- 5.8%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Bladez, Cybex, Evo, Fitnex, Keys, Lamar, LifeSpan, Spirit, SportsArt, Tunturi.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed first of the two had more first- or second-place votes that bumped it above the other.

We use point totals for complete fairness, tallying three points for a first-place seller, two points for a second-place seller and one point for a third-place seller named. That also allows us to better break ties, as you see. PaceMaster is a huge winner here, just as Vision Fitness has kept its lead. On the other hand, Life Fitness has dropped a couple of notches, although it’s still neck-and-neck with those above it. We also lumped brands together by the same company, for better or for worse. That may have allowed True, for example, to one-up Life Fitness, and in fact may have kept Nautilus from falling into the also-ran category. Good going, PaceMaster!


Specify the brand names of your three top-selling elliptical trainers.

Octane Fitness -- 15.2%

Vision Fitness -- 14%

Life Fitness -- 12.9%

Precor -- 12%

SportsArt -- 6.7%

Diamondback -- 5.3%

Horizon Fitness -- 4.3%

Nautilus -- 3.5%

Schwinn Fitness -- 2.3%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Bladez, Bodycraft, Cybex, Evo, Keys, Ignite, Infiniti, Kettler, Lifecore, Proteus, Scifit, Spirit, True, Tunturi/Bremshey.

Octane, an elliptical-only company and an oddity in this era of make-it-all, has reached the top of the heap, rising from second place last year, fourth place two years ago, and ninth place its first year. The competition is stiff, with everybody wanting a slice of the ever-growing elliptical pie, so it can be proud indeed. Not that the others shouldn't be proud, with every one and their brother making elliptical machines these days. (Survey respondents named 25 elliptical suppliers this year, compared to 22 last year, 18 in 2004, and 15 in 2003.) Vision is still right behind Octane, moving up a notch from third place last year, while last year's leader, Life Fitness, has slipped just barely to third overall and has eked out a lead over Precor. Actually, Precor had more No. 1 selling votes from respondents than any others, but its ellipticals received a lot fewer votes as second- or third-place sellers, where Life still flourished. Horizon and SportsArt are still in the mix, and Diamondback has leapfrogged from behind Horizon to just in front of it.


Specify the brand names of your three top-selling stationary cycles.

Vision Fitness -- 24.8%

SportsArt -- 9.9%

Life Fitness -- 8.8%

Diamondback -- 7.6%

LeMond -- 7%*

Schwinn Fitness -- 7%*

True/Fitline -- 4.3%*

Horizon Fitness -- 4.3%*

Nautilus -- 4 %

Lamar/Universal -- 3.2%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Bodyguard, Cybex, Fitnex, Keys, Kettler, Lifecore, LifeSpan, New Balance, Precor, Tunturi, York.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed first of the two had more first- or second-place votes that bumped it above the other.

Can we say runaway? Such a runaway winner that we nearly have two competitions: Vision's and everybody else's. So, in the everybody-else category, SportsArt made a huge spring from sixth to second, while Life Fitness lost a notch. (Of course, Vision nabbed so many points overall that everybody lost points since Vision's gains had to come from somewhere. LeMond is also worth noting, since its new recumbent was introduced last year, so this company basically gained this ranking from one product. Also worth mentioning is that newbie Lamar tiptoed into the Top 10 with its entries into the bike category last year.


>> STRENGTH-TRAINING EQUIPMENT

What are your three top-selling strength-training equipment product categories this year?

No. 1

Home gyms -- 90%

No. 2

Smith systems/racks -- 33%

Benches -- 28%

No. 3

Multi-weight dumbbells -- 28%

Plates/bars/bells -- 16%

Home gyms still dominate, but we failed to ask specifically about functional trainers, which we presume responding retailers classed under home gyms. The biggest change is seeing multi-weight (i.e. selectorized) dumbbells move into No. 3. Last year, a new category for us in the survey, it gained only third place in the No. 3 spot.


