Accessory company to strengthen retail and education focus

Nearly six years after being founded in the midst of the dot-com boom, plans to turn more strongly to retail for its fitness accessory business and, instead of supplying education via the website, will begin to package it with its products.

Nearly six years after being founded in the midst of the dot-com boom, plans to turn more strongly to retail for its fitness accessory business and, instead of supplying education via the website, will begin to package it with its products.

In addition, don't be surprised if you start to see GoFit as a company name sans the dot-net part to de-emphasize its dot-com focus.

But that's not all. As a part of a sweeping change at the company that is just now becoming visible – it'll be at this summers Health & Fitness Business retail show for the first time -- will work with retailers to help them merchandise, market and build their accessory business.

"We are an accessory company. There's no doubt about that," said Paul Goldberg, vice president of sales for the company. "But by Health & Fitness, you'll see a major, major, major change in GoFit."

Going beyond the dot-com
Like all good dot-coms, the company was founded by Charles Caswell and Richard Davis in June of 1999 who used to meet at the local bagel shop with computers and cell phones to do business. Their idea was to combine the Internet with the fitness accessory business to create a virtual online fitness trainer that supported a line of fitness products that someone could use at home. It also sells through traditional sporting goods retailers, while it also provided the customers with an online source of information, support and training and fitness tips. In the first few months after GoFit got its packaging and first jump-rope product into stores, nearly 20,000 people visited the website for information. That put Caswell and Davis on the board.

But as the market evolved, so did GoFit and the company began to take a look at where it could best serve the industry and its customers – or potential customers. In the last year, it has begun packaging DVD-based education with the product instead of just driving customers to the website, and it now has a dealer locator and more of an emphasis on product information, rather than sales. Someone can still buy product through the website, but Goldberg says they will increase the push to get the customer to retailers.

GoFit is also repackaging and redesigning all the company's product to reflect a strong relationship it now has with athletic trainer Mark Verstegen, who will advise or teach on all the company's DVDs. Most of the new product and packaging will be available in May, with everything ready to go by the Health & Fitness Business show in August.

And GoFit also isn't just about jump ropes anymore, but foam rollers, bands, balls, balance boards and everything else in between, although it will emphasize core training in all it does.

"Core training is the most stable form of training," Goldberg said. "It's not just fitness, it's performance."

Becoming special
The company's past has emphasized Big Box stores – it is the largest supplier at Dick's of such product -- but that will also change.

"We'll be making this more friendly to the specialty market," Goldberg said.

Part of that friendly factor will include more advice and becoming what could be termed a category manager for specialty retailers as GoFit works with them to help them grow that part of their business.

And that isn't small potatoes, the accessory stuff. For example, Chicago Home Fitness in its flagship store at North and Halstead avenues has some 40-feet of wall space devoted to accessories from yoga mats and stability balls, to tubes and rollers, all merchandised and neatly organized. That space, said manager Rob Ignasak, has doubled since the store opened. Ignasak called the category "huge" for the store.

"Oh, geez, others just don't see the added value in it," Ignasak added.

That's the kind of thing that Goldberg and his company want to help other retailers organize.

"We want to make it easy," Goldberg said. "We're trying to work at the store level and get to know the people working there.

"We are saying, 'You have the opportunity to grow your business through our experience,'" he added. Customers can only buy big pieces of cardio and strength equipment so often, but someone can become a regular customer and buy the small stuff all the time.

"You make yourself a customer," Goldberg said. "It's not gaining customers necessarily. It's selling more to the same customers."

SNEWS® View: Perhaps if a specialty retailer has more help in merchandising accessories and other small stuff, it won't end up in a pile in the back, gathering more dust than attention. Certainly a $50 item isn't the same as a $1,500 piece, but the margins are better and a retailer can sell more of the small one than the big one. Who's to shake a stick at increasing sales and revenues?


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