FreeMotion Fitness embarking on new retail strategy

Until now known as the commercial equipment division of Icon Health & Fitness, FreeMotion Fitness has hired a director of specialty retail to oversee a launch into the specialty retail arena.

Until now known as the commercial equipment division of Icon Health & Fitness, FreeMotion Fitness has hired a director of specialty retail to oversee a launch into the specialty retail arena.

CEO Patrick Hald confirmed that Pat McGinnis was hired in late summer to explore and oversee equipment development and retail market penetration targeting the Health & Fitness Business Show in August 2007 as its coming-out party.

"We'll still be the commercial product division of Icon Health & Fitness," Hald said, "but we'll see commercial product and specialty retail product, both light commercial and consumer."

McGinnis came to FreeMotion from his position as vice president of sales at Raleigh, the parent of Diamondback Fitness and a cycling specialty company.

"If you look at the brands," McGinnis said, "it's the next logical step for FreeMotion."

Icon acquired FreeMotion, then named Ground Zero, as its commercial products division in late 2000, only a year after its first products shipped. Over the years, Icon has attempted to enter the specialty retail realm, with brands Image and Reebok, but has never quite had long-term success in that channel.

"Specialty fitness is a market we want to play in, and FreeMotion is the brand to do it," said Hald. "Our division has been tasked to reach out to the specialty fitness channel."

McGinnis said FreeMotion's emphasis because of its heritage will be light commercial/vertical equipment that will also serve the high-end home exerciser and be sold at specialty retail.

At this time, the company said it intends to keep the FreeMotion name on the specialty line since "that's where we have equity," Hald said, but other marketing and branding details are still being planned.

The lineup of equipment to be introduced next year is also still being developed, they said, but it will include what was called "a good offering" in all categories, including treadmills, ellipticals, selectorized strength and both recumbent and upright bikes.

"We have a platform we can build from with the commercial product line," McGinnis added.

The company is also in the process of developing its retail network. "We're not going to limit ourselves to any region of the country," McGinnis said. "We'll be looking to find partnerships with the better specialty retailers."

Hald said the benefits of having the backing of the large parent, Icon, with the small company it is, will provide benefits for products and the retailers who become involved.

"There's the reputation of the large innovative company," he said, "but channeled through the smaller business. We will take the time to understand the specialty fitness business."

SNEWS® View: We're not surprised that Icon tapped its company FreeMotion to lead the charge to specialty. Icon's huge partnership with Sears through its Nordic Track brand as well as its deep involvement with mass merchants and sporting goods has left many specialty retailers squeamish about how serious Icon was about the specialty channel. Icon's past forays to eke into specialty with Image and Reebok haven't been lasting successes. Although a company owned by Icon, FreeMotion from all appearances manages to operate relatively independently and keep its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit -- one that seems to remain somewhat arms-length to Icon's business plan. Its equipment, particularly the cable-oriented strength pieces that kicked off the functional training movement, are also still well-respected. Sure, we can say, "What? Another treadmill? Another bike? Another elliptical, ye gawds!" But with the right strategy, FreeMotion could gain some market share.


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