Bodycraft dabbles toes in cardio with shipment of first ellipticals

After five years of being known for its home gyms and strength-training equipment, Bodycraft has this month begun to ship its first cardiovascular equipment -- two opening-price ellipticals.
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After five years of being known for its home gyms and strength-training equipment, Bodycraft has this month begun to ship its first cardiovascular equipment -- two opening-price ellipticals.

The two ellipticals -- with suggested retails of $1,000 and $1,300 -- have taken more than two years of development and planning, said Bodycraft's Alan Gore. Prototypes were shown at the Health & Fitness Business Show in August 2004, but they have changed significantly since then. Although delivery was hoped for by last December, improvements and fine-tuning details delayed shipping, Gore said.

"It was worth it," he said. "The product turned out beautiful."

The entrée into the cardio category for Bodycraft doesn't mean it's giving up its strength-training roots, nor that it plans to become a full-line supplier. At least not just yet.

"We're still going to be a strength line that has some cardio for at least the next five years," Gore said. "Plus, it's a way for us to get into a category that isn't as steel intensive."

He noted continually escalating steel prices that have hit home gym manufacturers hard, but pointed out continually dropping prices of electronics, such as those in most cardio equipment. In addition, dealers who like working with the small-shop nature of Bodycraft have asked for this kind of line extension, he said.

"The dealers would come to us and say, 'Why don't you do this? We're selling home gyms from you, and we like dealing with you,'" Gore explained.

"We're not going to go headlong into this," he said. "But it's an entry level. We'll learn and listen before we go compete at the higher price levels."

And that is what Gore and Bodycraft said may be next: More ellipticals, including into higher prices, plus perhaps a few bikes or even a rower. Right now, however, it's all wait-and-see.

The two ellipticals, which are on the company website (www.bodycraft.com), will be exclusively a specialty item; Bodycraft is not going out to court any big boxes, Gore said.

The addition of cardio starts a year that is bound to show jumps in revenues and sales if 2004 was any indication. Sales of the popular Xpress home gym were slightly more than doubled, year over year, and company revenues went up 40 percent, 2004 over 2003.

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For a small company with four guys in the office that relies mostly on word-of-mouth, the Ohio company has come pretty far in the five years that it's manufactured its own equipment under the Bodycraft name. We're not sure that the investment it would take for a full push into cardiovascular equipment will be the direction it will or should go, but adding a few pieces to keep current dealers happy and selling may be what the doctor ordered.

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