Ethnic groups may lack point of entry, fitness role models, competitive element

As America becomes more and more homogenous, it may be easier than the fitness industry thinks to attract more ethnic participation, either to buy home equipment and gear or to join clubs.

As America becomes more and more homogenous, it may be easier than the fitness industry thinks to attract more ethnic participation, either to buy home equipment and gear or to join clubs.

That according to the October issue of the LeisureTrak report, published by Leisure Trends, which focuses on ethnic groups in the United States and provides some interesting insight into their buying and recreational behaviors.

"Increasingly, ethnic Americans find individual and human-powered sports interesting, but they lack a point of entry," a summary of the report stated. "While individual sports such as swimming and running and the camping, outdoor, and fitness industries have made some inroads with ethnic groups, plenty of upside remains.

"Leisure time is growing and the potential market is very, very large," said the report.

For example, Leisure Trends said that fitness is a "priority" for blacks, but fitness activities are not often viewed as competitive, which is a strong motivation for African-Americans. "Why not make fitness more competitive, then?" the report suggested. "Introduce weight-loss ladders, much like tennis ladders in tennis clubs."

In addition, the report stressed socializing as another key motivation for some ethnic groups.

What are they doing?
Note differences in participation. White Americans show walking as their No. 1 favorite sport, with golf, basketball, swimming and "exercising" (No. 5) next on the list. African-Americans show, in descending order, basketball, football, then walking, running and exercising (still No. 5). Hispanics also name football and basketball as No. 1 and 2, but in reverse order, with running, walking and soccer up next. Asian-Americans list as favorites, in descending order, bicycling, weight-lifting, basketball, tennis and swimming.

Note the competitive and team angles higher on some lists, but that "exercising" is the second-most-common activity among all groups.

Where do they shop?
The report said that "ethnic customers are just as likely to buy, and spend as much as whites," although blacks are least likely to purchase equipment and accessories.

When it comes to figuring out where ethnic groups prefer to shop, Leisure Trends said that blacks prefer to shop at sporting goods chains and mass merchants while shunning most other channels of distribution, underscoring their price-sensitive shopping habits. Mass merchants do best for both equipment and accessories. Hispanics are nearly as likely as whites to shop at independent or specialty shops, as well as department stores, and are "less keen" on discount shopping. They head to sporting goods and chains for apparel and equipment. Their purchasing habits are similar to the white population.

According to this report, 26 percent of whites bought equipment in the last 12 months, while 34 percent of Hispanics did and 17 percent of blacks did.

The LeisureTrak Report -- produced by The Leisure Trends Group in Boulder, Colo.-- is based on a bi-monthly poll of 1,000 American adults age 16-older, with results projectable to the entire U.S. population with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. Additional data from the LeisureTrak survey can be found at This full report is available for $950.

SNEWS® View: Figuring out how to offer the correct social and competitive elements, as well as the right point-of-entry and role models, can open the door wide for huge opportunity. There is an untapped potential for the industry's businesses, and if we as an industry reach out further, that could make for a healthier and more fit American population, which of course in turn will patronize the industry's goods and services. The white population isn't exactly the poster child for health and fitness, but unfortunately it's the non-white population that, partly due to genetics, shows even worse statistics when it comes to health and weight. Why not address those needs more strongly?


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