SNEWS 2009 Fitness Retailer Survey, part 3: Accessories trends, plus insights on social media and coping with the economy - SNEWS

SNEWS 2009 Fitness Retailer Survey, part 3: Accessories trends, plus insights on social media and coping with the economy

With so much to present from our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey, we are breaking up the results for 2009, into four parts to be run over the next few weeks. All of the news and votes make for interesting reading, and we don’t want any one category to get lost in the information overload that can prevail when it’s presented as one huge story. This week, we present results about the accessories category, as well as insights shared with us in our annual “belly-button pondering” thought questions.

With so much to present from our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey, we broke up the results for 2009 into four parts, which have been posted to our site over the last few weeks. All of the news and votes make for interesting reading, and we don’t want any one category to get lost in the information overload that can prevail when it’s presented as one huge story.

>> “Best supplier” and “most difficult supplier” -- Expanded results were presented on July 27, 2009, as well as a few general survey categories such as top-selling and fastest-growing equipment with insights gleaned about revenue and survey trends. Click here to see that vital first piece.

>> Strength-trainingequipment-- Including best-selling brands and other trends found the spotlight in a SNEWS report on Aug. 3, 2009. Click on the category title to see that report.

>>Cardio equipment -- In an Aug. 17, 2009, story, you'll find results about the dominating cardio equipment segment with the best brands, as voted by our respondents, in treadmills, bikes and ellipticals, thoughts on the developing “A-Trainer” category and, in general, what’s selling overall. 

This week, we present results about the accessories category, as well as insights shared with us in our annual “belly-button pondering” thought questions.

The full detailed results are open to any All Access SNEWS® subscriber.

Specify the brand names of your top-selling accessory brands.

Spri Products – 19.7%

GoFit – 9%

TKO – 6.5%

Polar – 6.2%

USA/Troy – 4.2%

Supermats – 3.9%

Body-Solid – 3.1%

Cap Barbell – 2.8%*

Ball Dynamics/FitBall/Gymnic – 2.8%*

BOSU – 2.9%*

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Ader, Aeromat, All Pro, Altus, Apollo, Body Rev, CardioSport, Century, Champion, Danskin/Savage, Ecore, Eurosport, Fitter, Grizzly, Hampton, Harbinger, Humane, Jasmine, Keys, Leathercraft, Lifeline, Northwest Rubber, Omron, Pioneer, Power Systems, Raw Power, Schiek, Sissel, Stamina, Theraband, Ultimate Valeo, York, Ziva and various private labels.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed first of the two had more first- or second-place votes that bumped it above the other.

Spri’s domination has not changed and, in fact, the company has gained more votes and points after losing a little ground last year -- a year of transition after its sale to Gaiam. GoFit maintained its second place and even gained some points too, but still couldn’t make up significant ground. Behind GoFit are dozens of others scrambling for everything else. TKO is still in third, albeit with fewer votes, and Polar is still in fourth, but with double the percentage as a year ago. USA/Troy jumped back onto the top of the list, as did Supermats, pushing Body-Solid down a few slots (although it still had similar votes and points). There are so many brands being mentioned these days that it’s hard to make out some of the names, but we had some four-dozen, compared to last year’s 44. That’s a lot of brands for the number of specialty stores out there to be selling them.

What are your top-selling accessory categories?

1. Stability balls

2. Mats/flooring

3. Stretch tubing/bands

4. Weight attachments

5. Medicine balls

Noting the number of brands and options, the votes in this category are widespread. Stability balls are still a given and take the top-selling place hands-down. Mats are still next. This year, weight attachments and medicine balls did the flip-flop with weight attachments being noted more often than med balls. Although these are overwhelmingly top-selling categories, we found a few retailers noting as one of their top-three best-selling products as heart rate monitors, pedometers, balance boards, hand/ankle weights, infomercial-related products (think P90X) and yoga kits. Basically, if you can stock it, merchandise it and market it, as well as have an educated staff sell it, you can likely move it out the door.


Considering how the current economy has affected the fitness industry, how have you changed your business and what are you doing to find better ways to attract consumers who have modified their buying habits?

