Used fitness equipment market worth $173 million in 2004, per NSGA

Sales of used fitness equipment in 2004 accounted for about 20 percent of the total sales of used sporting goods equipment, or almost $173 million of $855 million.
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Sales of used fitness equipment in 2004 accounted for about 20 percent of the total sales of used sporting goods equipment, or almost $173 million of $855 million.

Although total used sales are up nearly $100 million or 13.5 percent over 2003's $753 million, sales of used fitness equipment were only up a tiny 2.3 percent from 2003's $169 million, according to the National Sporting Goods Association's report, "Purchases of Used Sports Equipment in 2004." Although up slightly in dollar volume, fitness equipment sales went down as a percent of total sporting goods equipment sales when comparing dollar volumes -- fitness equipment accounted for 22 percent of all used sales in 2003.

Going back two years, sales of used fitness equipment have gone down $31 million overall, or about 15 percent, compared to the $204 million in sales in 2002.

"The purchase of used equipment is a two-edged sword. It may take away from new equipment purchases initially, but it also may provide the entry point for future purchasers of upgraded equipment," said Tom Doyle, NSGA vice president of information and research.

In the used fitness equipment category, compared to others, the number of units purchased is substantial. Of all types of exercise equipment, more than one million pieces of equipment were purchased, excluding small hand equipment and weight sets of which more than a half million were purchased used.

"Although the average price is not high, most of these are purchases that did not take place in more traditional channels of distribution," Doyle said. Places of purchase included are not only traditional channels of distribution, but also online/Internet sources and purchases from private individuals.

In 2004, used stationary bikes accounted for 384,000 sales; treadmills tallied up 374,000 sales, free weights/weight sets were 556,000 sales, while ellipticals accounted for only 66,000 sales.

One interesting pattern in the last three years is the decline in the number of sales of used treadmills -- from 539,000 in 2002, to 413,000 in 2003, to 2004's 374,000. Ellipticals too are on the decline in used sales -- 117,000 in 2002, to 78,000 in 2003, to the most recent 2004 sales of 66,000.

Still, Doyle doesn't yet put a lot of weight in the changes over the short term because of the relatively small sample.

Prices consumers said they paid are also relatively low with treadmills in 2004 the highest at about $158. The average price they reported they paid for home gyms was $104; for ellipticals, nearly $55; for free weights and sets, nearly $55; and for stationary bikes, almost $41.

"That's just typical of used equipment," Doyle said. "People are just happy to get it out of the house."

The numbers of used equipment sales won't likely go up drastically, Doyle said. That's because sales of new equipment by unit has gone down gradually over the last few years, so there's just less in the market. That's of course assuming there isn't some new thing that everybody decides they must have.

"I wouldn't expect it to rise significantly," he said, "Unless there is some major new piece of equipment, like something gets really exciting again."

The NSGA report is based on a survey of 60,000 households in which 39 products were surveyed about purchases during 2004 by the household. It also provides information about the number of units sold, average price and total dollars as well as place of purchase information. For more information, visit the association home page (www.nsga.org) or call 847-391-9825.

SNEWS® View: It's amazing how cheaply some of this stuff sells for, even apparently the equipment that was more expensive to begin with. But like with computers and cars, as soon as it gets out the door, the value goes down -- especially as technology and features are continually improved, which so quickly outdates another piece. Another reason we could guess that the numbers of used pieces sold has dropped steadily over the last three years is that perhaps, on the other hand, it is getting better and people are just keeping it longer. Either way, the used market is not one to ignore.

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