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Fitness industry trends: Treadmills vs. Ellipticals vs. CrossFit?

Fitness industry trends: Treadmills vs. Ellipticals vs. CrossFit?

By Therese Iknoian, HFB Industry Ambassador


I say elliptical, you say treadmill, he says Cross Fit, she says yoga…. What’s the current trend to jump on? Maybe the trend to jump on isn’t a hot happ that will burn out in a year, but a longer-term investment in a broader selection of gear with the education and customer outreach to match.


A deeper dive into some research shows that the sports and fitness market doesn’t have the doldrums as deep as some may think, although consumers may still be a little shy about larger purchases. Overall, sales are still growing – no matter if it’s a bike or a ball — despite lingering economic worries.


Sales increased in the broader sports market – showing gains of between about 4 percent to 5 percent in 2011 over 2010, depending on which study you read. Total value ranges from $55.5 billion to $77.3 billion, again depending on the source. Break it down to fitness and exercise equipment and the market in wholesale dollars in 2011 reached between $4.5 billion (according to the SGMA most recent “Tracking the Fitness Movement” report out in July) and $5.6 billion (per the NSGA’s most recent “Sporting Goods Market Report” out in June). Those are increases year-over-year, respectively, of 3.4 percent and 2 percent.


Treadmill vs Elliptical vs…

Everybody wants a piece of the elliptical pie, which is a growing segment of sales and participation. But the treadmill remains the meat-and-potatoes piece of equipment.


According to the NSGA, treadmills actually had the greatest increase in market share, increasing its sales by 3 percent in 2011 over 2010 to $3.2 billion. Ellipticals increased just 1 percent to $480,500. Per the SGMA’s recent report, participation is a slightly different creature, with an increase year-over-year in elliptical workouts by 8.8 percent compared to an increase in treadmill participation by only 1.9 percent. Of note, however, is that the total numbers for elliptical workouts remain just barely over half of those using treadmills.


Home gym sales were down by 2.5 percent in 2011, per the SGMA, while participation was up slightly by 1.7 percent in 2011. In contrast, the NSGA showed home gym sales down by 6 percent.


Other activities that are on a recent growth pattern include running, day hiking, using hand weights, walking and road cycling, according to the SGMA, while the NSGA points to big jumps also in running and yoga. In general, activities people can do at or from their home remain a hit, such as stretching, home gym workouts and yoga. And the NSGA notes that working out a club decreased in the prior year by 4.8 percent to 34.5 million.


What about CrossFit?

The research cited here doesn’t survey CrossFit, per se, although the SGMA has a new category called “boot camp-style cross-training” that shows 7.7 million participants (this would cover all styles of classes). However, retailers we have spoken to note increasing numbers of customers coming in for the gear they need, including, barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, other weights, mats, jump ropes and ropes. The regimen, founded in 2000 and now a cultural phenomenon, is not to be ignored. Its devotees find equipment and gear they like, and quickly pass the word around the community, often creating increased sales without a brand immediately aware of its source.


Put on your to-do list to find out more about CrossFit and other non-traditional training activities. Find out what they use, how they think, get a trainer on your staff or available for consults, then consider working with a CrossFit gym or putting together equipment packages.


Reaching the Active

Getting an active person to buy equipment and other gear may not be as hard as thought – if the come-on isn’t just about price and techie details. According to a Leisure Trends report from its “Most Active Americans Panel,” participants said that price remained important; however, other benefits were attractive: Think lessons, training, fittings, free accessories, participation in drawings, package deals, and product demos.


A recent report found that while 26 percent of participants wanted discounts and “buy one, get one” deals, 27 percent reported they wanted raffles, expert talks, clinics, demos, or free classes and lessons. The desire to increase their knowledge and ability was a key factor.


And the Inactive?

The number of inactive Americans overall remains high, climbing again in 2011 to more than 68 million. That means there are still millions of people for the industry to reach. And they’re not to be forgotten since they could be a goldmine if you gain their trust and help get them active.


According to the SGMA, many of the “inactive” and “formerly active” sadly aren’t interested in any kind of activity (39.8 percent), but that leaves more than 60 percent who think there may be something there for them. No. 1 is a class of some sort – think camaraderie and support as well as motivation – then working out with machines – it seems easier than aerobics to many. Others mentioned include bicycling (no word about indoor or out), working out with weights and running.


And, not to spur competition or anything, but this is opportunity knocking at the door: The top 10 inactive states are, in order: Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And, the top 10 active states, again in order, are: Utah, Idaho, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Oregon and Illinois.


Get them – inactive and active – in the door, get them excited, educate them, help them, consult with them, and be a star member of an industry that has a future.


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