Kettler introduces revamped product lines for multi-channel onslaught

With 20 new products in its booth at ispo in four lines, Kettler has made it clear it plans to re-target the home market with all price levels of equipment as well as make a move on the commercial arena.
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With 20 new products in its booth at ispo in four lines, Kettler has made it clear it plans to re-target the home market with all price levels of equipment as well as make a move on the commercial arena.

"We've invested more this year in development and engineering than ever before," said Frank Koch, international managing director, at a press conference at the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 6.

Added CEO Matthias Sobania, "We've done our homework in the last 18 months."

Although Kettler still basically owns the Germany market, its share has been dropping slowly in the last two to three years with the increasing presence of Johnson Group brands such as Horizon and Vision. Those Johnson brands have also eroded Icon's market share ("Aicon" in Germany), helped along by management turmoil and changes in the central European country in the last couple of years.

In addition, Kettler's international market has grown steadily – from less than 25 percent of the German company's total sales about five years ago to about 40 percent now.

The international market, especially the United States, is a big part of the company's new initiatives, it announced in a rare press conference. Sobania said Kettler intends to make international sales at least 50 percent of its total bottom line. That figure includes not only North America, but also its newer Eastern European markets such as Romania and Poland, where the demand is skyrocketing, even for the more expensive exercise product, Sobania said.

The entire range of new products, with a larger goal of more specialty sales as well as penetrating the light commercial and commercial areas, is expected to be at retail in Europe in late summer. Most of the products should begin coming to the United States in late 2005, the company said. Names below are the current German ones for the introduction and may be subject to change.

The products introduced at the ispo show by the Germany company are broken down into four lines:

>> Basic -- a new value-oriented line made in Asia that is geared for beginners and will be distributed mostly at mass merchandisers and through catalogs. For example, upright bikes cost as little as Euro 150 (U.S. prices for most of the newly introduced products have not yet been firmly established, SNEWS® was told at the show).

>> HKS Select -- Named after the company's founder Heinz Kettler (HK), the Select line is a step up from Basic, is still made in Germany, and is expected to be the company's strongest line at the growing specialty market there. Select treadmills, including two totally new ones of four shown, are slated to retail from about Euro 1,000 to Euro 2,000 in its home country. All products will also now be Polar-compatible as of mid-2005. This line also includes a new piece called a "Cross bike" that is an upright bike with arms that can be used with the pedaling motion (dependent motion), as well as locked into place for a traditional bike motion.

>> Edition -- Also a new line of products under a previously used name, Edition product is higher quality with more advanced features, includes product that can be used in light commercial settings and will be sold only in select specialty stores. It will be dubbed "semi-professional" with a tagline (translated from the German) "commercial quality for the home."

>> Professional -- This line steps up to higher-grade commercial product aimed at the company's goal to penetrate the club market.

The Edition line is where more new features are to be seen. For example:

>> A new treadmill called Kinetics S3 (with a price in Euros of about 3,500) has a cushioning system called "ISS," or "Intelligent Suspension System," that automatically adjusts to a softer or firmer ride depending on the weight and speed of the user. It can also be adjusted manually if a user has a specific preference. It also has a "Motion Control" speed adjustment system using sensors on the handrails over which a user waves a hand to speed it up or slow it down.

>> An upright bike called Axiom P2 has a slot for computer cards so programs can be saved and downloaded to a computer or pre-assigned by a physical therapist for use.

>> One new elliptical cross-trainer (the SynCross V3) has foot platforms that are extremely close to reduce joint stress. It has a manually adjustable stride length from 35 to 55 centimeters (about 14 to 22 inches), and an automatically adjustable stride feature is in the works.

Wolfgang Bruehmann, sales and marketing manager, told SNEWS that Kettler has not been known as a treadmill specialist, but the introduction of the popular piece to gain sales is another part of its push. Basic line treadmills will cost as little as Euro 800, well below its Edition product for Euro 3,500, with Select product hitting more popular targets of Euro 1,000 to Euro 2,000.

"People are ready to spend more," Bruehmann said.

For Kettler now, said Sobania, "Innovation is the most important thing right now."

SNEWS® View:
The Kettler booth had an entirely different look inside its walls than it has in the past. The new equipment, partly still prototypes with drawings on the walls to show a finished look, is sleek and modern with high-tech curves and touches that catch the eye. We fully expect that this push will reach the United States quickly and help the 56-year-old Germany company also increase its presence there.

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