Health & Fitness Business ’11: Accessories more user friendly; plus strength accessories show a softer side.

As the economy went south a few years ago, accessories large and small began to carry more favor among fitness retailers. SNEWS hit the Health & Fitness Business show floor and found more user-friendly products, a massager with “thumbs” and the softer side of strength training.
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SNEWS continues its post Health & Fitness Business Show 2011 coverage with a look at fitness accessories. For our previous recap on strength equipment at the show click here. For our recap on new cardio equipment, click here. Find our recap of products like vibration trainers and outdoor fitness tools here.

In a still struggling economy, fitness accessories continue to be a key entry point for fitness-interested consumers wary of spending big bucks on larger equipment out of the gate.

At the Health & Fitness Business Expo in Las Vegas, Sept. 14-16, SNEWS spotted a number of accessory companies promoting their products as an effective method to introduce consumers to fitness, and keep them coming back to the store. We also saw an increased effort to focus on user friendliness and offering more instruction. Take a spin through our highlights tour:

New packaging by Spri and GoFit, for example, will hit store shelves soon, allowing retailers to expand their fitness accessory line with a visually more unified look, more class and less clutter. Jumping on a growing manufacturer trend, GoFit also added QR codes to its new packing for additional access to education for consumers in a store.

And some companies, like Body-Solid, are adding kettlebells with softer exteriors or, in the case of Empower by Fitness Em, adding kettlebells with gel-filled handles to make them more appealing to women who tend to be more tuned in to the feel of a product.

Showing the way

The Power Press from Maximum Fitness Gear (MSRP $40-$50, photo, left), a push-up training system prototype, is a simple, flat black plastic board with two handles that can be placed in the board’s various, color-coded pegholes to be used to develop shoulder, tricep, back and chest muscles. The workouts are color-coded for ease: For example, to work the back, the handles with two pegs can be put in the yellow spots, while to work the shoulders a user would use the red spots, and for the triceps the green spots.

“It’s an easy, intuitive product,” said its inventor Leonard Mangalindan. The product won the Best Invention Award at the Electronic Retailing Association trade show held at the Wynn in Las Vegas at the same time as HFB. The product, made from high-grade plastic, is 38 inches long by 15 inches wide, and is about two inches high. It weighs approximately 9 pounds.

TrainerBrands had a few versions of its new Trainer Roller (MSRP $30 for the 18 inch, $35 for the 24 inch) with exercise techniques printed directly on the product, a process for which the company has a patent.

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“We see ourselves as a pioneer in self-guided fitness,” said Shawn Lee, director of sales. “We basically are paving the way in the new revolution in fitness, trying to take that to retail, people in homes and also to gyms. People need to know how to use equipment.”

TrainerBrands includes its Trainer Roller in the combination Gym in a Box (MSRP $80, photo, right), which also has the Trainer Resistance Band, balance ball, yoga mat and instructional DVD. Each product has self-guided exercises printed on them, plus the yoga mat has instructions on both sides.

Increasing customer traffic

Accessories are a way to keep the customer coming back to a retailer to see what’s new, said Paul Goldberg, vice president of GoFit. “It’s a chance to build relationships with personal trainers,” too, who might visit frequently to stock their studios one accessory at a time, he said. The new QR codes on its packaging will link customers who scan them to a YouTube video to get a glimpse of the product’s function and accompanying training DVD video. The company is partnering with personal trainer Bob Harper (of TV’s “The Biggest Loser” fame).

New products in GoFit’s line (but not to the fitness industry) include a heavy jump rope (MSRP $20), an 18-inch long, 6-inch diameter massage roller (MSRP $40, photo, left) with a closed-cell foam exterior that is intended to last longer.

GoFit also debuted a new combat rope (MSRP $150) – 40 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter – which is packaged with a rope workout booklet.

The softer side of strength accessories

Among a slew of new products for women that hit the market in September 2011, Empower had sand-filled kettlebells with a gel-filled Comfort Grip handle to make it softer for women.

“These are materials that aren’t going to break your nails, that are ergonomically designed for a woman’s grip,” said Empower by Fitness Em’s brand communication manager Karen Polcaro.

There are three different Empower kettlebell weights available – five (MSRP $20), eight (MSRP $25) and 10 (MSRP $30, photo, right) pounds – and each one comes with a boot camp workout DVD.

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Fitness Em was founded by Michael Savage, founder and former CEO of Savage Fitness, and currently licenses the Danskin and Shape brands. In addition, Fitness Em exclusively licenses the Danskin Now brand, which is exclusive to Wal-Mart.

Body-Solid also showed its softer side with the release of its premium kettlebells (MSRP $2.50 per pound), which are dipped in rubber with a chrome handlebar, which range from 5 to 75 pounds in five-pound increments.

Empower also had four different fingertip grip medicine balls – four-pound (MSRP $15), six-pound (MSRP $20), eight-pound (MSRP $25), and 10-pound (MSRP $30), with soft rubber, dimpled non-slip shell that makes it easier to grip. This product also comes with a boot camp workout.

Another product from Empower was the Turbo Tone set of two 1.5 walking weights (MSRP $25) that include a detachable 7mm cord that adds up to 20 pounds of resistance, and a door strap for additional workouts. The Portable Pilates Studio (MSRP $25) includes a Pilates bar with two attached power cords and foot straps. The bar dissembles for easy transport and storage.

Revamping and testing new waters

Libby Andrews has revamped her line of Stick-e products with some new items and updates. The new stackable Stick-e Wrist Saver Block (MSRP $20) is made from foam with an internal handle to be used for push-ups and yoga poses.

In addition Andrews has re-marketed the Stick-e Wrist Saver, which elevates the heel of the hand while doing floor exercises, as the Stick-e Wrist and Knee Saver (MSRP $20), and added an extender strap for use on knees, wrists and ankles.

“A lot of people have knee pain and can wear it under the knee cap,” Andrews explained. The Stick-e yoga mat is also bigger than previous models – 72 inches long versus 62 inches, and thicker, 6 millimeters versus 4 millimeters.

Stick-e also had its new Beamfit (MSRP $100, photo, left), a 5-foot long exercise beam with a 6-inch wide top surface and a 9-inch wide base that is non-slip neoprene on the bottom. The beam weighs only three pounds and is made from high-density polyethylene crosslink foam coated in vinyl.

Body-Solid is also testing new waters with its new accessories line, which includes, in addition to kettlebells, fitness bars (MSRP $30-$100 depending on size), dumbbells (MSRP $2 per pound), and Body Solid Tools Plyo Boxes (MSRPs $100-$220).

And late-addition Rumble Roller, (photo,right)in nearly the farthest back corner of the hall, took a different spin on massage rollers – adding flexible bumps to mimic the feeling of a massage therapists thumbs.

“Typical roller massages the surface of your body but ours will go deeper and get into places the other rollers won’t because of its flexibility and the bumps,” said Rumble Roller owner, Mike Jastram. The company offers two sizes, the 12-inch-long, 5-inch-diameter roller with 64 bumps (MSRP $44.95), and the 31-inch-long, 6-inch-diameter roller with 200 bumps (MSRP $69.95).

Ana Trujillo and David Clucas

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