H&F Biz Show '05: Accessories

Smart fitness retailers and manufacturers are realizing that accessories improve the bottom line and draw new customers. Here are the accessory items that stood out to us at the Health and Fitness Biz show.
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Although the going is a bit slow, we continue to see hope that specialty fitness retailers are increasingly realizing that selling training accessories not only can improve the bottom line and bring customers in that might not otherwise shop their stores, but also that accessories rack up the sales and extra dollars without taking up much space.

While a number of past exhibitors, such as Raw Power, were not on hand this year, it was apparent from all the dueling accessory lines that even traditional steel-only companies were seeing the profit potential at this year's Health & Fitness Business Show & Conference held Aug. 25-27 in Denver, Colo.

One of our editors overheard a sales rep at Fundamental Fitness Products tell a retailer that the company, which sells balls and balance products, has been in business only three years and that it still is adding six new products a month.

"Accessories are very, very profitable business," we overheard the rep saying. "For us, and for retailers, like All About Fitness, who have figured it out."

In our annual SNEWS® Retailer Survey, we have seen the chasm that separates retailers who care about accessories from those who don't. (The latest one, if you missed it, is in the GearTrends® Fitness 2005 magazine that was at the show and mailed in early August. You can download a copy by going to www.geartrends.com/magazines, and clicking on the appropriate cover.) There are a few who say they may only sell 1-2 percent or even less, while we can clearly see a pattern among those who say they sell 10 percent or even 20 percent and comments about good revenues, added margins and great add-ons. The ones who do good business with accessories have told us in some cases about a store rule that no sale may be closed without the attempt to add-on.

Still, not everyone was basking in the glow of positive retailer response to accessories.

"I feel like I've been telling retailers about the benefits of really supporting accessory sales, but it just doesn't seem to sink in enough," said Sasha Sekretov, president of Progryp Gym Gear. "It is usually a natural add-on sale, and even if they are small-ticket items they usually carry good margins."

For those retailers who have figured out that accessories can make very, very good money and can help increase average margins, here are a few of the companies and accessory products that stood out to our team:

AccuFitness -- It was hard to miss AccuFitness President Matt Chalek's new posters featuring quite the stunning woman promoting the company's new product -- Iron Bull Beef Jerky. In fact, we overheard one woman as she walked away from the booth tell her friend, "If beef jerky can make me look like that, I'll take a case right now." The jerky comes in three flavors -- original, peppered and teriyaki -- and carries a suggested retail price of $18 for a 3-pack of 4-ounce bags. Chalek told us that his jerky has more grams of protein than most other beef jerky (52 grams per bag), contains no trans fat, and tastes great, which makes it the ideal snack for anyone who needs a protein-rich snack on the go.

Altus Athletic -- Amid the company's broad line of balls, bands, ropes, belts, gloves and more, we discovered a packaged item that really caught our eye -- the Women's Shape Kit and DVD. OK, so the name is very corny, but the idea is not. For $100 suggested retail, a consumer gets a step bench that also serves as a carrying case for the workout supplies since it turns into something like wheeled luggage. Inside is a Pilates mat, a high-grade stability ball for core training, two soft and weighted fitness balls for hand and forearm exercises, and stretch bands with three levels of resistance to allow customization of a workout.

Aquabells -- Not a new company at all, Aquabells has now decided to make a more concerted effort to get onto retail shelves. They are what they sound like -- sturdy plastic "bells" you fill with water for the weight. No water and the set of two plastic handles and eight water chambers weighs only 24 ounces. But each chamber fills to reach up to four pounds (remember, a pint's a pound the world 'round....). Put four on one stem and you can have a dumbbell worth up to 16 pounds. Suggested retail is $50. They propose them for travel workouts, but also for office and even home. There are also water-filled ankle weights and a package that includes dumbbells and ankle weights. The concept was developed nine years ago (and strongly patented by the way) by the son of the Linda and Ron Silverman, who have run the company for the last number of years.

Benefit Health Media -- We've raved about Andrea Barash's Training Fan line before (www.trainingfan.com), and we're about to do it again. The Mini Training Fans are a superb opportunity for add-on sales at the counter. Currently in the line are the Mini Golf Fan, the Mini Yoga Fan and the Mini Travel Fan. Each is $10 suggested retail and feature 25 leaves containing 50 pages of exercise instruction and content. What a simple concept that is a no-brainer to go with a yoga mat, dumbbells or really anything. And, heck, tell golfers this will improve their game and they'll dish out the money without a thought. Barash told us that she is also working on mini fans for stretch, Pilates and 5k walk/run training. She also offers branded Mini Fans featuring a company logo (Gym Source is among the stores that have done them). Stores can order as few as 250 for $9 each, which make the perfect branded add-on sale, or thank you gift for your customers.

Country Power -- Long a one-product company (its very cool Power Hooks - www.powerhooks.com) the company has teamed up with Olympic gold medalist and power-lifting legend Tommy Kono to release his T.K. Knee Bands (list, $40 to $43, depending on size) and T.K. Waist Band ($30). These bands are already popular among competitive power-lifters, bodybuilders and other strength athletes.

ForArms -- Called by the company "a new twist in fitness," the ForArms product is a bit like a lightweight, flexible, rubbery bike handlebar. It has grips on both ends and a center section called a "torque resistant compression core" that bends. A user can do all kinds of sports-specific upper-body training. The product comes in five levels and includes for the $30 suggested retail an instructional DVD. www.forarms.com.

