Even with talk of a continuing bad economy, fitness retailers still showed up in numbers as strong as last year at the fifth Health & Fitness Business Expo & Conference in Denver, Colo., leaving most vendors happy with orders taken, reps and distributors signed on, and product meetings with dealers, both current and newly signed.
"It was a place to meet retailers and reps," said Shelley Foster, marketing director for Dosho Designs, a first-time exhibitor whose company only decided to come four weeks earlier. "There wasn't as much traffic as I thought there'd be, but our goal was to get reps and we did that. We are as happy as can be."
The specialty fitness show, which concluded its three-day run Aug. 9, showcased 133 exhibitors â€“ compared to last year's 116, and attracted 1,048 retailers representing 517 individual stores, according to preliminary figures released to SNEWS on the last day of the show. A year ago â€“ the first year that Play It Again Sports moved its expo to stand-alone dates and location -- final figures showed 1,050 retailers representing 483 stores. That means the buyer numbers were as good as the same, but 34 additional stores were represented to the vendors who had set up shop on the floor. There were also more last-minute no-shows among the 1,300 pre-registered buyers than among last year's pre-registered number of 1,100.
In addition, show management told SNEWS that more sporting goods stores the likes of Copeland's, Gart Sports, and first-time attendee Modell's were among those floating the aisles looking for product â€“ another indication of the trend of full-liners trying to become more specialty oriented with more specialty-class products on their floors like those found at this show. That also meant that more products that appeared to be more appropriate for the shelves of a sporting goods store â€“ especially accessories and small items â€“ had found their way into the show halls.
Quieter aisles, busy meetings
All in all, SNEWS reporters in the aisles heard most vendors indeed pointing out what appeared to be less-crowded and quieter aisles, but adding that it didn't seem to be a detriment. Earl Shraiberg, Body-Solid president, said he was swamped â€“ a fact SNEWS can verify since it was nearly impossible to get his attention before the show neared closing time. SportsArt America President Terry Brown said he stayed an hour after the show closed one evening to accommodate several retailers.
"The show is steady -- not packed, but our salespeople are busy," said Chris Cox, Vision Fitness' director of marketing.
Horizon President Bob Whip said his company was looking to fill in a few holes in distribution: "We feel confident we accomplished that."
But not all were completely pleased â€“ Harbinger Sports staff indicated the rear dividing curtain seemed closer and the aisles were "dead," while Matt Chalek of Accufitness felt the show was slower than in other years and that he was somewhat disappointed.
Either way, the show remains the only one that gives specialty fitness retailers and specialty fitness product â€“ sans sporting goods â€“ a chance to meet, see what's new and network within their own community.
"We only started doing retail about five years ago," said Steve Lindal, Spri's director of retail sales. "We're still looking for a few distributors in some markets, and this is a good place to meet with them."
Lots of product
Product? As one vendor told SNEWS, "Man, there is just lots of product." Indeed, it seemed that most don't want to be supplying only one category, but have or are expanding into multiple ones, such as strength companies launching into cardiovascular (e.g. Body-Solid), cardiovascular companies taking on strength (e.g. Bodyguard), and others filling out formerly residential-only lines with light commercial and commercial (e.g.Vision), as the lines continue to blur between what is really for the home and what is for vertical or commercial markets. Treadmills were everywhere, you tripped over home gyms in every corner it seemed, and many were putting a huge emphasis on redesigning and relaunching, with a big push in the areas of aesthetics, softness, feel and colors.
This week and in the next few weeks, SNEWS and its team â€“ the largest media force at the show -- will bring reports about various categories, trends, news and show presentations we saw, heard, tested and experienced. On Aug. 11, look for our round-up of what we saw in cardiovascular equipment and a look at a couple of high-tech, electronic items that are trying to add a dash of fun to fitness.
Speaking of fun, Pacemaster threw another of its "legendary" parties â€“ a costume bash that had more than 100 retailers and suppliers dressed as everything from Venus and Serena Williams to the Gay Cavallaros to Kobe Bryant in a prison jumpsuit â€“ all of whom decided to parade through the hotel lobby at one point (likely after a few too many beers). SNEWS promises to bring pictures soon.
Although SNEWS was the largest fitness media group on-site, the show still earned local coverage, with a color picture in the Rocky Mountain News on Aug. 8 of the Cateye Interactive Game Bikes, and a large feature story in the same paper on Aug. 7 discussing Colorado-based Nautilus Group's appearance and product at the show.
GearTrends fitness magazine
The SNEWS on-site reports complement the release of the company's first fitness magazine, GearTrends, an annual mailed before the show this year. Although not the official show publication, it was clearly the most talked-about magazine at the show, with retailers and manufacturers asking for handfuls of copies for staff and customers to share its 50 pages of thought-provoking editorial looking at and analyzing trends, categories and business acumen. If you missed your copy, it will be available at no cost at GearTrends (www.geartrends.com) in a downloadable PDF format by Sept. 1. Just click on the magazine icon in the upper right corner. If you want to be added to the mailing list, email FitNews@snewsnet.com.