Retailers offered tremendous insight on our 2012 SNEWS Retail Survey, from the "best" to "worst" suppliers to details on their top sellers in all categories.
But we've save the most interesting results for last. We picked our retailers’ brains to determine the top trends in the fitness industry, learn what wastes their time and find out what are the biggest issues facing their business.
Top emerging trends
In asking retailers about emerging trends in the strength category, there was a clear answer: Cross Fit. Cross Fit is the current hot thing right now, with small gyms designed specifically for the strength training and conditioning program popping up all over the country.
“Cross Fit Style training is killing big strength piece sales,” one retailer wrote in.
It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg, nobody knows which came first — Cross Fit-style exercises or the increased focus on functional training. More consumers are interested in functional training, using cables to leverage their body weight to increase strength rather than using traditional gyms.
“Traditional gyms are obsolete,” another retailer told us.
As a result of the popularity of the Cross Fit-style workouts, accessories that have anything to do with Cross Fit are trending, retailers said.
“Anything to do with Cross Fit — battle ropes, Olympic rings and sleds,” are selling well, according to store owners.
Items like resistance bands, wall balls and balance items are also selling well. Plus some retailers said yoga accessories are ever-popular sellers and items in the balance category remain popular.
“Yoga continues to grow, the balance category is important, and vibration is growing, though [we ’re] not certain where this fits, maybe it is strength,” one retailer wrote.
Top time wasters
Lots of things seem to be wasting our retailers’ time, but the most common answers seemed to be warranty issues, solicitors, repairs and online competitors.
Both warranty and repair issues seemed to come from the manufacturer side of things.
“Some manufacturers have odd hurdles to clear to get service and support,” one retailer wrote, though he or she did not go into detail as to what those “odd hurdles” were.
In terms of solicitors, our retailers appear to be getting tons of unwanted calls. One retailer could do without “phone calls from non customers, people trying to sell us, lend us, give us things we don't want.”
Other things that waste their time, respondents said, is dealing with their inexperienced sales staff, paperwork, store organization and marketing efforts, both online and otherwise.
Some retailers said manufacturers offering better online warranty claims processes could alleviate two problems, while help from manufacturers in terms of providing marketing materials could ease another.
Top industry challenges
In our weekly SNEWS Qs column, we like to ask our subjects what they think the biggest challenge facing the fitness industry is. So we took our survey as an opportunity to ask that same question on a larger scale.
Here are some of the top answers we chose from the responses:
- “For specialty fitness stores it continues to be getting awareness and dealing with online sellers.”
- “The economy, and consumers self-educating with bad information online. Fitness specialty needs less pricing and more education for salespeople. Consumer traffic has been declining even before the economy crashed because consumers get so much phony information instead of visiting stores and learning.”
- “Selling Big Box store bastardizes the industry. Would you buy an Audi at Toys ‘R’ Us? Plus online fitness sales should be stopped!”
- “Online retailers who destroy margins to make a sale and than cannot service customers. Gives our industry a bad name.”
- “Overcoming basic human nature to eat more, move less, and convince the public to know/believe in the value of a healthy lifestyle.”
- “Unity. Our industry is extremely separated.”
An overwhelming majority of respondents said one of the ways to fix the most common complaint (online dealers selling at much lower prices), is to have manufacturers adhere to rules regarding Internet sales and pricing strategy. Same thing for big box stores, retailers suggested manufacturers require big box stores to the minimum advertised price.
As for the lack of unity in the industry, one retailer suggested the entire industry hold an event once a year to sit down together and talk, share a meal and create a community. This retailer likened it to the annual awards banquet for the outdoor furniture industry.
“It’s the one time they all get together as an industry,” the retailer wrote. “Fitness could use a little of that. Instead it seems that the bigger players feel that they are above the industry or something.”