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August 6, 2007 - Health & Fitness Business Show in Denver

Editor's Note: This Blog entry is divided into two sections - Section one is for industry insiders and Section Two is for consumers.

As is usual, Treadmill Doctor attended the annual Health & Fitness Business show in Denver, CO. Two things stood out to us, here at ye old Treadmill Doctor this year: (1) The Health & Fitness Business Show is on its last leg and (2) just how many manufacturers we have pissed off over the years. Health & Fitness Business was an offshoot of the old Chicago show and the fitness component show of the SuperShow. It was designed to cater to specialty fitness dealers. The only way that we can put it is that the decline of the show has mirrored the decline in the specialty fitness industry. Frankly, without Freemotion (Icon) deciding to take on the title sponsorship, and if Precor and Lifefitness had not decided to maintain their presence, the show would have been empty. Well not empty - there would have been plenty of no name Chinese manufacturers trying to hock a single container of equipment! The other thing that was remarkable about the show was the lack of floor traffic. The decline of specialty fitness did not surprise us at the Treadmill Doctor, we have been predicting it for the last four or five years, but intellectually knowing something is entirely different from seeing it up close and personal. The rule of thumb has always been if a specialty dealer tells you that sales are level then they are really down about 5% to 10%. When they admit declines of 5% to 10% that means that the declines are really 15% to 25% which is rough. What we are hearing from the specialty dealers at the show is that is not that they are loosing sales, but that the potential sales are no longer even walking through their doors in the first place. When traffic is down in the store the specialty dealers and their manufacturers are going to have to try new things to attract customers to enter their storefronts!

The other thing which really surprised us, well not really, is how many industry insiders really dislike us. Well dislike is not really strong enough a word. Maybe, despise, hate, loathe, etc...Well you get the picture. What is funny is when a sales person tries to educate us on how we really don't know what we are talking about, and how his/her three plus years of sales experience is more than adequate to prove us wrong. Note to salespeople: please continue this. Our best stories, you know the ones that make us laugh the hardest, are when we are telling each other about the idiot sales people that are educating us! This also brings up another point - our reviews are just our opinion. Some companies may like them and others don't, but as one owner of an old time fitness manufacturing company remarked to us this year at the show: over the last ten years of our reviewing treadmills and ellipticals we have managed to piss off every single fitness equipment manufacturing company in America, Europe, and China. Frankly this is a source of pride for us. People that tend to talk straight are rarely welcomed with open arms. It makes us proud when the jabbering crowd criticizes us for our bias and whisper about how we are taking money for our reviews. We have always gone against the grain. When everyone 10 years ago was saying that certain brands were the absolute best, we said they were good but a bad value and time proved us right. When others were saying that other brands were high quality, we were more skeptical - again we were right. Fact is that while we have not always been right, we have always erred on the conservative side of the consumer. It is rare that we come out unequivocally in favor of a product. We usually find some drawback and the bottom line is that when reading our reviews we have learned that different products are "right" for different people in different situations. So when the salesperson says that we are bought off when we write our reviews, take it with a grain of salt. Just like you should take our reviews with a grain of salt too! Remember that when it comes to your money, nothing takes the place of your own common sense when you are trying to decide on which product to buy!


August 25, 2007 - Buyers Beware – Weakness in the Fitness Manufacturing sector!

Many times, we at Treadmill Doctor, are accused to writing our blog directed to industry insiders and others associated with the fitness industry.   In truth, we do.  We have also felt that it is both appropriate and good for consumers to have some knowledge of what is going on inside the fitness industry.  This is especially true since any of these changes or trends could affect the consumer’s purchasing decisions and/or the service that they receive.   This is exactly the type of blog entry that we are writing today.  Today’s blog is about the financial health of the fitness manufacturing sector.

We were struck this year about the health of the fitness manufacturing sector.  We have consistently written about how specialty fitness dealers are in financial and numerical decline.  A tangential consequence of the decline of specialty fitness dealers is the decline of the specialty fitness manufacturing base.  One thing that we have seen over the past month is the beginning of companies that are withdrawing from the fitness manufacturing busienss.  We have gotten the impression that, at a minimum, three specialty fitness manufacturers will withdraw from the marketplace before the end of the 2007.  We are also speculating that the number will end up being closer to five by the end of the next season (for the uninitiated this means next April). 

What does this mean for the average consumer?  Buyer beware!  If the company that you just bought your fitness equipment from withdraws from the market, or worse, goes bankrupt what is the likelihood of getting parts support or having your warranty honored?  Not very good!  Buying equipment from specialty fitness dealers won’t help you either.  They will just give you the old, old line: “We can’t get parts to fix your old machine … buy this new unit to replace it!” 

On the other side of this equation, financially stable companies will end up being stronger after this year.  Financially weaker companies are typically the ones backing out of the industry.  Our sentimentality makes us feel for the struggling little guy.  Frankly, it wasn’t so long ago that Treadmill Doctor would be included among the list of struggling little guy.  On the other hand the industry needs to have some baby seals clubbed.  Darwinism at its finest is taking place and we’re sure that there will be a lot of crying in the industry because of it.

So, before you buy that treadmill or elliptical make sure that you look at our upcoming reviews.  We are taking the staying power of the company in to account a little more than usual this year.  The new reviews for 2008 should be up by the end of September or the first of October for the interested.  Just remember that you really need to watch your wallets this year!