Health & Fitness Business '06: Accessories add value with packaging, education

Last year we heard that companies didn’t quite see the need to support accessory sales since they weren't a big-ticket item and were considered a bit of a commodity. How quickly things change. This year, companies at the Health & Fitness Business Show in Denver Aug. 3-5, 2006, focused more on boosting accessory sales, particularly by packaging added-value information, such as a DVD or workout chart. Although GoFit has been ahead of the curve, providing information and a supporting its website for years, other companies are realizing that to make customers happy and inspire repeat sales they must provide information about workouts and how to use products.
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Last year we heard that companies didn’t quite see the need to support accessory sales since they weren't a big-ticket item and were considered a bit of a commodity.

How quickly things change.

This year, companies at the Health & Fitness Business Show in Denver Aug. 3-5, 2006, focused more on boosting accessory sales, particularly by packaging added-value information, such as a DVD or workout chart. Although GoFit has been ahead of the curve, providing information and a supporting its website for years, other companies are realizing that to make customers happy and inspire repeat sales they must provide information about workouts and how to use products.

"People buy accessories and don’t know what to do with them. They have the stuff and then say 'Where do I go now?'" said Carlos Andes, national sales manager, Fundamental Fitness Products. "Everything we sell comes with a DVD."

A trend – one that is bound to grow in the coming months by leaps and bounds – is the fitness industry's acceptance and incorporation of iPods and mp3 players to help deliver information and workouts … and who knows what else down the road. Spri Products is the first one to take this fast-growing movement to the bank where it hopes to cash in big. The company's website, where consumers will be able to download supporting workouts, exercise instruction and information, will officially launch Jan. 1, 2007. However, it will go live by November, and retailers will receive POP information this fall to help promote sales for the busy holiday season. Marketing director Craig Lerner explained that every one of its products will be supported by downloadable video -- in essence supplying an invaluable, at-your-fingertips cross-reference. The site will feature 450 exercises with audio demonstrations, and consumers will be able to download them to an iPod and create their own workout "playlists" as they do now with music.

Of course, for some time now companies such as Fundamental Fitness, Fitnus Charts, Benefit Health Media's Training Fans, and Productive Fitness have supplied concise little booklets that offer workout how-tos and other information. These booklets continue to do their part in supporting accessory sales and assisting retailers in making them easier.

Aside from the trend toward combining education with products – one that SNEWS® is glad to see proliferating – new products were not down every aisle. Oh, sure there were the yoga mats, foam rollers and hand weights in new colors or textures. (We do still love Hampton's gel weights, to be sure, but that ain't new.) Pink seemed to be a particularly popular color this season as seen in new products by Danskin and Altus. Not sure why. Thought we got over the pink thing for girls. Likewise, new packaging of accessories is definitely being seen as a sales tool, we suspect because suppliers realize store staff just can't sell it all, or in fact may never really sell accessories correctly. A number of companies at the show were also focusing on the ongoing mainstreaming of yoga and Pilates, with the appearance of Balanced Body and Stamina Fitness' new pieces, both normally players in commercial arenas, particularly Balanced.

In the realm of revamping the old, many products such as medicine balls and kettlebells that we all knew from grade school or hardcore gym days continue to make their comeback. Entrepreneur, working mom, and Southern belle Lisa Shaffer and her company No Fear Fitness (www.nofearfitness.com) has taken the bull by the horns on this one (or the kettlebell by the handle, if you will), creating her “Kettlebell Basics" DVD and a book, “Get in the Best Shape of Your Life: A Complete Guide to Kettlebell Exercises and Training.” Ader Fitness (www.aderfitness.com) has a line of kettlebells also on which it made the handles wider and rounder, and Sissel (www.sissel.com) also offers wider handles and removable rubber bottoms.

Not to miss of course is the continued strength (oh, we crack ourselves up) of core fitness training products, from balance and wobble boards, instability devices to train stability and foam you-name-its.

A couple of new products at the show we particularly liked: P.A.S.T. Balance Board (retail $120 for the set), by Functional Innovations (www.fun-i.com) that is a bit like the Core Board used in gyms but on a smaller scale so it's better for homes. Basically, it has a "stand" and a rubbery joint-like piece between the stand and the board so it wobbles but the edges don't flop onto the ground as with normal wobble boards. Seems like a great idea for beginners and rehab. In addition, Hedstrom—the maker of rubber bouncy kid's balls in every store—has come up with an off-season product targeting fitness under the brand G2 by Hedstrom (www.fitnessTS.com). The anchor product is a kit called the SSR Training Package (retail $150) that comes with a step-like platform, a stability ball, and a collection of resistance bands, a door attachment, squat strap and handles, as well as instruction on how to use it all.