Specify the brand names of your three top-selling home gyms.

Hoist -- 15.8%

Parabody/Life -- 11.7%

TuffStuff -- 9.3%

Precor -- 8.5%

Body-Solid -- 8.2%

Vectra -- 7%

Bodycraft -- 6.1%

Bowflex -- 4.7%

Keys Fitness -- 4.1%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Batca, Evo, Inspire, Lamar, Nautilus, Paramount, ProSpot, True, Universal, Vision.

A little shiftin' and shakin' in the home gym arena. Namely, Hoist has risen to the top of a group that is not an easy one to best. Parabody/Life Fitness still isn't far behind, though, despite falling from No. 1. TuffStuff is still the third overall best-selling brand. Bowflex, interestingly, has claimed a spot of its own in the top list, although its parent company Nautilus, a name long known for strength, has fallen off the list. We fully suspect there will continue to be more shifting in the home gym arena in the next few years.


Specify the brand names of your three top-selling free-weight brands.

Hoist -- 13.5%

Body-Solid -- 11.1%

TuffStuff -- 10.8%

Parabody/Life -- 9%

Keys -- 7.3%

Nautilus -- 3.8%*

Lamar -- 3.8%*

York -- 3.2%*

Powertec -- 3.2%*

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Batca, Bodycraft, Cap, Cybex, Hampton, Impex, Linex/TKO, Paramount, PowerBlock, ProSpot, USA/Troy, Yukon, Vectra.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed first of the two had more first- or second-place votes that bumped it above the other.

Hoist is definitely taking no prisoners in its march to the top of its strength categories this year. Nautilus, which had been in second last year, dropped a number of places, while Body-Solid jumped up a few to second. Parabody/Life Fitness, however, dropped from first place to fourth. The category in general is still up for grabs with lots of players making moves and more new companies ready to enter the arena. Again, more movement will be seen here in coming years.


>> ACCESSORIES

What are your top-selling accessory categories?

1. Stability balls

2. Mats/flooring

3. Weight attachments

4. Stretch tubes/bands

This category is so spread out. Everybody says they sell accessories and everybody pretty much agrees that stability balls kinda bounce outa the door on their own. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess, really, because it honestly seems to depend on the retailer. We had some who said their No. 1 category was heart rate monitors while others said that was so far down on their accessory sales it wasn't worth counting. Basically, if you carry it AND you pay some attention to it, you betcha you can sell it. On the floors of specialty stores you’ll find pedometers, balance boards, straps/gloves, yoga mats, Pilates kits, medicine balls, foam rollers, video/DVDs, mini-tramps, goggles, inversion products, jump ropes, reading racks and the list goes on and on. If you aren't selling accessories, you are missing the boat; and if you stock them but can't seem to sell them, then you need to take a hard look at where and how they are merchandised and if you or your staff pay enough attention to them.


What are your top-selling accessory brands?

Spri Products -- 15.8%

TKO -- 14%

Polar Heart Rate -- 4.4%

USA Sports -- 3.2%

Supermats -- 2.9%*

Cap -- 2.9%*

Hampton -- 2.3% (tie)

Humane -- 2.3% (tie)

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Aeromats, Allpro, Body-Solid, BOSU, CardioSport, Everlast, Fitterfirst, GoFit, Harbinger, Keys, Nautilus, Perform Better, Pioneer, Savage, Schiek, Sissel, Stamina, Tanita, Theraband, Valeo.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed first of the two had more first- or second-place votes that bumped it above the other.

Although everybody sells accessories, nobody really agrees on who the top suppliers are, and it’s scattered all over the board. Other than Spri, which rakes in high numbers of votes, and TKO, which despite bankruptcy still comes in second overall, no company dominates. Seems with the right marketing and merchandising, the door is open for somebody to turn this category upside down. One respondent even put down simply "mat company," since he seemed to not even know the name of his own supplier.


