Last year when Quantum Fitness -- with a history as a commercial equipment manufacturer -- showed up at the retail show in Denver, its two treadmills turned heads. They were well-priced, solid and "made in the USA," as Quantum likes to add.
But it wasn't until a few months later that President Brooke Ayton said he realized something was wrong with the company's entry into the retail cardio market:
"I woke up one day and said, 'We really look like a strength company with two treadmills,'" he told SNEWS®. And that, he realized, meant it was time to get more serious about its cardio and retail lines.
Although the four newest treadmills are trickling out to dealers now, the official launch of Quantum's new treadmill line -- six in all -- and its ellipticals will be at the Health & Fitness Business show in August. The two ellipticals, which Ayton said will be the shortest footprint on the market and have a center drive, will be shown for the first time at the show and may even still be in prototype, depending on how production goes.
"The dealers took us more seriously with six treadmills," he said. "I had to show we mean business."
Overall streamlining and expansion
As a part of the company revamp and refresh that began much more than a year ago, Ayton said Quantum also streamlined its strength equipment line, eliminating a third of its SKUs, finding those products only accounted for a mere 1.5 percent of sales and weren't worth keeping. He said the company knew it needed to go into cardio equipment, which it could manufacture in its 70,000-square-foot facility in Texas without adding extra overhead. That was partly because the industry had begun consolidating and customers were demanding more from one company.
"Cardio was the next road to continuing our rapid growth," he said.
In addition, Quantum had hired Rich Rozak, formerly of Diamondback. In January, Bill McGinley, recently of Universal, came on as the Northeast and Canada sales manager, while Rick Trevino, formerly head engineer for Trimline treadmills, had moved over to Quantum in early 2005, taking over cardiovascular product design.
This doesn't meant Quantum plans to be the next King Kong of fitness manufacturers; Ayton and McGinley said it's all about maintaining made-in-USA product security and solid customer service.
"When it comes down to it, being big is not always better," McGinley said. "Manufacturers have seen this, as well as dealers. And both have to realize that you cannot offer everything for everyone.
"Dealers are looking to be different and want good solid products that produce results and have limited problems," McGinley added. "A dealer's creditability is on the line every time they make a sale to a consumer, so the product must work."
In its 17th year, Quantum not only is known for its patented Power Crunch single-station ab machine, but now also for its growing cardio line and two hydraulic strength circuits, one for adults and one kid-sized.
One feature Ayton said he personally lobbied for was a timed mile program on the treadmills to allow a user to run an exact mile (or other interval distances) at a particular pace, rather than guessing when the treadmill hits the chosen pace because of speed-up time. Treadmill retails run between $1,800 and $3,000.
One home and one light commercial elliptical will have retails of about $3,000 and $4,000, Ayton said, and will have a 21-inch stride and won't be longer than 58 inches even if one foot is forward and one back.
"We're going into becoming a full-service company," Ayton said, "and our focus will be on proprietary cardio and strength products. We're moving away from the me-too stuff, and that's including strength equipment."
SNEWS® View: There doesn't seem to be slow-down this year in new companies to the industry or to strength companies expanding into cardio or vice versa. The good news for Quantum on the competitive front is it has a long and solid reputation and has a facility where it can house cardio equipment manufacturing without increasing its overhead. And its prices so far are looking very attractive to be able to hold their own against products made in Asia. Of course, studies have shown that consumers speak loudly about buying Made in USA products, but in the end their pocketbooks speak the loudest and they don't have a problem shifting to Asian-made if it means a savings. Quantum has teamed with elliptical patent guru Ken Stearns (behind Keys and True center drive ellipticals most recently), so that means a product that will likely be well-thought-through and have something really different to show for itself, enough difference that perhaps the Made in USA moniker will allow it to compete strongly for the home user. We, for one, can't wait to see Quantum unveil its new "not just two treadmills" self in Denver.