Vision Fitness is on a growth roll -- Fall 2002

Vision Fitness is on a growth roll -- new cardiovascular product, expansion into the light commercial market, a new hire to head up its charge into strength, new headquarters, doubled warehouse space, and 30 percent more employees than a year ago.
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Vision Fitness is on a growth roll -- new cardiovascular product, expansion into the light commercial market, a new hire to head up its charge into strength, new headquarters, doubled warehouse space, and 30 percent more employees than a year ago.

"There's no such thing as perfect, but we try to build a business on quality," said Steve Lindenau, the Lake Mills, Wis.-based, company's national sales manager. "But not enough people know what Vision is and what we have to offer."

The biggest hurdle for Vision -- as well as many other fitness equipment companies -- is to gain consumer name recognition. Just this month, in one giant step for the small company in recognition, it will appear in the rather elite Runner's World treadmill review that publishes every three years. That'll gain some public eye, at least among higher-end shoppers.

But it couldn’t have gotten there without solid product. With price points in a range ($1,200 to $2,500) which many consumers will move up to, the company has built a mid-price empire where few have focused. Oddly enough, Vision started as a bike company, with founders Greg Waters and Nathan Pyles spinning off the company from its position as a subsidiary of Trek Bicycle. Their vision became Vision in 1996.

Despite its heritage in bikes, some of its greatest focus these days has been on treadmills, which are also the biggest sellers for the company. Lindenau says they added 2 inches to the belt, which made Vision treadmills much "more inviting" than others. Soon, other companies followed suit. He said consumers like the features they get for the dollars they pay. Next, for Vision, comes bikes, with recumbents selling 3-to-1 over uprights. Thirdly, comes ellipticals, which have grown in sales for the company, partly because they have focused on a narrower stance than some other companies have.

The company also introduced its iNetTV system, which is a flat-screen panel that allows users to watch TV, play games, watch movies or surf the Net, depending on how the TV screen is hooked up.

"The equipment categories that are out there are proven categories," Lindenau said, "so we want to focus on making them better."

Making them better means Vision experienced about 58 percent growth 2002 year-to-date over 2001.

In addition, Vision says people quit exercising because they are bored -- not because there isn't some new gadget to workout on. And that's why the company believes iNetTVs are so important. Multi-tasking has become a part of society and with the iNet, someone can pedal and do other things too, such as watch football or a soap. "If it helps them achieve their goals, great," he said.

No secret with the recent hire of Doug Kortemeyer as the company's product manager for strength is the company's intent to, yes, develop a strength line. That won't debut until late 2003 for an early 2004 delivery but is expected to be stack product aimed toward the light commercial market. Three pieces are expected with the launch, with the goal to make them aesthetically different, Lindenau said.

Some top products:

T9700HRT Treadmill -- The 9700 was introduced a year ago and developed in partnership with elite marathoner Rod DeHaven. With a suggested retail of $3,100, it is the highest-end treadmill Vision offers (and the one picked up by the current Runner's World's review). Its key feature is a series of programs (intervals, tempo runs and hill runs) geared specifically to a training runner.

X6600HRT Elliptical -- Programmable, this elliptical is either self-generating or plug-in to allow flexibility in placement, and with a warranty that covers up to five hours of use a day, it is adaptable to the light commercial market. It also has contact heart rate. Suggested retail: $2,200.

R2600HRT iNetTV -- Granted, this recumbent bike isn't the only piece that the iNetTV can come on, but it's one of the more popular ones. With a suggested retail of $3,700 (without the TV, the similar model is $1,800), it has a sleek LCD TV console, with the option to add Internet access. A custom software package let's you surf the Internet with hands-free using voice activation.

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