Simmering on the sidelines for nearly 18 months, Mike Cochrane, former director of global sales and marketing for Bodyguard, has officially launched his new equipment company, RedLine Fitness Worldwide.
RedLine Fitness (www.redlinefitness.com) will remain a small company, have a select group of retailers, never sell anywhere but to specialty fitness, will offer only a limited line of equipment, will maintain a cooperative feel between managers and retailers, and will put an emphasis on sales and marketing, Cochrane told SNEWS®. He promises a new attitude from the start.
"We're a sales and marketing company that just happens to develop fitness machines," Cochrane promised. "We are not just another fitness company that tries to do sales and marketing."
Cochrane left Bodyguard in late August 2004, toying with leaving the fitness industry entirely after 25 years in it, 13 of those at Bodyguard. But after a few months, he decided he wasn't ready to move on and he began to hone his vision of RedLine. Although remaining mum officially, the website URL was registered in December 2004 and Cochrane talked on the QT to a few retailers he has known as he began to think through what he wanted to do and how. Announcements of some key managers should come soon.
Equipment offered by RedLine through a manufacturing partner in Taiwan will only include seven pieces … ever, Cochrane said -- three treadmills, two ellipticals, one upright bike and one recumbent bike. That way he will sell all the company has, be able to offer the best prices and higher-than-average retailer margins, and won't be forced into fire sales on certain pieces or pushing them on a retailer when they are choking up a warehouse at the end of a year.
"It's a different way of looking at it," he said. "I didn't want to be just another fitness company. I wanted to rethink it."
In addition, the company will launch worldwide and will operate more like a buying group, he explained, with offices in Australasia (Brisbane, Australia) and Europe (Athens, Greece) buying equipment at the same cost but paying marketing fees to the group's main office. Each office will operate as its own business and have equipment shipped directly to its own warehouse to cut out middle layers that add costs.
"I thought to myself, 'Does the world need another fitness manufacturer? No, there are enough,'" he said he realized. "But the world needs another reason to sell something…. The sales and marketing is the key."
RedLine will help retailers set up the brand's display areas with signs, logos and accessories, helping to draw customers and make it easier for the sales staff to sell the equipment.
"Is my product better than the other guys? Probably not," Cochrane said. "Is my product just as good? Yes. Is it easier to sell? Yes, absolutely."
He maintained he will not sell to the Home Depots, Costcos or sporting goods chains of the world, and will start with fewer than 100 dealers in North America when he launches by the fourth quarter of 2006.
Plus, retail prices will be competitive -- for example, less than $2,000 for the treadmills.
The ellipticals will be front drive and have ergonomic foot platforms that are only 2.5 inches apart for more comfort. All equipment will have wireless heart-rate transmission and control. Colors will be simple but "luxurious," as Cochrane called it, focusing on soft blacks and platinum grays. Other features will be announced when the equipment is launched, he said, but he will emphasize helping people be comfortable on equipment who are not already fit.
"We keep designing and selling fitness equipment for fit people," he said. "We should be designing and selling fitness equipment for our neighbor. We need to dumb ourselves down so the public understands. We need to market ourselves to the mini-van crowd, not the Ferrari crowd."
Cochrane, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, will operate the company out of his Quebec, Canada, offices
SNEWS® View: Does the world need another treadmill or elliptical supplier? Or, for that matter, another treadmill or elliptical? As Cochrane says, no, no really. But the problem with a lot of the current companies, with only a couple of exceptions, has been an inability to reach down to the masses and help the specialty retailer with a solid marketing platform. Marketing has been pretty much a foreign term for most fitness suppliers/manufacturers, leaving it to a role of the dice or the ability of its chosen retailers whether it succeeds or not. Adding insult to injury, much of what is done for marketing often only preaches to the choir. SNEWS® and GearTrends® have written over and over that if only some marketing was done that appropriately translated fitness and the equipment into simple terms -- forget bearings, bushings and belts -- one could slowly convert the public and perhaps attract a larger following. More people working out means more equipment sold, and that floats all boats. Of course, specialty dealers have to be aboard the ship, trained to sell, ready to listen, prepped to ask questions and not just spew specs. If RedLine can do what it wants to do, it could become a viable option in the industry. Certainly, Cochrane has the experience, savvy and relationships to get the job done if anybody can.