Fitness equipment manufacturer BodyCraft is well-known for its home gyms and free-weight machines.
Quality, innovation and good customer service from its 11-person staff in Sunbury, Ohio, have gained the company respect from retailers and customers alike for more than a decade.
Today, BodyCraft is looking to build off that strong reputation and success and spin it into an additional foray in cardio products, as well as new strategic partnerships.
SNEWS® takes a look at BodyCraft’s history and why its founders are looking for new niches to diversify the company.
Home sweet home
BodyCraft owes its existence to two guys who didn’t want to move west.
In the early-1990s, Alan Gore and Randy Lundquist decided to stay home in central Ohio, rather than follow their employer Image Fitness, the specialty division of Icon Health & Fitness, in a move out west to Utah.
The co-workers needed new jobs, so in 1994, they founded Recreation Supply Inc. about 25 miles north of the state’s capital, Columbus.
“We were manufacturer reps for a number of companies, each in their own unique niche — one company for strength, one for accessories, one for treadmills,” Gore told SNEWS.
Their most notable client was Trimline Treadmills, which they helped dramatically grow until it was acquired by Schwinn.
“This is when we realized, once and for all, the insecure position of an independent rep and decided to go full force into our own line of BodyCraft products,” Gore said.
A recognized name
The success of Recreation Supply’s BodyCraft home gyms, since the launch in 1999, has led most people to know the company by the brand name BodyCraft.
BodyCraft gained particular notice in 2001 when it debuted its first Xpress home gym, which combined traditional weight training with functional cable training in a single machine. SNEWS and others called it the “hybrid home gym.”
“We knew what we had, and we were excited about it, but it took awhile for the rest of the industry to give us credit – which we knew when they all started copying us,” Gore said.
BodyCraft continued to innovate to keep ahead. It later found a way to optionally combine the two disciplines — weight and resistance devices — to create one virtual 400-pound weight stack for the user.
Today, the company is innovating its home gyms and weight training products to allow for maximum mobility and versatility – allowing users to escape from the set movement planes of the common machine workout.
For example, BodyCraft’s new Elite home gym features a main weight arm that can be locked in place for a traditional machine-like bench press, or – at the pull of a pin – switched to swivel for a more barbell-style bench press.
“It provides the need to balance and you can see if you’re favoring one side or not,” Gore said.
A similar type of flexibility option is available on the new BodyCraft Jones Platinum free-weight machine. Its main bar can tilt left and right as if a user were lifting a barbell, even though it’s still being guided along a vertical and horizontal track at the same time.
Keeping things compact and versatile have become leading traits for BodyCraft, Gore said. The quality of the product also is a top goal.
“We’ve been using the same contract manufacturer in Taiwan since BodyCraft’s inception,” Gore said.
“They’re a small company, but what they do, they do well,” said Mark Becker, owner of two Exercise & Leisure retail stores in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Northern Kentucky.
“They’re great for specialty fitness because of the quality and design – you’re not going to find them in the big-box stores, and it allows us to make a good margin,” Becker added.
Moving into cardio
BodyCraft’s recent expansion into more cardio equipment may seem out of the blue for those who know it as home-gym manufacturer, but remember, before BodyCraft there was, and still is, Recreation Supply Inc. And RSI’s first product was a line of exercise bikes, Gore said.
The RSI bikes were short-lived – maybe two to three years, Gore said – a nearly forgotten footnote after the BodyCraft brand took off.
In 2007, Gore and Lundquist returned to the sector with a BodyCraft line of spinning bikes, after seeing initial cardio success with the debut of its rowing machine in 2005.
From there, the cardio side of the business continues to grow.
“We didn’t want to be pigeonholed in one category,” Gore said. “And we realized that we could make the cardio equipment more compact, solid and quiet, just like we did with the home gyms.”
In January 2001, the company debuted its two new recumbent bikes – the BodyCraft R18 and BodyCraft R25 (pictured right).
The point of diversification particularly hit home during the past years of economic downturn – the first time BodyCraft hasn’t seen annual double-digit percent growth in it sales.
Beyond the expansion into cardio, BodyCraft is diversifying with some new strategic sales partnerships with products it envies, but saw no sense in trying to copy.
One is Ab Coaster, which BodyCraft will help sell along with its products on commission.
“We wouldn’t be doing this unless we really believed in it and it wouldn’t harm our reputation,” Gore said. “Our primary focus will always be BodyCraft, but we’ll see how these new alliances work out.”
From talking with its retailers, like Albert Kessler, president and owner of HEST Fitness in Texas, BodyCraft’s reputation of quality at a great value and good, trustworthy customer service are where the company shines.
“Their reps, like Todd Cynecki, are on the ball,” Kessler said. “And their products give consumers a lot of bang for the buck. There are a lot of unique features at a good price point and a lot of margin for the dealer.”