FIT3 in D.C. billed as world’s largest fitness and wellness lifestyle store

The new FIT3 store in Washington, D.C., will put fitness and wellness products beneath one massive roof, and combines them with elements to entertain consumers. SNEWS talks to the owner about retail elements he is applying from his years at Bass Pro.
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Billed as the largest fitness and wellness lifestyle store in the world, FIT3, which is slated to open in October in Washington, D.C., reflects the business philosophy of Hal Smith, a former president of Bass Pro Shops.

Smith, CEO of FIT3, told SNEWS that his tenure at Bass Pro taught him a great deal about how to succeed in retail.

“You have to be completely committed to the category in all respects,” Smith told SNEWS®. “You have to have the most dominant selection, passionate people that are very knowledgeable in their respective categories, and you have to provide these things in an attractive and exciting atmosphere where people are inspired.”

Those are the guiding principles behind FIT3 (www.myfit3.com), a 20,000-square-foot store that incorporates fitness equipment, as well as health and wellness products.

Smith said the store will carry fitness equipment from brands such as Life Fitness, Paramount, BH Fitness, Horizon and Everlast. Along with the equipment, the store will offer a full range of supporting services and employ “experts who can help you reach your fitness goals,” said Smith.

FIT3 will also stock wellness and nutrition products from Twinlab, EAS and Hammer Nutrition. Plus, there will be a large selection of yoga products and apparel from brands such as Gaiam, as well as footwear from leading brands like Asics, Mizuno, New Balance and Puma.

Entertaining the masses

Like the massive Bass Pro stores across the country, FIT3 will also be an entertaining destination, where people can not only shop, but also take free classes for yoga and other types of exercise, run on an indoor track to have their gait analyzed, or climb into a ring for boxing and mixed martial arts instruction.

These interactive, entertaining elements will be key to the success of FIT3, said Smith’s business partner, Jack Steckel, who was the founder of Golf Town and Hockey Life in Canada.

“It’s what I call ‘shoppertainment,’” Steckel told SNEWS. “People will spend half an hour to two hours in our store. They might not buy anything, but they’ll take a look around and maybe partake in some of the activities, and when it does come time to buy, we will likely be on top of their considered list.”

Smith said he launched this type of operation because there simply wasn’t an existing store that combined fitness and wellness and really tried to dominate those markets.

“There’s no one that has done this in a destination, category-dominant format where you can get virtually anything you would want for your fitness and health and wellness goals,” said Smith. “There’s no one filling that need. You have to go to a variety of retailers, and there’s very inconsistent presentation of product and knowledge.”

High level of service

Steckel said that FIT3 would place great emphasis on customer service and employ people that really know their stuff. “It’s crucial that the staff participate in the activities they’re selling,” said Steckel. “There should be a high level of expertise of people on the sales floor.”

Smith said the store would also offer special services, such as measuring a person’s feet to match them with the proper footwear. Footbalance (www.footbalance.com), a company based in Finland that entered the U.S. market in 2008, will operate a fitting station in the footwear department, said Chris Griffin, director of sales for Footbalance. “We’re able to analyze feet and heat-mold custom insoles, all in 10 minutes,” said Griffin. “We’re going to make sure everyone who buys footwear is fitted correctly.”

While Footbalance primarily works with running specialty stores, Griffin said the company is excited about the prospect of drawing people from the fitness side of the market. And he said FIT3 has a good formula, offering a big arena with entertaining elements, but also a high-level of service. “It’s going to work really, really well,” said Griffin. “I think this is the future of retail.”

--Marcus Woolf

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