Do you carry flexibility products?

Although nearly three of four respondents (72%) said they carried stretching or flexibility products, none seemed convinced of their merits. Many named the Precor StretchTrainer, the Lifespan Stretch Partner, or the TrueStretch, while many also just vaguely named ropes and balls. Some said the equipment was just too big, while others said the demand was too low. As we explained in our article in the Fitness 2006 GearTrends® magazine, "Stretching the Imagination," (go to www.geartrends.com/magazines where the full issue will appear by late July) most retailers just don't know enough about stretching to sell it.


Do you carry pedometers or do you plan to?

Honestly, we were rather stunned that 60 percent of our responding retailers said they carried pedometers or planned to. That's a good thing, since they’re popular, simple and inexpensive items that could just march out the door. Those who didn't carry them named competition from big boxes and mass merchants as a reason. But then the responses get a bit ignorant, honestly. One called them "gimmicky." Hmmm, if a gimmick that works, is popular and can sell, why not jump on it? We don't get that one. Another said from his high horse, "They don’t work. Buy a GPS." Well, no, we know they aren't as accurate as a GPS, but for goodness sakes it's a nice estimate of distance/steps and a great general tool for $20 to $40 compared to a GPS which can cost many, many times that. Plus, a GPS is more about figuring out where you are than measuring distance. Another showed the narrow-mindedness of an equipment dealer, saying they were "pointless" on a treadmill. Well, yeah, but your customers don't spend all day on a treadmill, now, do they??? (If you want more information about high-tech pedometers and other gadgets, refer to a story in our GearTrends® 2006 Summer Outdoor magazine, "Are we there yet?" on page 84 in the issue appearing online by late August at www.geartrends.com/magazines.)


>> GENERAL STORE & CUSTOMER INFORMATION

What is the average age of your customer?

We continue to be amazed that two of three say the average age is 35 to 44, while the remaining third places their customer base at 45 to 54. Oh, we forget one answer we received: "We have no idea." Guess you gotta congratulate him on honesty, but com' on, folks, if you have no idea who your customer is, how the heck can you hire staff, plan merchandising, or implement promotions? And since the big ol' aging Baby Boomer bubble is the group buying most of the equipment these days, there is a missing element here when much of the customer base (albeit likely just a guess-timate) is below that huge bubble. Seems the next step for specialty retailers is to reach beyond themselves into that older group, not to mention the younger group too.



How were your sales for 2005 compared to 2004?

Up between 1% - 5% -- 19.6%

Up between 6% - 10% -- 13.7%

Up between 11% - 16% -- 13.7%

Way up! (more than 16%) -- 33.3%

Down between 1% - 5% -- 3.9%

Down between 6% - 10% -- 0%

Down between 11% - 16% -- 2.0%

Way down (ouch) -- 0%

Even -- 13.7%

Hmmm, we are a bit skeptical on this one. Basically, eight of 10 respondents said their sales were up in some capacity, with a third of all responding retailers noting sales that were pretty much skyrocketing. Hmmm. Although we know the survey participants know we aren't sharing their names and what they specifically said, we somehow think we ought knock all this down a notch. Bottom line, there were some areas of the country that were rockin', but there were also some regions that were hanging on by their nails. So take this for what's it's worth, perhaps tempering it a bit, to give you some perspective.


>> BELLY-BUTTON PONDERING

Each year, we ask a couple of thought-provoking questions to gain some additional insights on topics that seem to be important:



How will specialty fitness change in the next decade? Must it change? Why or why not?

