After 20-plus years in the fitness business, Ron Kret made a decision this summer he realized he couldn't avoid for the store he owned, America's Fitness Warehouse. As of Sept. 30, he shut the doors on his last storefront in the Columbus, Ohio, area. A for-lease sign now hangs in the window revealing nothing but empty space.
Calling it a "painful topic" after 25 years in the business, he told SNEWS® the debt had become unmanageable. The decline from having once grown to four stores by the late '90s was partly fueled from slowly losing brand after brand due to consolidation on either the manufacturer or retail side.
"It seemed like every year or two, we'd be fighting over a brand," he said, noting his loss of Parabody when it was bought by Life Fitness, Cybex when it was purchased by Trotter, and Octane when G & G Fitness bought his competitor The Fitness Store.
"Nobody likes losing," he told SNEWS®. "It happens. I've never considered the possibility over my career, but there just comes a time when you lose the resources to operate,… and we just lost the resources."
As of June 30, he and his partner and wife, Sarah, were down to the one store and no employees, selling mostly Bodycraft, Body-Solid, Yukon and a little Horizon. His website, www.americasfitness.net, was still live as of Oct. 18. On it, under "locations," the site stated the retailer was "online only." That, Kret said, was false and was not what he had asked to be posted.
What it is supposed to say -- and what he said he was having it changed to -- is: "Our showrooms are now closed. We appreciate your support over the last 20-plus years. If you have any questions, please contact us."
Kret said he wants to make sure he's there for a while if customers have questions or other product needs.
Meanwhile, he said he still has confidence in the industry and believes stores that cater to higher-end customers have a better chance of surviving.
"We really enjoyed being in the business," he said, noting that he is looking for other opportunities to work for a fitness company, perhaps in sales. At 59, he said, he's not ready to retire. Ron can be reached at email@example.com.
SNEWS® View: A tough retail market indeed, with consolidation again on both sides being partly to blame for the demise of another specialty retailer in an area where three others still exist. We never like to see a retailer forced to close its doors, but it's especially tough when the door-closing happens to somebody who has been around so long. We wish the best to the Krets.