SNEWS® fitness wish list 2004

This year, SNEWS® is going to instead make a short wish list of trends it would like to see rather than ones it has seen or knows it will see. Honestly, as much as we hate to admit it, none of these is likely to occur at all or be accepted en masse in 2004. Too bad. But that's why we're calling it a wish list. Herewith our wish nibbles for noshin'.
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As sure as holiday fruitcake and candy canes no one wants, comes a flood of fitness trend prediction lists at the turn of each year. Sometimes the lists are a provocative read; usually they're a big repetitive yawn: Yoga will get big (been there, said that); people will flock to clubs in the first quarter (well, duh); strength-training is getting more popular (as if we had to tell you that?).

So this year, SNEWS® is going to instead make a short wish list of trends it would like to see rather than ones it has seen or knows it will see. Honestly, as much as we hate to admit it, none of these is likely to occur at all or be accepted en masse in 2004. Too bad. But that's why we're calling it a wish list. Got a bone to pick with something on it? Want to add something? Feel free to add your two-cents to our SNEWS forum on this topic (links at the bottom of this article). Meanwhile, herewith our wish nibbles for noshin' (just nibbles since like about 75 percent of Americans you're likely on a diet, too).

  • Specialty retailers break out of their comfort zone -- Since fitness is not just about a piece of steel at home but rather about creating a lifestyle and a habit that incorporates more than one-dimensional fitness, we'd like to see retailers contemplate their navel. Really seriously. Rather than just moan about how their brands are being carried at sporting goods and how the only thing consumers care about is price (com' on, folks, don't tell us you don't go to Home Depot or shop sales!), do something to offer them an attraction to come to you. Become a specialty shop in the true meaning of specialty -- special service, special care, special education, special events, the best training advice… you name it. Offer education, community events, move beyond steel and iron to embrace soft goods (yikes!) like yoga and Pilates (in a small way with special brands), become THE place someone can come to find something new and fun, find a friendly face or ask for some advice and stay awhile. Work on great community programming with area clubs, studios and other types of stores. Embrace the differences between you and sporting goods stores to your benefit; shop their aisles then go back to yours and do something different. Rather than try to tear them, build yourself up.
  • Fitness becomes recognized as a broader concept -- We know these days fitness isn't just lifting iron and grinding away on a treadmill. That's only a part of what many people do. Accept that, encourage that, sponsor that, become a part of the OTHER parts of their lives that take them outside or don't necessarily use your equipment. This can apply to both suppliers and retailers. Think outside the box.
  • Suppliers and retailers support "their" trade show -- In this case, we are talking about the Health & Fitness Business show in August in Denver, Colo. You see, a trade show isn't just about selling product, it's about face time, networking, hands-on with product new and old, schmoozing, picking up ideas, finding "chatzkies" as one retailer we know calls it, and seeing people you haven't seen in awhile or only emailed or telephoned with. From retailers to manufacturers and distributors, supporting one national trade show each year as a community event, the must-go-to event, is important. It also exposes staff to the broader world beyond your four walls and allows them to put themselves and what they do in perspective. This is not a slam against other shows, such as IHRSA (a great event with huge educational opportunities), The Super Show (coming into its own as a sporting goods mecca), or Club Industry (more and more with a vital regional focus). But one show should be THE one, and since HF Biz is the specialty retail show, we choose this one. We truly hate to see suppliers using (abusing?) the show by not setting up booths and equipment and not sending key executives, but still taking advantage of the event with their own off-site sales meetings and workshops. That seems like cheating somehow. Remember all the flack that Nike caught when it wasn't an Olympic sponsor in 1996 but had reserved in advance all the best billboard space all over Atlanta? Same concept. Small and middle-sized retailers tell us they can't afford to leave their shops to go to private showings and would like all their visits to happen at a one-stop-shop show. Let's build community and help the industry mature.
  • The fitness industry builds an alliance -- We wrote in-depth about the need for an industry-wide, non-profit association in our 2003 GearTrends magazine (if you didn't see it, go to www.geartrends.com for a free PDF download). Oh, the things it could do to work long-term and broad-focus that would eventually reap rewards across the entire fitness industry. But it takes time, commitment … and the realization that we CAN talk to each other and that what each company does is not some national security secret. Every mature industry has one overseeing group -- raisin boards, milk advisory committees, retail federations -- so why not fitness?
  • We listen to consumers -- Consumers are screaming for help. All these red flags and dire reports about how fat and out-of-shape we as a whole are getting is not just hot air. Honestly, we really feel for the consumers who are being bombarded with information -- Parade magazine on Jan. 4 had an article on how we have TOO many choices these days and are all the more confused, frozen into inaction, and unhappy for it. Check it out. Yet most consumers just don't have the knowledge to figure out what's right, what's baloney, what's good, what's bad, who's lying to them or telling the truth, and what the heck they should do. (Ever wonder why they end up shopping based on price? Price is something they can figure out.) So what do they do? Nothing. Or they buy a piece of equipment as if it is going to do it for them and it ends up being a clothes hanger. As an industry, we need to simplify our messages, to think hard about offering more education, and to go about it in a hand-holding and friendly way. That's all most people want -- a friendly voice they can trust. We can be that voice.

Speak up and sound off on our views and this story by clicking here and going to the SNEWS® Community Forum. To read all of the discussion groups going on in our community, simply go to www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/xdpy/forum/00002/index.html

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