Compared to some questions we have posed in past years where retailers have sorta yawned in response while remaining ensconced in their personal bubbles, this one got a pile full of answers and thoughts. In summary, it's easy: There will be change, there will be more consolidation, and none of it will be "good" for the mom-and-pop retailer. The respondents are running scared of now big boxes are pulling sales from specialty, yet a few realize that if they can update their selling process AND get more people into exercise, there will still be enough to go around. "The more the big box stores carry the higher-end products, the more of a threat exists. As an industry we need to get more people into exercise. People are getting fatter faster and some studies show that most of these people don’t care." That pretty much puts out the call we at GearTrends® and SNEWS® have often sounded that there needs to be some organization that represents the needs of fitness retail and its suppliers. SGMA has begun to step into that role, especially with its legislative activities. We'll have to wait and see if, one, that group can continue that and, two, if the fitness retail industry can look outside itself and get on board. Yes, that's harsh, but the retail world is about change and digging in your heels to hang onto the status quo will just mean your death. It's time to get your head out of the hole and take a look at what mainstream retailers are doing to gain and keep customers. Those practices can be downsized to specialty. Some are doing this, we know, and we applaud them. But many are unfortunately sticking to what they know and that won't help them survive.

One retailer said, simply but concisely, "Focus more on females." True, true, and it's time for all those guys running specialty to hire in more female sales staff and think a little differently about what fitness means. "More service," said another. "Increased level of professionalism," said one, adding "better training in selling techniques but also in customer service – stay at a Four Seasons hotel for a weekend and give that level of attention on every presentation." Nice insight there. Said another, "focus on the customer," not prices. Yahoo! And, "I truly believe that if you are going to succeed in specialty fitness, you need to offer experiences to your customers. A knowledgeable and trained staff in sales is half the battle. The rest comes from what else you can offer to make the experience fun and engaging for the customer."


How important is staff training? Is it more or less important now? Do you do it yourself or rely on manufacturers or other sources? Do you feel you keep up with necessary training or do you need more?

Everybody – and we do mean everybody – said they need more, and that in fact you can basically never supply enough. That training is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of the business. Based on what we read in answers, though, most supply it themselves. Unfortunately, what we've seen in many of our SNEWS® Mystery Shoppers, self-training methods may not be cutting it. Understanding its need, however, exists: "It is imperative that specialty store sales people are training, not only in fitness but also in the sales process…. The manufacturers' reps could be a bigger help than they are now. Most have very little sales experience or not much fitness experience at all. Sales training can never be emphasized enough."

The retailers in general sounded the chord that suppliers don't do all they could: "The vendors in general do a poor job of training so it is on the dealers to invest in training themselves. I would like to think we do a good job in this category, but I am a realist who knows that we are just scratching the surface of what we should and must be doing." The theme that came up time and time again in answers was, training is huge, we don't do enough, manufacturers don't help enough. Still, a few added that although their vendors may not do much, they also recognize that it really in the end comes down to the stores. Thankfully, many acknowledged a recognition that it is less about product and fitness training as it is about training staff in the sales process: "Anybody can rattle off features, benefits and specs of a treadmill. But it takes training and role-playing to perfect a sales technique that emphasizes the opening, the close, and the add-on sale."

*THE FINE PRINT

» All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

» The SNEWS® Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS® LLC. Contact SNEWS® at survey@snewsnet.com
com for reprint details and restrictions.

Thanks to all our retailers who participated in the fourth-annual SNEWS® Retailer Survey! If you did not get a survey or participate and want to make sure you are included in our mailing/e-mailing next year, please drop a note to survey@snewsnet.com with all your contact information (including accurate email!) and ask to be added.

Related

2007 Annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey

After five years, our independent survey is still gathering steam—and vehement, emotional, uncensored opinions.Celebrating an astounding five years, the SNEWS® Retailer Survey really lit its candles this year by bringing in a remarkable 45 percent return rate of the specialty ...read more

2006 Annual SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey

Welcome to the 2006 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer up industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good, and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we did last year, the Winter ...read more

2005 Annual SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey

Retailers offer up their takes on the good, the best and the worst of 2005 Here it is -- the complete 2005 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey. Unlike past years, GearTrends® published only select results from the survey and from the avalanche of emails over the last week after the ...read more