Despite a growing fitness equipment market in Germany, sales in the first half of 2002 were still depressed, with too many retailers sitting on too much equipment. Specialty dealers are now saying the market needs more of two things: more knowledgeable sales advice and better after-sales service.
Despite this, many are still predicting a decent 2003, according to news reports in the trade newsletter there, SAZ, with the potential for exponential growth in coming years. Some specialists predict two-digit sales growth in the next few years in equipment. That's because more consumers are becoming more aware of the need for a conscious effort to stay fit and healthy.
Still leading the market in the equipment categories are stationary bikes (called "Ergometers"), sports sales specialists have told SNEWS. That's mostly because the smaller bikes fit more handily into normally smaller European housing. But treadmills are gaining a following, especially foldable ones -- again for space reasons. In addition, as the market matures, more people are realizing the need for more than just taking a box home, pulling something out and setting it up themselves. They are demanding more technical advice, as well as quality after-sales service. One difference from the U.S. market is that manufacturers there are mandated by law to give a two-year warranty on items.
SNEWS View: Germany has become a bit of a core for the sporting goods and fitness business, with many companies setting up European offices there and starting to tap that market as they spread out to other EU countries. Although the country and many of its neighbors are still five to 10 years behind where the North American market is, we believe it is gaining ground quickly and advancing faster than the NA market has. (One exception to that is the UK, which is quite advanced in this realm.) We expect that it won't take more than five to 10 years for consumers in the core EU countries to have the same demands, expect the same sales knowledge and service, and be willing to pay some of the same prices of other markets.