Hansen Fitness steps beyond retail to equipment design, future store franchising

Not satisfied with just selling others’ equipment, Hansen Fitness is supplementing the business with its own new line -- and looking to incorporate new whole-body gaming technology, licensing and even store franchising.
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After two years of research and design, Hansen Fitness has launched its line of Hansen-branded, patent-pending fitness equipment to the industry -- and is already looking ahead to more designs, customization and store franchising.

Founder Dale Hansen, who opened Indiana’s Hansen Fitness store in 1994, realized a few years ago he wanted to take his store concept and franchise it. The problem was, without at least half of the product sold being private label, he said, that wasn’t possible because of supplier-retailer alliances.

“The only way I was going to be consistent was to have my own line,” Hansen told SNEWS®. “That way you’d have control…market control. Plus, you could also customize to what one region’s customers want.”

Hansen Technologies

That started Hansen on the path of product development under the name of Hansen Technologies (www.hansentechnologies.net). He has officially unveiled the nascent line of five pieces -- one elliptical, two treadmills and one each upright and recumbent bikes -- to the industry in the last few weeks. The suite of commercial equipment (lists $3,300-$7,000) emphasizes interactive gaming and integrates current market brands, such as Wii and Nintendo, using his large displays.

“We’re trying to integrate fitness as a way to solve human ailments,” he said. Normally, he said, adults are bored with a workout on equipment within minutes, but with the gaming equipment, they are mentally immersed and can go for a half-hour without even thinking about what they are doing. “They are addicted” to the game, he added, and improving their results.

The equipment can accommodate up to three displays, ranging from 19-24 inches, to allow a user, for example, to watch TV, be on Facebook and check email at the same time.

Although he just unveiled his business nationally, he debuted it locally in late September 2009 at an area fitness fair. His equipment is now sold direct and is in dozens and dozens of light commercial sites in his area, he said, such as Ys, schools, police departments and hotels, as well as in local residences.

Next steps

Now that Hansen has the initial line of equipment designed, delivered and proven, he’s looking ahead to the next steps.

Private-label distribution – By the fourth quarter of this year, he’ll be ready to let other retailers and dealers tap into the line to be sold as a private label of their own. “I’m not going to offer it to another until I’m 100 percent sure it is absolutely perfect,” he said.

Customization – Also what will be available is the ability for dealers to request particular specifications -- larger belts, different consoles, etc. -- if the dealers find their customers want something different.

Franchising – Not quite ready for this next step after being engrossed in product development, Hansen still sees franchises in the future, although it may be another few years.

Interactivity … and beyond

For now, the pieces have screens and gaming systems for users to entertain themselves. Hansen, however, explained that is only the beginning.

“Gaming is only one of five additional concepts we are working on,” he explained. “It is my first calling card to get the ball rolling with my product line.”

Future pieces expected out by the end of this year will be controlled by the user’s body and hands, much like the exerciser functioning as a giant joystick, he said, incorporating a number of sensors. Lean forward, lean backward, lean to the right, lean to the left, wave a hand in a certain way and -- voila -- the game and the equipment will respond to you.

In addition, the pieces can be set to “move” only if you actually do something at the speed of choice, i.e. a facility could set a minimum pace users must walk or move to actually play the game of choice.

Meanwhile, he and his staff will sell his Hansen product and other equipment from the store in Fort Wayne, Ind. (http://www.hansenfitnessequipment.com). It’s what’s going on behind the curtain -- now and in the future -- that could be the most exciting.

--Therese Iknoian

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