SNEWS 2010 Fitness Retailer Survey - Part 3: cardio segment’s ‘best’ brands, trends

The third of four parts of the annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey takes a look at what has been going on in the cardiovascular equipment category. Don’t miss our report on top brands, top-selling categories and other trends. Complete result details are a special feature available only to SNEWS All Access subscribers. To subscribe, or to upgrade from a SNEWS Freebie limited-access subscription, visit

With so much fascinating information to present from our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey, we again have broken up the results for 2010 into four parts, with the first part having run Aug. 2 and subsequent parts running weekly. All of the news and votes make for interesting reading, and we don’t want any one category to get lost in the flood of percents and stats, which we know can happen when it’s presented as one huge novel of a story.

Already published:

>> Best supplier, “most difficult supplier,” plus sales trends -- Expanded results were presented on Aug. 2, 2010, as well as a few general survey categories such as top-selling and fastest-growing equipment with insights gleaned about sales trends. Click here to see that sought-after first part of the results

>> Strength-training equipment – We took our annual look at best brands, equipment and other trends and growth areas. Click here to see this part, presented on Aug. 9, 2010.

This week, we present results from the survey on trends and brands in cardio equipment. Still to come in our last part on Aug. 23 is a look at accessory brands and trends, as well as what our respondents said in this year’s one “thought” question about the need for a fitness dealers association.

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

What are your three top-selling cardiovascular equipment product categories this year in terms of overall sales?

No. 1

Ellipticals – 60.7%

Treadmills – 39.3%

No. 2

Treadmills – 55.4%

Ellipticals – 37.5%

No. 3

Recumbent bikes – 76.8%

Upright bikes – 10.7%

A-Trainers – 5.4% (tie)

Treadmills -- 5.4% (tie)

The loss of points last year by ellipticals as the best-selling overall cardio piece didn’t change in these results significantly. Ellipticals still are No. 1, but treadmills maintained, rather than lost more. Last year, we speculated treadmills were a good, all-household piece to suit everybody’s tastes – one that somebody could turn to if he or she were only picking one item and not multiple pieces. We think that holds true. Nevertheless, ellipticals still retain their title, won just a few years ago, albeit with fewer votes. For No. 2 best-selling, the placement remains nearly identical with last year – treadmills, then ellipticals. No. 3, however, experienced an odd shake-up below the lock by recumbent bikes. What? Upright bikes? We asked separately about “indoor studio cycles,” sometimes more commonly referred to with the trademarked term “Spinner,” so we assume our respondents didn’t mix that up, but you never know. A-Trainers (that elliptical-stepper-climber-whatever-you-want piece) still remained a vote-getter but treadmills showed up again as a No. 3 best-seller. Go figure on that. All in all, the voting for No. 3 best-selling piece shifts and shakes nearly every year (well, below recumbent bikes), but we wouldn’t be surprised if upright/indoor bikes begin to flex their muscles a bit. (Remember, we don’t name every piece named so totals may not equal 100 percent.)

Specify the brand names of your three top-selling treadmills.

Spirit Fitness – 13.1%

Life Fitness – 12.8%

Precor – 12.5%

True Fitness – 12.2%*

Vision – 12.2%*

Landice – 10.2%

BodyGuard – 5.5%*

PaceMaster – 5.5%*

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG/Horizon, BH Fitness, BodyCraft, Body-Solid, Bremshey, Cybex, FreeMotion, LifeSpan, SciFit, ST/Star Trac, SportsArt, Tunturi.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed as the first of two in a pair had more first-, second- or third-place votes that bumped it above the other and break the tie.

