Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

SNEWS Qs: Boost your business in the 'Sheconomy,' and capitalize on female purchasing power

Women control a majority of the global buying power so Kathy O'Connell Johnson of Fitness EM give retailers some tips.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

It’s not a man’s world. At least not when it comes to buying power — in fact, Time Magazine refers to it as the “sheconomy.”

A social marketing website by (almost) the same name, She-conomy, claims that 85 percent of all brand purchases are made by women. According to Nielsen research, women are responsible for $12 trillion of the $18 trillion global buying power.

What woman doesn’t want to work on her mind and body — and what retailer doesn’t want to cater to her desires and improve its bottom line in the process?

We’ve noticed women’s offerings steadily expanding at our city’s best outdoor and fitness retailers. Fitness EM (Empower Fitness) manufactures a lot of the products we’ve spied. So we chatted with Kathy O’Connell Johnson, vice president of marketing and branding at the company, about how to successfully target women buyers and what products the company makes for them.

What are some trends in terms of how women are exercising now?
We again have found in our research, and recent Sports and Fitness Industry Association studies support this, that women are the first to try new workouts and prefer to work out in a social setting or, if at home, with a DVD or some form of a guide to make sure she is getting the results she wants in minimum time.

We have also seen that she is looking for variety for a few different reasons — she is more educated about working out and understands the need to include more than just cardio in her workout (i.e. strength training, stretching). Plus, she wants to have some fun and finds exercise as a means for some “me time,” so she is trying many different types of exercise from dance to yoga to boot camp style workouts.

What are some of the benefits of targeting women for specialty outdoor and fitness retailers?
We all know that women make 80 percent of all consumer purchases. So she has the cash, but how does that directly apply to the fitness industry? Well, women represent over 60 percent of new exercisers, and are more likely to work out at home (68 percent of women work out at home). They purchase over 60 percent of all fitness equipment. Women are looking for solutions for working out and will impulse-buy if they see something that will work into their lifestyle. Plus, women purchase not only for themselves, but for their families as well. Health and wellness have become top of mind in her purchase decisions.

What are your tips, as a women’s fitness product manufacturer, for specialty fitness and outdoor retailers to attract female customers?
Women are looking for solutions and are looking to be educated at point of sale. They will be drawn in by style and color, but will ultimately purchase if they are convinced that what ever it is will fit into their lifestyle, will benefit them and keep them motivated.

The first step is to merchandise an area with products that are of interest to them and educate your sales staff on these products and their benefits. It is also important to educate the sales staff on the differences of selling to a female consumer. Lastly, you need to market to her in a way that sparks an emotional connection — there are lots of inexpensive ways to do this including information, education and testimonials at point of sale, through social media and at places were women are already inspired such as races or fitness events.

What are some new products Fitness EM has coming out?
We have several new products launching for Empower in September of this year. Our foundation lies in strength training for women and we have a few great items that help women in this area:

  • The Fusion Fit Disc with C3 Fusion Workout. The Fusion Fit Disc and C3 Fusion workout combine cardio and strength training with one tool. The disc can be used as a kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbell. The versatility of the disc, paired with the C3 Fusion high-intensity interval workout allows women to get a great workout in only 30 minutes.
  • Flex Links. Flex Links takes tubing to a whole new level. The Flex Links Strength and Stretch Ladder can be used as a resistance band or stretching strap and gives women the option to “climb the ladder” in 5 pound increments for up to 20 pounds of resistance. Flex Links is great for upper body, lower body and core strengthening as well as perfect for beginner or advanced stretching — use for assistance or to get deeper into stretches.
  • Safety Walking Weights. Safety Walking Weights add power to walking or running with the added benefit of safety and security. The soft weights are comfortable and secured to the hand with a reflective strap that provides a blinking or steady light.
  • Weighted Gloves. Empower’s Weighted Gloves are unique to the marketplace. The open-palm design secures the weight to the top of the hand, allowing for a drier and more comfortable feel. The gloves are great for kickboxing, sparring or any aerobic activity.

What are the best features of these products?
The best features of these products all include the thoughtfulness in how the design applies to women. As each product is developed, we consider the weight, the feel, the look and the usability. We develop programming that is tailored to maximize the uses of each product and ensure the programming gives options for variations based on time and ability. We try to develop products and workouts that grow with women as they progress, that are portable and space-efficient and allow them to fit in their workout in a time-efficient way.

What are some trends in terms of what women want in exercise accessories?
Our research has shown that women are most interested in the workout itself, and the benefits she will gain from the workout. She is always looking for new options to do this in a time efficient way and wants products that are simple and fun to use to help keep her motivated.

What are some of the most popular items you produce?
Our most popular products in the marketplace right now are the 3-in-1 Kettlebell, Cardio Core & More Hoop and the Pilates Studio.

What are some issues facing the fitness industry in general and how can we overcome them?
This isn’t new news but it is very important that we all find ways to help change the trend of inactivity in America. Most of us in the fitness industry are hooked on fitness and know firsthand the benefits and the positive impact this has on our lives. Our biggest challenge is identifying how we can help motivate more people to understand this and give them attainable goals and reasonable solutions to encourage them to adopt a more healthy and active lifestyle.

To further our quest to help women become more active and healthy, we have joined forces with SFIA (formerly SGMA). As an appointed board member, Mike Savage, our CEO, will play an integral role in the direction of the sports and fitness industry and take part in influencing the passing of new legislation called the PHIT America act that strives to create a fit and healthy America by giving Americans incentives to get moving.

What are your favorite aspects of working in the fitness industry?
Personally, my favorite aspects of working in the fitness industry are that I don’t think of my work as a job. It is part of who I am and what I believe in. Also that this industry is constantly evolving and new research is always available, so I am always learning and being challenged to apply this knowledge to new products. Most important to me are the people in this industry — this industry is addictive and it is because of the great people that are part of it.