Life Fitness signs equipment licensing deal with Bally

In its first equipment licensing agreement, Life Fitness will manufacture home equipment for the club chain, Bally Total Fitness.

In its first equipment licensing agreement, Life Fitness will manufacture home equipment for the club chain, Bally Total Fitness. Debuting this quarter, the equipment will be branded "Bally Total Fitness" without any indication of a tie to Life Fitness, SNEWS was told.

Four products will kick off the deal -- an upright bike (suggested retail, $1,099), a recumbent bike ($1,399), a folding treadmill ($1,599), and a cross-trainer ($1,899). They will be at select Bally fitness clubs for consumers to try and to buy, and will also be available for purchase on the Bally website or by phone.

"We believe it is a solid marriage of design, engineering and manufacturing and a strong fitness brand name, which allows us to use the strength of the Bally name to expand our distribution," Chris Clawson, vice president, consumer sales, told SNEWS.

Life Fitness, which launched a lower-price home line late last year called Essential or Sport, said the Bally treadmill and cross-trainer are comparable to those lines but that the bikes are different. Like Essential and Sport lines, the Bally line will be manufactured overseas.

Clawson said continuing expansion into the lower-price rung helps the company serve its customers price requirements and needs better.

But one licensing agreement doesn't mean Life Fitness is looking to make this a habit, Clawson added.

"Life Fitness always is interested in new opportunities," he said, "but we really don't have any firm plans at this point for developing more Bally-branded products, and there are no plans to do this type of deal with other companies."

SNEWS View: With the economy still stuttering a bit, lower-priced equipment is what seems to be doing better all the way around. Life has long been known as the brand for higher-end equipment, with corresponding prices -- great stuff with great features, but pricier, and if consumers want to workout, but have thin wallets, they will move to lower pricepoints. That theory tie in well with this deal -- it allows another distribution channel for the company, one at a lower price, and allows the company to sell more (i.e. increase bottom line) without having to find more retailers (that's already pretty saturated) or to flood the ones it has. And of course despite some financial setbacks and sale rumored, Bally is still the largest club chain that has been gained recognition as more than a chain, but a fitness brand much like Gold's Gym. This should benefit both companies well.


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