In the first retail deal of the New Year, Scott Egbert has bought the three Seattle-area Fitness Showcase stores and will enter a partnership with Precor to create brand concept stores called Precor Home Fitness.
"This is in Precor's backyard," Egbert told SNEWÂ®. "Everybody knows I have a great relationship with Precor."
The stores will be modeled after the Precor concept shop-in-shop in Egbert's flagship Chicago Home Fitness store in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. In that pilot, launched a year ago, the ground floor is exclusively filled with Precor equipment. Precor is not investing in the Seattle stores, he said, but "they're just allowing me to do it."
From Precor's standpoint, the arrangement is one that adds additional strength to his dealer network and an already "well-recognized brand."
"Even so, much of our future success is predicated on driving further awareness of Precor and the dealer network," Kevin Flaherty, Precor senior marketing manager, told SNEWSÂ®. "Precor is aggressively pursuing ideas that do both. We feel that the actions taken in the Seattle market are one in many future steps that will build the brand and help our dealer network grow profitably."
Fitness Showcase Vice President Rick Vemmer will re-focus his business on its sixÂ Missouri stores. He also said the company is looking at additional growth in the Midwest. The three Washington state stores were opened Oct. 31, 2000.
Following the business model established by Egbert from his start three years ago with the "home fitness" stores now in four states, the Precor Home Fitness stores will be run as a separate business under the management of Mark Wiper. Most recently, Egbert took over Body-Fit in Utah in October, renaming it Utah Home Fitness and announcing plans to open two additional Utah locations. With the Chicago Home Fitness stores in Illinois and American Home Fitness in Michigan -- grown from bankrupt locations of the former Busy Body chain, Egbert now oversees 33 stores run as separate businesses in each of four states.
His plan is "all about simple," he said, with investments going into fitness equipment and the front-end of a store, rather than fancy delivery, service departments or trucking fleets, all services he contracts so his companies can focus on selling equipment.
"It's a win-win scenario," he said. "The guys who have fallen the hardest? It eventually catches up with them.
"I learned a big lesson going through the Busy Body fiasco," he added, referring to the bankruptcy that split up the national chain. "You have to make money. You have to stick with one thing."
Egbert promises his four new Northwest stores will not be business-as-usual, but will look to establish marketing, merchandising and store layouts that will be more inviting and friendly for consumers.
"There'll be some fun things we'll be able to do in branding the stores in this market," he said about the deal that was official Jan. 1.
Despite the Precor name, the stores will offer a full line of prices and types of equipment, he said, including the likes of Horizon Fitness and Lamar Fitness equipment that will complement Precor equipment and prices.
Precor declined comment on whether this model might be seen elsewhere down the road.
"Precor passionately protects its trademarks, communications, etc.," Flaherty of Precor said. "The particular arrangement between Precor Home Fitness and Precor is one that is extremely beneficial to both parties, and more importantly, the many customers that Precor Home Fitness will serve in the Seattle market in the years to come."
SNEWSÂ® View: Egbert is certainly on the growth warpath nationally, although seemingly in a wiser manner in setting up each state as a separate business to be managed locally in an attempt to avoid the problems that have brought down large multi-state chains. We suspect in fact that he's not done yet with growth. The arrangement is an intriguing one, indeed. For years, softgoods, sporting goods and department stores have done "shop-in-shop" concept areas that focus on a brand -- with great success. We don't see a reason -- if a retailer has some space -- that it can't be done with success in fitness specialty either. We'll also be very interested in seeing what kind of creative ideas for store layout and merchandising are tried by Egbert in Washington since one thing the industry direly needs is more attention to store environment and how it makes a customer feel.