SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey - Part 1: Best, “most difficult,” plus sales trends
Life Fitness 力健
Star Trac/ST Fitness 星馳
Johnson (AFG/Horizon, Vision)喬山
In your opinion, who is the ONE “best” supplier in the business?
Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): BH Fitness, Bodycraft, Bodyguard, Hoist, Paramount, PowerBlock, Spirit, Vision
Forget for a moment which company is where on the list. What is really striking to us is that we only had 14 total companies named at all -- only 14 that got at least one measly vote. Last year we had “only” 19, which was the first year the tally had sunk below 20 since 2005. What gives? An answer in our “most difficult” question says it all: “We don’t do business with difficult suppliers.” We think more and more retailers are reclaiming their businesses, so to speak. Granted, some retailers may still do business with some they deem a bit difficult, but that’s becoming fewer each year, it seems. And, to top that, fewer are actually even considered “best” or simply really great and easy to deal with -- but rather just another supplier. Octane still dominates -- fourth year in a row at the top and no signs of faltering. The others’ losses are its gains since it jumped from 18.3 percent of the vote a year ago to -- yikes, is this possible? -- 27+ percent of the vote this year. Congratulations, Octane!
Another big change is Life Fitness: It has dallied toward the bottom for a number of years, but this year it made the big leap back up the ladder to No. 2, more than quadrupling its percent. Granted, it now has more single dealers and has less of its cards with one (Busy Body). Nevertheless, if our respondents didn’t like the company, it wouldn’t get votes. Precor gained a few votes but was pushed down to third from second, and Bodyguard fell off the top list. Also of note in our small print -- “Others receiving votes” -- MIA totally is, for example, Accell Fitness, Landice, LeMond, LifeCore, PaceMaster and Star Trac. Yup, retailers are just getting choosier. They have to do it to survive.
Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Bodyguard, Body Solid, Cybex, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Hampton, LifeCore, Life Fitness, LifeSpan, Polar, Power Plate, Powertec, SportsArt, Spri, True, Woodway
You want the good news or the bad news first? OK, the good news is that Nautilus received fewer than half the votes it did last year. The bad news is that it’s still considered the No. 1 “most difficult” and some wrote-in they just don’t carry it anymore. In addition, we must note that in eight years of our survey, Nautilus has earned the top spot in this category every single year. Wrote in one respondent: “Do they even sell fitness equipment anymore? LOL.” Maybe the changes in late 2009 and early 2010 to return its focus to retail will help in the coming year.
In other good news, Life Fitness fell off the top list of “most difficult.” The bad, then, is for Star Trac/ST Fitness, which took one Olympic leap from nowhere to No. 2, only nudging out Precor for that questionable honor by the slimmest (and most insignificant) of margins. For Vision, the good news is it also fell off the list, having done its own hurdle upward last year, but the bad news for Vision is that it still did not reclaim a top spot on “best” (see above). Another spot of bad news came for LeMond: Never a company that even gained a mention in the past, it moved up onto the top of the “worst” for 2009.
Despite the fact that some manufacturers put up the permanently closed sign or merged with others, we actually had a huge jump in brands named -- 24 this year from a mere 19 last year. (Note we said “brands” in this case since although Johnson is the company, specifically called out were its two retail brands.) Said one respondent about being “worst:” “Volume going belly up? Diamondback not stocking inventory? Raw Power going belly up?... Take your pick.” Maybe those on this list should perk an ear to what one retailer said about Octane as “best:” “They listen to their customers.” There we go with that “listen” stuff again.