David Lyles, area manager
What do you think the biggest challenge facing the fitness industry is and how can we overcome it?
I’ve been doing this for 14 years and the biggest challenge facing industry is Internet retailers underbidding. They sell the same stuff we sell at a lower discount. We’re competing against people who don’t provide the same level of quality service but the same equipment. The difference is we’re going to bring it out to their home, set it up and offer support if something goes wrong, but sometimes the customer doesn’t realize that. They think, ‘I could get the same thing for $150 cheaper on the Internet.' That’s what I see as a big issue for us.
Service is everything – I believe it’s the thing that separates us from them. We are trying to let the customer know our prices may be a bit higher, but I’m here for you – you can come in here and I’ll answer questions, show you how to put your heart rate monitor on or answer any questions. After 13 years with the same company, this is my career – I love this stuff. I’m a certified personal trainer and I’m available for questions. I have to show them I’m not just an email, I’m a human.
What do you predict some of the biggest fitness trends of 2013 will be?
I think the continuation of the stuff we’re seeing with Cross Fit will remain a big trend. Because of that we’ve been selling a lot of accessories like slam balls, wall balls, kettlebells. [Cross Fit] has revived that category which was dead for a while. Plus, cages and free weight stuff will still be pretty big. We’ve been selling TRX all those varieties of body weight training and plyobox like crazy.
What are your thoughts about specialty home fitness equipment retailers getting into light commercial sales?
Within our company, the light commercial business is its own department so I can’t comment directly on how that business is. We have someone within our company who it’s his whole job to go out to apartments and commercial trade shows. We also have another department that handles fire and police departments and a separate department that outfits personal training studios. We have a nice set up.
Of the equipment you’ve seen at trade shows, which offers the best new technology?
The things blowing me away right now are the things some of the companies are doing being able to add iPod and iPad connectivity to the consoles – companies like Vision, BH and Life Fitness are offering products where you’re able to interact with the consoles. I think that’s where the industry is going to be going. I’d be surprised over the next few years if that wasn’t standard.
Also the Lateral X trainer form Octane the new AMT from Precor are both pretty cool.
What is one thing you think specialty fitness retailers need to do to remain relevant in the future?
Keep separation from the big box stores and help customers determine the differences between what they sell and what we sell.
A lot of manufacturers offer different lineups of products, so the higher-end products we sell and the lower-end products go to the big box stores. Customers often think they are the same but in reality they don’t have the same quality of components even if they offer similar specifications like a three-horsepower motor. We have to really explain that to the customer why the pieces we carry are higher quality.
--Compiled by Ana Trujillo