Bemoaning the inability to compete in an increasingly Asian-manufactured market, Kurt Manufacturing is exiting the treadmill and fitness equipment business and dumping its Theradyne brand.
At the Health & Fitness Business show in Denver, the Theradyne space listed in the show's event guide exhibited the parent company's Kurt bike trainers (Kinetic Trainer), had no carpet, and showed one lonely treadmill. On that treadmill was a printed-out 8-by-10 sheet of paper taped to its front rail stating "Closing Out." Prices listed on the paper for its treadmills, normally selling at retail for about $1,400 to $2,000, were $585 to $860.
"We're getting out of the treadmill business," said Kurt consultant Carl Gulbronson. "We didn't have the critical mass or synergy to support the line."
Gulbronson explained that nearly 60-year-old Kurt Manufacturing actually specializes in precision manufacturing for the aerospace, automotive and defense industries and got into treadmills somewhat by accident in the late '90s when a subcontractor dumped the treadmill business and left the company with machinery and rails it no longer needed. To use up the inventory, Kurt began its Healthcare Products Division not only with treadmills but also eventually with wheelchairs (another segment it is getting out of).
Theradyne made three treadmills with two additional models that were just slightly longer and wider versions of two of the three. At one time, it also introduced an elliptical trainer. At the show, the company was simply looking for buyers to close out the line and clear inventory.
"It was a world-class treadmill," Gulbronson said, "that couldn't find a niche in an ever-developing market.
"It's impossible to compete in this market when your building materials cost more than the landing cost of a complete product from others," he added.
Until recently, Doug Tietz, formerly of Nordic Track, had headed up the Theradyne division and apparently had pushed for updating product and furthering development to remain more competitive. However, the company balked since the division never fully pulled its weight, SNEWSÂ® has been told. Tietz is no longer with the company.
The treadmills weren't fancy, but were sturdy, functional workhorses that used the precision machining and metal bending expertise of Jordan, Minn.-based, Kurt. But as other companies increasingly worked on features, programs and aesthetics, Theradyne fell behind.
"This is not new," Gulbronson said. "It's happening in other industries, too. It's about steel."
SNEWÂ® View: Indeed workhorses, it was amazing how rock-steady these plain Jane treadmills were. No fancy colors, flashing lights, smooth tubing or ooooo aesthetics, they nevertheless got the job done. Tietz, ever the engineer, was always a pleasure to deal with too since he knew his stuff and gladly shared it. Only a few years ago, the company could still compete, but in the last few years the treadmills began to look antiquated and the prices couldn't hold their own next to those machines coming from Taiwan or other Asian countries. Too bad. Another piece of fitness industry history bites the dust.