Despite hearing over and over that discounts and price-cutting are not the way to continue to be special, a number of respondents noted that was indeed what they were doing -- lowering prices and running sales at “deeper discounted prices.” But that wasn’t all. Some noted they were emphasizing the commercial business more than in the past; some said they were upping the ante on customer service. Some noted they were cutting costs and working on operations. A few mentioned they were, despite the economy, not abandoning their core strategy -- and that did not include overall price-slashing. Still, for those customers who are now getting accustomed to “flea-market” type deals, one retailer said he “finds an item from each of our key vendors that we can put in a pretty heavy promotion each month instead of offering a blanket discount on a complete category or brand.” Small items and accessories were being increased in the inventory and one said in that regard, “We are trying NOT to slide down the ladder in retail price.”

Of course, closing stores as leases have ended was mentioned by a few as a way to cutback costs.

Other responses:

>> “I think our salesmen are more motivated to make the sale and will give a more thorough presentation. There is also more follow up going on. Our mentality is to survive through these lean times, so when the market rebounds, we’ll have a much larger share.”

>> “I am trying to change my lineup of choices. More apparel and less expensive stuff. We also have begun selling swing sets in January 2007, and it has become an important part of my business.”

>> “Decreased inventory levels. Subbed out delivery and installation. Advertise our used and consignment on Craigslist. Created a Facebook account.”

>> “Increasing sales training and product knowledge among staff. We want to capitalize on every sales opportunity.”

Of course, we love the retailer who maintained a sense of humor with his answer:

>> “Locking the doors as soon as the customers come in and do not let them out until they buy a $4,000 treadmill.”

Are you using social media/networking websites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace or Twitter) for your business? If so, which ones? Have you found this beneficial? If not, do you plan to? Why or why not?

Overwhelmingly -- and boy, do we mean overwhelmingly -- respondents said, “No,” they were not using these sites. Some in fact seemed confused about what social media was, noting they were using eBay or Craigslist (!), which, of course, are auction or sales sites and not networking at all. Many expressed skepticism if they would do any good: “Pre-pubescent teens can’t buy True treadmills,” and “Given the average age of our customer (over 50), I don’t think they are users of Facebook. I could be wrong.” Yes, maybe…. If you’ve been reading the consumer media, you’ve seen that Facebook has grown a huge and ever-growing baby boomer and older audience, which is why more of those teens are going to MySpace and other new ones. They don’t like “facebooking” with their parents because it’s just not cool, ya know?

Many many noted they were planning to learn more, needed to find out more, wanted to get into this, hoped to get into social media, or otherwise had it on the radar:

>> “We have not used social networking sites … probably due to ignorance.”

>> “We are planning to. We need to gain as much exposure as possible to the masses and we feel this is an effective advertising channel.”

>> “We have discussed possible strategies.”

>> “I should look into these possibilities.”

The few -- we do mean very few -- who have jumped into that world have unending praise:

>> “They are beneficial for short-run promotions that could not be run without networking websites.”

>> “They have been extremely useful in creating brand awareness and, ultimately, has increased traffic to our various websites. This increased traffic means more email inquiries, phone calls and ultimately more sales.”

If more sales aren’t a reason to take a look at the ever-changing technological options, then nothing is!

Our Methodology

In mid-April, we sent emails to retailers around the country, big and small, new and well-established, in small towns and in the biggest cities, inviting them to take our survey. We also wrote a story on SNEWS online seeking respondents, and our survey was promoted in a newsletter from the Health & Business Expo. We also sent several reminder emails. Each time we asked retailers to go to a secure website run by a third-party survey provider and take our personally designed survey. We reminded retailers frequently on the survey that we were looking for comments and votes related to the previous calendar year, 2008. We did not influence votes with lists of company names; rather, we asked a question and let respondents write-in their choices. We scanned responses frequently, accepting only one survey from each retail business. After about six weeks, we closed the survey so we could get to tallying.

Where are the full results?

Complete survey result details are a special feature available only to SNEWS All Access subscribers. To subscribe, or to upgrade a SNEWS Freebie limited-access subscription, visit

>> Click here to see Part 1 with expanded results covering Best Supplier, Most Difficult suppliers and general industry insights and revenue trends. 

>> Click here to seePart 2 covering the strength category as well as a look at the development of kettlebells.

>> Click here to see Part 4 covering cardio equipment, including treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and the developing A-Trainer category.

The Fine Print

>> Tied companies (marked with an “*”) for “best” and “most difficult” are listed alphabetically on the list and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking.

>> All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

It’s a no-no to reprint: The SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS. Contact SNEWS at for reprint details and restrictions.