GoFit -- With a bright, large, and an impossible-to-miss booth that was consistently packed with retailers, it was clear that GoFit is an accessory company really on the go. GoFit wants a store's customers to really succeed in their training, so it has established strategic partnerships, such as its most recent alliance with Mark Verstegen and his Athletes' Performance training group as well as its creative product packaging that contains both the product and an instructional DVD. We feel that GoFit is an accessory company to watch because its founders are working to make the Internet an integral part of the product sale, offering additional downloads and training updates to purchased products via the web. One product that particularly caught our eyes is the Ultimate Foam Roller Kit with DVD. Like all the company's other products, this one comes packaged with a Core Performance instructional DVD for a suggested retail price of $25. The roll and DVD are designed to be used with Verstegen's book, "Core Performance Training." You may know the company as GoFit.net, but since it is not just e-tail, it is slowly dropping the dot-net part of the official name.

Golf Swing Ball -- There were a number of companies that were touting golf-training benefits. One of them was the Golf Swing Ball (suggested retail, $100 -- www.golfswingball.com), which is a two-color strength ball designed to improve dynamic flexibility, according to the company. The ball, which comes in 4-pound, 5-pound, 6-pound and 7-pound weights, features a strap-handle system that you tuck your hands into. The company says this creates the proper hand position a golfer uses to hold a club, and therefore better mimics the swing used during driving a ball to help a golfer warm-up and train with comfort and balance.

Humane Manufacturing LLC --
A first-time exhibitor at H&F Biz since it normally attends commercial, athletic and club shows, Humane (www.humanemfg.com) came to the retail show since it now offers a range of mat and flooring for use in homes, weight rooms and home gyms, in addition to products for clubhouses, locker rooms, pro shops, ice arenas, dugouts and more. Different from other color mats on the market, the company's 95-percent color mats are completely vulcanized, which the company told SNEW® has the same durable quality as Humane's commercial-grade rubber mats and flooring, but with more color on the surface. These mats also have a smooth top (better for cleaning) instead of a diamond surface pattern (better for industrial grade and heavy use) and come in brick, royal, mocha or forest.

Lube-N-Walk -- If you sell treadmills, you should be selling a way for your customers to care for them. The care kits from Lube-N-Walk run about $24 for the top-of-the-line product, and the package includes a six-month supply of both lube and cleaning solution, an applicator wand and brush, an 125-volt power suppressor and a maintenance instruction guide. The company has also teamed with New Balance on that company's new EZcare treadmill feature (see HFB cardio equipment story in this issue of SNEWS®). www.lube-n-walk.com.

Productive Fitness Publishing -- For Michael Jespersen, founder and president of Productive Fitness Publishing www.productivefitness.com, his company has finally reached the point where he feels retailers understand the value of training books and literature for the customer and, therefore, for the store's sales. "It was a challenge at first, but I'd say that 85 percent of the fitness industry's specialty stores carry our training books and charts now and sell them very well," Jespersen told us. And, in keeping with his mission to provide easy-to-use-and-understand training guides, he's launched the Fitness Poster Series with 24-by-36 fitness posters detailing exercises any home-exercise enthusiast might want to know. The line includes posters for dumbbells, body balls, stretching, and home gym exercises, as well as a female and male muscle anatomy chart and a training heart rate chart. The posters sell for $10 in the unlaminated version and $20 in a laminated style. We think the posters are a perfect add-on sale or impulse buy.

Progryp Gym Gears --
The company featured a full slate of accessories, highlighted by its Pull-Eeze Finger Pockets gloves (retail, $25). These leather lifting gloves feature five "pockets," one above each finger, that allow users to remove the glove with a one-pull action. www.progryp.com.

York Barbell -- The granddaddy of free-weights launched its first line of machine attachments at the show. The new line of attachments that feature polyurethane handles along with ergonomic ends and scoring for the grips adding increased comfort and durability, according to the company.

Spri Products --
The company's accessory line was bursting at the seams, but one new product that particularly stood out was the Flexor line, for which Spri's Steve Lindal told SNEWS® Spri just received the distribution right. Ranging in prices from $33 to $196, the Flexor line of products is designed to support a retail business's training side, including personal trainers, athletic and commercial or even in-house studios. Each product, from the Feet Flexor to the Step Flexor to the Ankle Flexor to the most elaborate Rotational Flexor, is designed to allow a trainer to isolate movement while providing controlled resistance to aid in rehabilitation and strengthen previously injured areas to prevent re-injury. The Rotational Flexor is designed to "enhance a user's balance and stability with the added difficulty of a multidirectional, rotational platform," according to the company. By adding rotation, the flexor increases an athlete's overall performance by isolating specific muscle groups similar to actual athletic technique in golf, tennis, or baseball with multiple degrees of difficulty.

Stott Pilates -- Making its first official foray into specialty retail, Stott showed a Pilates Reformer geared toward that market -- it's higher end for a more serious commercial client or a high-end home user (retail, $2,200). It's also lighter and folds down so it can slip under a bed or stand up to lean against a wall. To support a home user, it also comes with an instructional video. When it comes to instruction, the Toronto-based company knows of what it speaks: It is THE go-to for instructors worldwide for instruction and education, and it has now packaged DVDs with product such as stability balls and other gear into retail kits. Oh, and for a mind-body company, Stott also knows how to have fun (must be the Canadian in them), since it also put a beer keg in its booth for the GearTrends® Block Party!

(Several weeks of show coverage began Aug. 29, so don't miss any of the category reports. Look for the last of the big reports Oct. 3 -- we're taking Sept. 26 off from a News Digest! -- as SNEWS® wraps up the best and most detailed show coverage. Nope, you won't find more complete or more accurate reports anywhere else. To round out our detailed line-up of show reports is this week's coverage on cardio and a separate accessories story. In the Oct. 3 News Digest, you will find coverage of the first GearTrends® Forum and panel discussion. Lastly, comes a smattering of pieces on other miscellaneous and perhaps offbeat items at the show.)

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