We will call this the year of Big Change when it comes to treadmill brands. First of all, Spirit Fitness, which has recently languished several places down on our lists, took the Big Jump in the year of Big Change to surge to the No. 1 ranking. They must be doing something right in Arkansas. Congrats to Spirit! Life Fitness also must have taken to heart recent years of lower ratings, leaping from last year’s 6th place to just a whisper out of being named the top-selling brand. That’s big news for a brand that has not been at or very close to the top of our list since 2003. In fact, if you look at the top five, you’ll see we have another horse race going on: Not too far away are Precor, True and Vision, in that order. Even though Vision is still relatively close, its story is not of the good news ilk. Vision had been No. 1 since 2004 on our lists (with the exception of a No. 2 ranking for the survey released in 2007), so this newest release must be making the company wince. Other than that, the same players are there, although AFG dropped off considerably in votes and fell off the list of top players.

Specify the brand names of your three top-selling elliptical trainers.

Octane – 21.9%

Precor – 16.3%

Life Fitness – 13.3%

Spirit Fitness – 12.4%

Vision Fitness – 9.2%

True Fitness – 7.7%

Body-Solid – 3.6%

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG, BH Fitness, BodyGuard, Bremshey, Cybex, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Kettler, Landice, Lifecore, LifeSpan, Matrix, SportsArt, ST/Star Trac.

Can anybody stop Octane? The company has not only again taken the top spot as the best-selling elliptical, but it has also gained even more votes in doing so. This is its fifth year as No. 1 … and counting. We’re already on the edge of our seats for next year. Meanwhile, we can’t miss the fact that Precor, which had surprisingly dropped in the ratings last year, has noodged Spirit out of the way to sky-rocket back up to second overall. Spirit, however, still held onto its own with nearly the same percentage of votes and points albeit a spot lower. Spirit’s rise in overall cardio equipment is the story not to miss. Life Fitness also gained some votes but not enough to bump aside Precor and Octane. Vision hangs on, only dropping a few fractions of a percent but letting another slide past it in the rankings. Totally off the list of top vote-getters is AFG, Lifecore and Star Trac.

Specify the brand names of your three top-selling stationary cycles.

Spirit Fitness – 14.7%

Vision – 13.5%*

Life Fitness – 13.5%*

Lifecore – 10.5%

LeMond Fitness – 9.6%

True Fitness – 8.4%

Bodyguard – 4.2%

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG, BH Fitness, Body-Solid, Bremshey, Cybex, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Keiser, PaceMaster, Precor, Schwinn, SportsArt, ST/Star Trac, Waters Fitness.

*Although tied in overall percent, the company listed as the first of two in a pair had more first-, second- or third-place votes that bumped it above the other and break the tie.

Hold up the three cardio equipment categories and what is the big picture that’s appearing? Spirit Fitness has in the last year definitely gained a bit more, yes, spirit, can we say? Like its jump up in the rankings in the treadmill category, here, too, it leapt with gusto from a decent fourth-place a year ago to a resounding No. 1 best-seller spot. On the way, it catapulted over Life Fitness and Vision (both of whom are duking it out) and Lifecore – none are, of course, schlocks in the rating they earned, but they still let Spirit tip-toe right past. Even though still in third, we also need to point out that Life Fitness gained enough votes to gain four percentage points or just over 40 percent of its vote count from last year. LeMond also took a few steps forward, while Diamondback fell off the list of top vote-getters.

Our Methodology

In early May, 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 online. We also wrote a story on SNEWS seeking respondents, and we sent several reminder emails and wrote several reminder stories. 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, 2009. We did not influence votes with lists of company names; rather, we asked open-ended questions when it involved brands and let respondents write-in their choices. We scanned responses frequently while the survey was open, accepting only one survey from each retail business (and in fact deleting some repeats). After about six weeks, we closed the survey so we could start tallying.

--Therese Iknoian

The Fine Print

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

Where are the full results?

The results for the SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey will be presented in detailed analysis in a four-part series of reports about various segments of the survey (best/worst/overall trends as part 1, then strength, cardio, accessories/thought questions presented separately in three more parts). Complete result details are a special feature available only to SNEWS All Access subscribers. To subscribe, or to upgrade from a SNEWS Freebie limited-access subscription, visit

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.


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