The trade show of the IDEA World Fitness Convention for fitness instructors and trainers this month staged a modest rebound from its post-9/11 slump, drawing a few more attendees as well as exhibitors, plus a whole swarm of small exercise equipment companies.
The convention from July 7-11 in San Diego had 168 exhibitors, about 15 more than the previous year, said Robert Fletcher, IDEA’s national client manager. And the crowd of 6,000 attendees represented an increase of 1,000, including and added 400 exercise instructors and 600 visitors, Fletcher added. The expo hall in the San Diego Convention Center took up 15 percent more floor space than last year. In addition, international attendees seemed to avoid some of the visa problems that dogged them the last two years -- 500 attended from 56 countries outside the United States.
"Compared to last year (at the Anaheim Convention Center), the traffic is great," said Liz Murray, a saleswoman for Nautilus, a title sponsor. "We're doing much more business than the IHRSA show, as well as Club Industry."
The convention by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association (www.ideafit.com) is the world’s largest educational forum for exercise instructors and personal trainers, though it is suffering stiff competition from regional shows and online education. Nevertheless, it remains a good opportunity for suppliers to make an impression on the fitness industry's "influencers."
Despite enthusiasm by some, however, not all agreed. Some told SNEWS® that sales and traffic seemed comparable to last year and said they believed that neither fitness professionals nor their industry have quite shaken off the recession.
"(Exercise instructors are) not spending like they used to," observed Mike Morris, the founder of Resist-A-Ball. "The economy is still hitting them. And there are so many products out there."
IDEA held onto its chief sponsors, including Nautilus Health & Fitness Group, Stott Pilates and Propel Fitness Water. Other equipment companies claiming major or minor real estate were: Nike, New Balance, FreeMotion, Bosu, Dosho, Spri, Trixter, Exel, Resist-A-Ball and efi Sports Medicine. New exhibitors occupying midsize booths included Activa and Everlast.
Demo classes across the show floor were often standing-room only, including efi's Gravity trainer, Nautilus's Schwinn indoor cycles, Stott Pilates' Reformer and a new entrant, the Trixter mountain-bike style X-Bike indoor trainer.
New Balance occupied a larger booth than last year, and sales increased 5 percent, said manager Ted Newcomb.
Small pieces of exercise equipment also continued to show signs of growth: Spri Products reserved a larger booth to make room for an area for instructors to play with its products, including 50 or so pieces new to the catalog, said Greg Niederlander, director of education and program development.
Two rows away, Resist-A-Ball displayed its educational DVDs and asserted its divorce earlier this year from Spri and its new relationship with Body Masters. Resist-A-Ball by Body Masters plans to launch its own line of small products, including rollers, bands and mats, within a year, said Brian Bille, the marketing director.
One sensation on the floor was something called the Gliding disc -- essentially a small, upside-down purple Frisbee that is used for sliding exercises. It debuted at the IDEA show along with eight educational DVDs and a discount package for gyms.
"It's one of those ideas you see and think, 'Why didn't I think of that?'" said Jeff Tuller, president of Savvier Inc., which marketed both Gliding and the 6 Second Abs device nearby.
SNEWS® View: Although we've heard some representatives from non-exhibiting companies call the IDEA expo "a flea market," it remains one of the few places to show those "influencers" of the consumers (instructors, trainers, club managers and the like) what your product is and what it can do for them and their business. Still, you have to be prepared to offer a bit more "show" as well as discounts since instructors have been trained over the years to expect relatively large discounts at the IDEA show. Many come prepared for a huge shopping experience between all the workshops and classes.