RadioShack fitness/wellness gear broadens store's geek image - SNEWS

RadioShack fitness/wellness gear broadens store's geek image

Early last fall SNEWS® reported on RadioShack’s introduction of LifeWise, a line of health, fitness and wellness products. It was something about the computer/techno-geek-haven doing wellness and fitness that seemed contradictory and bizarre. Since the launch of LifeWise in September 2003, though, sales of the products, as unlikely as they might seem on RadioShack shelves, have been going strong, we're told.
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Early last fall SNEWS® reported on “one of the more bizarre announcements” we'd seen recently: RadioShack's introduction of LifeWise, a line of health, fitness and wellness products. It was something about the computer/techno-geek-haven doing wellness and fitness that seemed contradictory and, yes, bizarre. Since the launch of LifeWise in September 2003, though, sales of the products, as unlikely as they might seem on RadioShack shelves, have been going strong, we're told.

“We have a geeky image, you know, the guy with the pocket protector," says Douglas Scott, vice president of marketing at RadioShack. "With LifeWise, we're not so much changing our image but broadening it. We want to stay true to our loyal customers, so we'll always have the electronic goods.”

According to Scott, RadioShack's introduction of merchandise for the health-conscious makes sense in today's marketplace. “If you take a look at the competitive landscape, a lot of stores are taking this approach,” he says. “What we're trying to do is position ourselves apart from others with the right mix of products. We're not focused solely on the health products. We still are the consumer electronics retailer, but now we're offering a wider range of innovative items.”

There are 20 different LifeWise products. They are in all RadioShack stores, on RadioShack's website www.radioshack.com, and range from body-fat analyzers for $20 and heart-rate monitors for $50 to digital pedometers for $32 and air purifiers for $200. The LifeWise items are listed under the category "Unique Gadgets and Gifts" on RadioShack's website, which is directly linked to www.lifewiseonline.com. The LifeWise site provides information about the products alongside articles reprinted from magazines like Men's Health and Prevention. Â

This is also an attempt to broaden the store's customer demographic, which traditionally has consisted of middle-aged men. Recently, the numbers have shifted, and the ratio is now about 60 percent male and 40 percent female.

With a website listing categories like “Parts, Tools and Wire” and “Security and Home Automation,” merchandise marketed toward women is quite a change for the retailer that is typical "middle America," with shelves stocked with cables, plugs, cords, batteries and telephone and electronic accessories. But that's part of the reason for LifeWise, it seems. “Since women typically make the health-related decisions in their homes, the LifeWise brand has been developed with the needs of time-pressed women in mind,” says Christiane Pendarvis, former vice president of merchandising for that division.

“We have a large suite of products that appeal to women,” Scott says. “Items like the massaging bath pillow have a more female skew. But we also offer other products that are geared to everyone. The air filters and blood pressure monitors are things that anyone can use.”

Sales have been good since the products hit the shelves, so RadioShack will continue to offer LifeWise items and possibly expand its fitness and health line. This doesn't mean, however, that it will leave behind its well-known bastion of electronic goods. “The mix of products on our shelves is very important,” Scott says.

“We see ourselves as a consumer-centric brand,” he added. “With America's trend toward being healthier, we wanted to provide a product to allow people to take control of their health and achieve more balance in their overall lifestyle. It also allows us to target more customers.”

SNEWS® View: These days you can go to Borders Books to pick up Pilates props and Target for that yoga mat and heart rate monitor. So it's not so very surprising that RadioShack wants to jump on the fitness bandwagon as well. Since the LifeWise stuff is all electronic -- terms like "digital" and "rechargeable" are still in the product lingo -- the departure from geek-ville is not completely off-track. We checked out some of the LifeWise products in a nearby RadioShack, and the customer service guy was just as knowledgeable about S-video cables and cell phone batteries as he was about the LifeWise air purifiers and pedometers. In fact, he was so excited about the air purifiers that he tried hard to convince us our dad would like to have one. Although RadioShack is not the place we would think of when looking for fitness items, at least now we can take care of gifts for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas and our favorite computer nerd's birthday in one place.

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