A long-time commercial-only supplier, Star Trac, has decided it's time to make a play for the much larger consumer market for home exercise equipment, hiring Scott Eyler to head the division and develop strategic plans.
"We have only dabbled in the category," Randy Bergstedt, Star Trac vice president of global marketing, told SNEWS®. "The consumer market is three times the size of the commercial market, and it's obviously an attractive market opportunity for us."
Eyler, former vice president of sales and marketing at True Fitness until he and True parted ways in March 2005, began with Star Trac as its director of consumer sales and marketing in late May 2006. Since his hire, he has been developing plans for marketing, product, staffing and direction, with an intended launch in early 2007.
"Star Trac is a quality company with excellent personnel and great leadership," Eyler told SNEWS®. "It is a privilege to be a part of the Star Trac team. My goal is to deliver a quality business plan that will allow Star Trac to deliver quality fitness products for consumers to the industry."
Although Star Trac sells to consumers, they are primarily those who know the product from using it in a club or commercial setting and are willing to pay high commercial prices. With a formal entry into the consumer segment, however, Bergstedt said they will develop and market a completely new line of equipment, maintaining higher-end consumer prices. The timing of the launch was right, he said, since Star Trac has now grown over the last few years and has more resources.
"We've grown enough that we feel our company has become mature enough to handle an aggressive push into the category," Bergstedt said. He added that without history in the consumer area, it gives the company the "luxury" to go in whatever direction seems appropriate and not have any mandates to follow.
"We want to take advantage since the wind is at our backs," he said about the choice.
The consumer equipment line will also be sold under the name Star Trac.
Initially, Star Trac under Eyler's leadership will develop a range of products, covering the core equipment areas such as treadmills, ellipticals and bikes, without necessarily entering the arena with rows of equipment in each.
"We're not looking to create a $100 million consumer division out of the gate," Bergstedt said. "We want to grow it at a measured pace."
Since introducing its first DC-powered commercial treadmill (Star Trac 2000) in 1987 under the company name Unisen, Star Trac based its reputation for many years as being a treadmill company. The name of products slowly evolved into "Star Trac by Unisen," until the company dropped the use publicly of the Unisen company name and became exclusively Star Trac. Current CEO Steve Nero arrived at the company in June 2003 and has worked with the team to move the company beyond its reputation as an equipment company known for industrial-strength but not-flashy treadmills into a broader company with a little flair and more product. In just over the last 18 months, Star Trac has acquired Flex Fitness and the Human Sport line, launched a new elliptical, refreshed other categories, launched Star Trac Espana and opened its Singapore office.
SNEWS® View: It was just a matter of time before Star Trac decided to make the leap into the consumer market. Although a larger market with bigger opportunities, it remains a more difficult one to reach with a lot of companies struggling for some kind of recognition among consumers. The last few years have seen a number of new equipment companies looking for a foothold in the arena and many have found it, while others are indeed still struggling a bit. Obviously, Star Trac's competition will be companies like Precor, Life Fitness and True Fitness, with Cybex, which is showing at the Health & Fitness Business in Denver Aug. 3-5 for the first time in years, also readying its return into the consumer segment. We'll of course wait to see what Star Trac can pull off to differentiate itself from all the others.