Weather that leaves you melting has fitness retailers smiling

After a grim winter sales season for the fitness industry, with unseasonably mild temperatures pushing potential customers outdoors for workouts, things might be looking up thanks to record-breaking heat in several parts of the country.
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Triple-digit, record-breaking heat in the Denver, Colo., metro area this weekend left us shouting, “I’m melting!” like the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz" as we bolted into our air-conditioned homes to run on our treadmills.

We can’t be the only ones. Judging from what some home fitness retailers say, bad weather brings good sales.

After a winter season of grim sales for the fitness industry, thanks to unseasonably mild weather that drove people outdoors for workouts, things might be looking up thanks to record-breaking heat in several parts of the country.

Usually bad weather is a bad omen. But not for fitness retailers, said Rodney Rice Jr., owner of Louisana-based Fitness Expo.

“Weather can actually help or hurt home fitness,” Rice explained. “If weather is beautiful, that kills home fitness. If weather gets crappy, like down here where there’s constantly a threat of a hurricane, sales are good.”

Bad weather, good sales

Rice said these unbearably hot summers are fantastic for fitness retail.

“Really horrible summers where it’s super hot, over 100 degrees, and people can’t count on going to the park, they’ll start thinking home fitness again,” Rice said.

It’s shaping up to be a “really horrible summer” in several parts of the country with the likes of Washington, D.C., and parts of the Northeast joining Denver in breaking records in weather history. According to the National Weather Service, the heat on Thursday, June 21 broke eight temperature records across the country and tied three others.

Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing for Icon Health & Fitness (which owns Nordic Track, Pro-Form, Freemotion Fitness and Image, among others) said she doesn’t have hard data to back up a cause-and-effect relationship between bad weather and good sales, but said weather is a good way for associates to clinch the deal with an iffy customer.

“We haven’t made a study of it, but I certainly feel like this is a huge opportunity,” Logan said, to make people aware of how much more comfortable it is to workout indoors than in extremely hot temperatures.

Tyler Pedersen, sales associate at HealthStyles on Colorado Boulevard in Denver, said all the chain’s Denver stores have seen an increase in sales during the past two weeks, both of which were extremely hot.

Usually, Pedersen said, a lot of summer customers focus on strength equipment to get that “summer beach body," but as the temperatures have been soaring, cardio business has, too.

“It’s so hot the typical bikers and outdoor walkers are coming in and looking at indoor cardio because they just can’t do what they normally do outdoors," Pedersen said.

Poor air quality, strong selling point

The scorching heat isn’t the only problem plaguing the country these days. The state of Colorado has several wildfires burning right now, the largest of which is the High Park fire, the second most destructive and the most expensive fire in the state’s history. Also, fires in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California have kept firefighters busy.

The unbearable heat and low humidity is making it harder for the firefighters from both Colorado and around the country contain the fires, the latest of which is the Waldo Canyon Fire, and smoke is creeping into different cities, leaving people wanting clean air to breathe during their workouts.

While the fires are devastating, the lack of cleaner air to breathe during outdoor workouts in various metro areas could be another good selling point for sales associates, Logan said.

Pedersen said he hasn’t seen an uptick in sales in the Denver stores, but said HealthStyles Northern stores (the High Park Fire is burning in the northern part of the state) have noted a small increase in business. 

Logan said that sales associates, not just in wildfire-ravaged states, could also cite the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, which ranks the most and least polluted cities in the nation, as a selling point.

To get a list of the most polluted cities in the nation, and some dangers that come along with exercising in such pollution, visit the American Lung Association’s website.

--Ana Trujillo

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