SNEWS 2010 Fitness Retailer Survey - Part 4: Accessories ‘best’ brands; need for an industry association, trade show

The last of four parts of the annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey takes a look at what has been going on with the accessories category. Don’t miss our report on top brands and top-selling categories. Plus, we discuss the answers to this year’s “thought” question on what respondents think about a fitness industry association. The full, detailed results are open to any All Access SNEWS® subscriber.
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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 take our annual look at best brands, equipment and other trends and growth areas. Click here to see this part, presented on Aug. 9, 2010.

>>Cardiovascular equipment – We take our annual look at best brands, equipment and other trends and growth areas. Click here to see this part, presented on Aug. 16, 2010. 

This week, we present results from the survey on trends and brands in the accessories segment, as well as what our respondents said in this year’s “thought” questions about the need for a fitness dealers association and if the industry needs a trade show.

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

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

Spri Products – 29%

Body-Solid – 7.7%

GoFit – 7.4%

TKO – 7.1%

Valeo – 4.0%

Polar – 3.0%

Harbinger – 2.7%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Ab Coaster, AGM, All Pro, Altus, Apollo, Ball Dynamics, Bosu/Fitness Quest, Cap, Ciber, Ekho, Fitness Wholesale, Fitter, Flex, Hampton, Humane, Leathercraft, Life Fitness, Lifeline, Natural Fitness, OPTP, Pioneer, PowerBlock, Power Systems, Raw Power, Schiek, Sissel, Stamina, Stroops, Supermats, Suunto, TDS, Theraband, TRX, Ultimate, York, Ziva and various private labels.

Even as brand numbers seem to proliferate, Spri continues to exert its domination of the accessories category. In fact, for the second year running, its strength grew substantially in the votes it gained. Perhaps its acquisition by Gaiam has groomed it for re-entry into harder battle. Just as in cardio and strength categories, Body-Solid has sprung up in accessories -- clamboring from a tiny 6th place a year ago to a stronger 2nd place overall. That pushed down GoFit just a smidgen to third, barely maintaining its edge over TKO. Valeo also reappeared on the list, this time in fourth place. Below that it turns into a bit of a free-for-all. What did surprise us was that Polar dropped significantly in its share when heart-rate monitoring continues to grow. Others, such as Suunto and Ekho, however appeared on the also-ran list, so maybe there is a shift in power occurring. This year, we still had 47 brands fighting for retail space, about the same as last year’s 48, but still up from two years ago. As we have said, whoa, that’s a lot of tubes, balls and boards. 

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What are your top-selling accessory categories?

1. Stability balls (tie)

1. Stretch tubing/bands (tie)

2. Mats/flooring

3. Weight attachments

4. Medicine balls

Did the economy -- and the rise in programs like P90X -- change the direction of accessory sales? Normally stability balls have nearly a lock on the top-selling category, but not this year. Tied, literally and exactly, were stretch tubing/bands with stability balls for first place. Mats and flooring still were next (in second place, if you consider the tie for first), but then another change: Weight attachments, also normally pretty highly ranked, only edged out medicine balls by a whisper after losing out to medicine balls a year ago. We could have even called it a tie, it was so close. Again, as normal, votes for what-sells-best are all over the board, from gloves and heart-rate monitors to DVDs and reading racks. You just have to know your customer -- and you have to make an effort to merchandise it and sell it. 

BELLY-BUTTON PONDERING

Trade shows for the fitness retail industry have become a hot topic. Does the industry need a show?

We put this question to the test because of the heated discussion over the 2009 Health & Fitness Business Expo that, all admit, was more than tiny and not very successful. To keep the retail show alive, the show owners co-located it this year with Interbike, another show the Nielsen group owns and one that has continued successfully.

Despite grumbling and growling about shows, our respondents -- a large and representative sample of the industry said, overwhelmingly, YES, they needed and wanted a show.

“The industry NEEDS a show!” wrote one respondent. “Where else are we able to see all the products, vendors, suppliers, etc under one roof? Not to mention the environment of valuable networking and sharing of best practices. We will be attending the fall show. If there was no show, I’d be disappointed and would fear the repercussion it may have on the industry.”

On the other hand, there were a couple -- and just a couple -- who about grunted in response: “Shows are not necessary. You can find out the latest from other sources,” wrote one.

“Shows have gotten stale,” another wrote, adding he only goes about every three to five years.

It wasn’t just product or their own vendors that brought folks, but rather a mix of what happens at a show, from networking to re-connecting with other retailers, to sharing best practices with colleagues, to simply tapping into energy.

“I love the energy of the shows!” wrote one. “I really enjoy seeing all of the different venders and products. It gives us a chance also to see and learn about other brands that we do not carry. We as an industry need a show not just to learn about the newest and greatest products, but to come together as an industry to network & become more educated.”

Co-located with Interbike was a different matter with mixed comments. Some like the mix with bike and tapping into the energetic market. Logistically, some thought it made sense just as a way to help HFB re-invigorate itself -- and to keep it alive since it was so small on its own. Some felt they were in competition with bike dealers and didn’t like sharing.

Some simply said it was too late, which even the show management actually agrees with.

A few mentioned the increase in “dealer fly-ins” by suppliers as a reason not to go to shows, but others said that just wasn’t enough or the right path.

“The industry absolutely does need a trade show otherwise the dealers are left to travel to see all of their suppliers which is a tremendous inconvenience,” wrote one. “The idea of combining with Interbike is great as it will bring a lot of much needed energy to the show as well as a large potential customer base of IBDs wanting to pick up fitness equipment. We absolutely will attend the show.”

Do you think fitness retailers/dealers need an association to speak for them and to allow them to network, supply group benefits, or encourage sharing best practices, among other things?

Of course, by now, everybody (we hope!) has heard about the launch of the Fitness Industry Dealers Association by the NSGA and supported by SNEWS (Click here to read about that in a July 19, 2010, SNEWS story.) But what did respondents to our survey say before they knew about this? A lot of mixed answers since this is not something the relatively small fitness industry knows and has experience with.

The answers were cautiously optimistic for the most part but said they’d need to know what they’d get for joining. There were a number of answers like, “It depends.”

“It would depend on what it offers and what it costs,” wrote one.

And then there was simple distrust and, gosh, even dislike of other retailers expressed! The same respondent above added, “To be honest, I have found this industry to be very sleazy in the Internet age. Everyone, including my ‘buddies,’ will (and do) sell into my area every chance they get. I cannot think of a single retailer that I would confide in, let alone work with.”

Yikes! Has it gotten that bad?

Then there were the total nay-sayers, but some of that revolved around the young, independence of the industry with answers like, “We are not joiners,” summing it up. Oh, and then there was one who said he was not interested in “unionizing” the industry. Hm….

But that didn’t mean there weren’t positives. Many said it was direly needed, especially in these economic times. Some expressed a deep need for a group voice to speak to the vendors for more power and to be better appreciated. Some just wanted the discounts on group plans and benefits an association could get.

“Yes, I would join such a group. I would want it to lobby for the interests of retailers in the industry. Try to create a set of standards by which everyone operates,” wrote one retailer.

Another spoke up for an association whole-heartedly: “I would certainly welcome this idea! We need an association to help this industry ‘mature’ and find its voice and direction,” the retailer wrote. “Working together as a team in any situation vs. going solo is always beneficial.”

The answer from one supporter of the idea we found quite insightful:

“We have more to gain from sharing ideas than we do to lose. We need to support each other (to) keep our industry alive.”

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 www.snewsnet.com/subscribe.

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 survey@snewsnet.com for reprint details and restrictions.

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