Love 'em or hate 'em, dread them or dance jigs, the results of the annual SNEWS® Retailer Survey are a sought-after commodity. They are used inside the industry for everything from honing customer service to establishing bonuses to promoting a brand, and outside the industry by financial analysts and consultants who follow the fitness industry so they can gain an insider perspective. Why? Because we poll the industry as only an independent entity can do.
In case you missed this year's results, the full version of the fourth-annual survey was released online June 30 (click here to see them), while only the votes for the "best" and "most difficult" supplier were in the 2006 GearTrends® Fitness magazine that began arriving on desks in early July.
As a reminder of our methods, the survey only asks specialty retailers for their opinions. It has not yet included sporting goods or mass merchants, although we have considered implementing an additional survey for sporting goods to help those brands that sell primarily to that channel get opinions they can't normally access. That means any brand with a high distribution in sporting goods might not get a good rating or even appear in our survey. It is also not a scientific survey, but simply polls a very large portion of specialty dealers of all types and sizes, in all areas. They speak, we listen, we tell you what they say … anonymously. We don't even tally the results in any way while they are coming in or talk to retailers about what brands they carry or what they said in the survey.
Even those manufacturers who perhaps don't do as well as expected (or desired) said they find the results worthwhile.
"We take our rating very seriously," said Ken Carpenter, national sales manager for SportsArt Fitness, which in 2005 suddenly appeared on the "most difficult" list for the first time. "It was a good observation. We had made some distribution changes prior to the survey last year, and the survey reflected what we had also heard."
Though certainly not something a company wants to hear, even negative results can help a company -- as it did in this case -- take a hard look at a potential problem, rather than just try to shoot the messenger. This year, SportsArt bettered its rating, dropping out of the top six on the "most difficult" list and garnering only a few votes in that category. Carpenter called the input "motivating" and said every manufacturer wants to get off the "most difficult" list and get on the best list.
Horizon Fitness has pretty much hung steady in various categories over the years, and also tells us it takes the results seriously.
"It provides us with an unbiased, quantitative report card on how we are doing in the specialty fitness channel. We take the feedback seriously, both positive and negative, for structuring our plans and working with our customers," said Bill Sotis, Horizon executive vice president.
"We look forward to the survey every year," he added. "You guys at SNEWS® do a great job on this initiative."
Although all names and store identities remain anonymous, SNEWS® has upon request supplied manufacturers with a few unnamed comments -- just a list of what respondents have said -- to help them get a better idea of where they have soared or swooped.
"You are the one source in the industry that takes the time and the energy to get that information, and we appreciate it," Carpenter added. "I might not always like it, but there's a fair amount of truth in there."
If you are a retailer who has been missed in our polling, please drop us a note at email@example.com to make sure you get on the list. If you are a manufacturer who has an interest in seeing some comments, let us know that too. If you have any other comments about the survey you'd like to share, we'd always like to hear them.