Nobody needs to be told the economy made a huge dent at retail overall since 2008, and sales of fitness equipment suffered particularly.
According to the annual "Tracking the Fitness Movement" report by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, shipments were off 10 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, a year when sales had begun to flatten. Until then, growth had been in the steady single digits since about 1990. (For perspective, the SGMA also changed its survey protocol and provider in 2007, so the results in this 2009 report are the second year of one that replaced two decades that used other methodology.)
"Simply put, 2008 was a difficult year for manufacturers and retailers of fitness equipment," wrote SGMA CEO Tom Cove in the report, released in early October. "Sales in 2009 are steady in select categories and dropping as much as 25 percent to 60 percent for others."
Categories that are experiencing growth still are smaller items, such as accessories, hand weights and mats -- a trend seen by other surveys recently also. Cove noted it is due to consumers looking to maintain their programs but "in a less expensive way."
Even sales to clubs and other institutions were off by 9.3 percent, the report stated, compared to the 10.3 percent that they were off at retail. Still, sales at retail for home use are triple that of sales to clubs -- hitting $3.2 billion in wholesale dollars in 2008 even with the drop. Sales to clubs inched just over $1 billion in 2008.
The largest losses were seen per this report by the largest pieces or, in contrast, with equipment that had already begun to fad: Steppers were off 20 percent, while rowing machines were off 15.7 percent. Home gyms decreased by 19 percent.
The lowest decrease was in free weights for a drop of 4.5 percent, it summarized.
When it comes to activities, treadmill exercise continues to dominate with 49 million participants in 2008 but a growth rate of 32 percent since 2000, while Pilates training (with 8.9 million participants) showed the highest growth -- 471 percent since 2000. Elliptical use per the report had the second-highest growth since 2000 (243 percent) but is fourth in participant numbers behind treadmill, running and stretching with 25 million participants.
The full report is available to SGMA members. Click here for more information on SGMA reports.