Here are a few more products that stood out to the SNEWS® team, aside from those already mentioned. Remember, we can't mention every product, but only those that were truly new, stand-out or are different in some way.

(Several weeks of show coverage began Aug. 7, so don't miss any of the reports, from general attendee information to education reviews to category reports. As always, SNEWS® gives you the best and most accurate and detailed show coverage anywhere. To continue our line-up of show reports is this week's coverage of accessories and a look at what happened at the second-annual SNEWS® Fitness Forum. Coming still, strength, cardio, electronics/heart rate monitors, education, and you never know what else!)

Education to go
>> Benefit Health Media - The makers of the Training Fan, which we raved about more than four years ago before it broke nationally, are introducing a Prenatal & Postpartum Training Fan ($16). For those not in-the-know, the fans are strips of a heavier stock paper about the size of color swatches for paint and attached at one end so they "fan" out to read. www.trainingfan.com

>> Productive Fitness Publishing Inc.
– In October, look for three new books from the company: Great Foam Roller, Great Functional Training, Advanced Dumbbell Training. The company also is translating all of its charts into Spanish and French to be available at the end of the year. www.productivefitness.com

Bands, balls, straps and hand weights
>> Stroops -- Using safety as its sales pitch, Stroops is offering workout bands in a nylon webbing sleeve. The company says the sleeves keep the bands free from damaging body oils, plus they will protect the bands if people step on them, and they prevent nicks and abrasion from workout steps or other equipment. If it breaks, the sleeve keeps the band from snapping into a user and causing injury. The nylon shell also means latex-sensitive people can use it. ($11 to $16). www.stroops.com

>> Spri -- Aside from its web/iPod focus, Spri has introduced a number of new products, including The PilatesWay Packages and a Lateral Resistor (two ankle cuffs held together by a latex band). www.spriproducts.com

>> Valeo Fitness Gear Tanker -- This injection molded plastic oval shaped ball with handles can be filled up with sand or water to create a weight from five to 25 pounds ($50). www.valeoinc.com

Belts, gloves and other small stuff
>> GoFit – In addition to adding more education and DVDs to its product, it also introduced the Pearl Tac training glove for women ($15). www.gofit.net

>> Schiek Sports -- In a departure from the weight room but a natural move, according to owner John Schiek, the company introduced a new cycling glove. www.schiek.com

Mats and mind-body
>> AGM Group/Aeromat – Look for a new PVC/latex-free, eco-wise yoga mat. www.aeromats.com

>> Cap Barbell -- With its Definity line of accessories, Cap Barbell is entering the world of yoga and Pilates with new packages that include a Yoga Starter Kit (yoga mat, strap, mesh bag to hold everything, foam bricks, workout chart) and a Pilates Starter Kit (mat, 3 latex bands, beginner workout chart). www.capbarbell.com

To the core
>> Dynaflex -- The Dynaflex Dynamex ($189) is a core trainer that ups the ante on the Dynaflex Gyro Wrist Exerciser . Hang onto handles on both ends of the spinning weight and feel the burn as it generates over 200 pounds of torque force, the company says. www.dynaflexpro.com

>> Fitter International -- Fitter is introducing the ProActive disc, a new spin on the sit disc. This one is portable and self inflating like a Thermarest sleeping pad. If you wish to blow it up yourself, you can blow it up to the size of a mini ball too. www.fitter1.com

Other stuff
>> SMC Innovations -- At the request of Avon (can you say “Avon calling?”) SMC is introducing a less expensive version ($30) of its original Lumbar Extender ($80). www.smc-innovations.com

>> Kangoo Jumps -- Although Kangoo Jumps have been around for years, this is the company’s first time at the fitness show, and the bouncy shoes are definitely stand out as a unique product. Resembling inline skates, the bottoms of these boots bounce instead of roll so you kinda bounce along when you walk ($170 to $290). www.kangoojumps.com

If your product or company wasn't mentioned here, that’s either because it didn't strike our team as new or different, or perhaps we were totally brain-dead and missed it (unlikely, but possible!). Remember, more reports from the show are still coming in the next few weeks, including details on what we saw in the strength and cardio areas.

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