A down economy that only got worse has forced new supplier Volume Fitness to turn off its business in the United States and Canada after launching barely 16 months ago.
The company, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, began phasing out operations as of June 1, although its retail customers didn't receive official notice until they contacted Volume for orders or service. Shane Delaney, owner of Canada's Iron Dog Fitness, told SNEWS he received no written notification but found out about the shut-down when he contacted the company about an elliptical that wasn't functioning properly.
Volume President Dan Binford blamed the pull-back on market conditions. He verified the company had not notified current customers until they contacted Volume, but he said the company was telling as of late April any interested retailers who contacted it that the U.S. distribution was being curtailed.
"We have to have a dealer base, and it's been difficult," he told SNEWS®. "We're not actively pursuing the U.S. market now."
Volume Fitness (www.volumefitness.com) introduced itself to the market in March 2008 at the IHRSA show in San Francisco, and used the subsequent Health & Fitness Business Show in July 2008 for a full launch of 11 products. (Click here to see a March 26, 2008, SNEWS story, "New equipment vendor Volume Fitness launches its business with bikes, treads, ellipticals.")
At that time, Binford told SNEWS it was a great time to go into business since, as a small company, Volume could be more aggressive.
Although being phased out in the U.S. and Canadian markets, Volume will still exist, he said, with sales that are going well in international markets such as the Caribbean and Ecuador, as well as some Asian countries.
"I don't plan on going away," said Binford, who has been in the industry for 15 years and continues to do distribution and exporting with his company Fitness First Inc. He said he hopes Volume Fitness will be able to come back into the North American markets in a year. "Perhaps, in the future, things will change and allow us to return."
Binford maintained that current customers would be supported and would receive service and warranty fulfillment as needed for equipment they already had or had sold. Remaining inventory, he added, is being sold locally at a discount.
"We are committed to providing parts for product we have sold to dealers," he said, "and are continuing to work with any dealers that have service issues."
In an email exchange with Delaney, a Volume representative told him parts had been ordered to have on-hand based on what was requested by current customers; additional parts would need to be shipped from China. In addition, the representative stated, models purchased after June 1 will only have a one-year warranty from the date of purchase or through December 2010, whichever comes first.
"I am now selling all my Volume ellipticals at cost and telling people that the warranty is only one year on parts and labor," Delaney wrote SNEWS in an email. "I will eat the cost for the last two and just strip them for parts, so that I can support my customers.
"It is too bad," he added, "as the quality and price were pretty good."
SNEWS® View: Volume management couldn't, of course, know in early 2008 that the mediocre economy would take the nosedive that it did a few months later. Knowing that retailers in general are paring back the number of suppliers they deal with to streamline operations and cut costs in the economic downturn, it was likely doubly difficult to gain retail customers. We suspect the number of places the line was sold was quite limited. Indeed, the company had some good ideas but, in the end, it was another line of good treadmills, bikes and ellipticals in a market that seems already to be a bit over-saturated with, you got it, good treadmills, bikes and ellipticals. With the number of retailers still in business also shrinking, the number of suppliers who will be successful and will find satisfactory quantities of business will also shrink, starting with the last ones into the market. This will not be the last small supplier that will change its business plan or curtail certain lines or some aspect of business before the economy recovers. Binford, however, continues to find success in outlying international markets and that seems to be an underserved niche.