Posed for an announcement at the coming Health & Fitness Business Show, SportsArt Fitness will launch an etail program that partners with its retailers to share profits.
The program, which will be tested in August after the announcement at the Aug. 3-5 show, is expected to kick-off in September. It is being managed with a company called Reshare, which is a third-party provider of so-called "distribution relationship management" programs. According to Reshare's website (www.reshare.com), it has patented technology that allows manufacturers to sell online to consumers while keeping retailers as partners.
"As manufacturers, we all struggle with trying to manage e-commerce," said SportsArt National Sales Manager Ken Carpenter. "This will bridge the Internet relationship between the retailers and the manufacturer. Reshare will allow us to get the retailer involved in the fulfillment of the sales.
"We don't want to compete with our dealers. We want to enhance their sales," he added.
Many manufacturers have not yet entered the world of etailing on their websites, such as Precor, Bodycraft, Body-Solid or Horizon Fitness, either because of uncertainty about how to structure it, unanswered questions about how not to compete with dealers, or lack of manpower.
"I have been contacted by a couple of different third-party Internet companies that claim to allow us to sell direct while allowing the local retailer to participate," said Alan Gore of Bodycraft. "I have turned them away strictly due to manpower and time reasons."
Vision Fitness claims to be the first fitness equipment manufacturer to do etail on its website, starting that program nearly six years ago. Vision, which manages its own system, gives all profits to the retailer responsible for the area where the online customer lives, except a $25 handling fee and the administrative credit card charges, said Chris Cox, Vision's director of marketing. As with the SportsArt program, the area retailer also is responsible for delivery, setup and customer service. If no retailer is in the area, Vision may sell the product itself, but that's not the company's first choice, Cox said.
"Our goal is to get people into the store," Cox said, but added that some people don't want to do that so instead the company is ready to take a credit card and manage the sale online. "We do it more as a service."
For SportsArt, the program will work much like Vision's: A customer orders online. The company finds the area retailer responsible and passes the sale to that store. If it has the product, the job then entails initiating contact with the customer to setup delivery times, making the sale simple and more profitable. If the store does not have the product, it can have it shipped to fulfill the sale although it will need to pay the additional shipping charges for a single item.
SportsArt will divvy profits with retailers based on the level of commitment of that dealer, Carpenter said, noting it has three levels, as most manufacturers do.
As with Vision, SportsArt's first agenda is to get a person into a store, not only to make the sale but to establish a contact that could result in future sales.
"We always want to encourage the customer to go into a store, first and foremost," Carpenter said. "But if the person is ready to buy at 2 in the morning, we can at least capture that."
Stoked with stats, Carpenter pointed out that 13 percent of all sales now happen online, and that grew by 25 percent in the last year.
"This," he said, "is a solution. It bridges what we want with what the retailer wants."
SNEWS® View: We applaud manufacturers who are not afraid to enter the 21st century, which most definitely will include etail. In that step, it is, of course, key to develop methods that don't undercut retailers or dealers. (We know of several manufacturers who simply sell the products themselves, basically taking profits from their retail partners, and that can in the long run only alienate retailers.) Taking the time to find ways to work WITH the future and WITH the Internet will in the long run help the industry move forward. The Internet is an important part of today's retail climate and will only become more important. Now is the time to get aboard with a method that works for all parties.