With the goal of spreading its brick-and-mortar Fitness Factory Outlet stores around the greater Chicago area, Body-Solid has opened its first off-site location on the fringe of an area retail hot bed.
The first store of four planned this year and another four planned for 2004 opened quietly over Memorial Day weekend at the corner of Elston and Webster avenues next to Lincoln Park. Larger than many specialty fitness retailers, the store is 6,500 square feet. Other outlet stores planned will range from 6,500 to 9,000 square feet, said Todd Keller, Body-Solid national sales manager, who called the expansion "pretty aggressive."
"It's a natural extension of our business," Keller told SNEWS. "It allows the customer to eliminate the middle man and get a better product for less money.
"We're taking advantage of our opportune position and leveraging it," he added.
Currently, Body-Solid has a Fitness Factory Outlet on-site at its 200,000-square-foot corporate facility in Forrest Park, Ill., which is also the name it uses for its e-tail division (www.fitnessfactory.com). The outlet stores, as the e-commerce business, will primarily sell Body-Solid strength equipment and its new line of cardiovascular equipment, Endurance, although Keller said he expects the company will fill in some areas with other suppliers, as it now does with TKO for accessories, Tanita for body-fat measurement, and SportsArt America for higher-level cardiovascular equipment.
"We're replicating that concept in outlet locations," Keller said.
The company and its new director of retail sales, Brad Larsen, formerly of 2nd Wind Fitness, are looking for other sites -- all of which will have the same outlet concept with knowledgeable staff, Keller said, but without fancy merchandising setups and with prices from 10 percent to 40 percent off regular retail.
"All we're doing," he said, "is diversifying as we become a financially strong leader in the fitness industry."
SNEWS View: With a solid reputation for its equipment that is building on an international dealer base along with a web business and its own outlet stores (that, by the way, don't compete with any dealers in the Chicago area), the company is growing with an eye on the future. We think it will be one to watch as it thinks beyond the box just a bit, and we think with moves like this it will become even more of an industry leader than it is.