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2012 SNEWS Retail Survey Results Part 1: “Best” and “most difficult” suppliers, plus sales trends

The annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey results are in. This first installment reports on who our retailers deemed the ‘best’ and ‘most difficult’ suppliers to work with. Plus we take a look at sales trends.

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The annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey results are in. Though we’d generally had this survey open during the summer, with results published before the Health & Fitness Business Expo, this year we will run these results during the height of the holiday shopping season, and right before the New Year’s Resolution crowds hit your showrooms.

This first part of the survey results reports on who our survey-takers deemed the “best” and “most difficult” companies to work with, and offers insight into sales and revenue trends.

Within the next two weeks, look for our next three parts: more trends and brand rankings in cardio, strength and accessories. Plus, insights into what fitness professionals think is the biggest challenge facing the industry and how we can overcome it.

Best Suppliers

We suspect manufacturers have been wanting to know who retailers like to work with, and the retailers have spoken. In a change from last year, when True was the clear winner, this year Octane won over hearts of store owners and managers everywhere, re-capturing the top spot.

One newcomer to the manufacturing space — 3G Cardio — got rave reviews in several sections of the survey and earned third place in our retailers’ “Best” suppliers list.

Here are the results:

  • First: Octane Fitness with 39.39 percent
  • Second: True and Precor both with 12.12 percent
  • Third: 3G Cardio with 9.09 percent
  • Fourth: Life Fitness and Body Solid, both with 6.06 percent
  • Fifth: (In alphabetical order) Hoist, Inspire, Landice, Sports Art and, Troy, each with 3.03 percent

Respondents said Octane was the best because of its quality service, innovation in product design and ease to work with. Precor remains a favorite because of the support it offers to retailers and its sales reps are responsive. Plus, some retailers noted, the company continues to offer great product in both the commercial and retail categories.

True was at the top spot last year, but this year it fell to second. Retailers said the company remains consistent and easy to work with.

3G’s great product and service got them top honors, according to some retailers. Another retailer chose it because its shipping was always on time, the company’s margin is “very good” and its service for repair is excellent.

Most difficult

There were fewer responses for the question, “which is the ‘most difficult’ supplier to work with?” because many surveyed said they simply dropped difficult suppliers and would rather not call out which those are.

One company managed to get top honors in the ‘best’ category and take the top spot in the ‘most difficult’ category.

But the other respondents vented their frustrations about which manufacturers are difficult to work with. Here’s what retailers had to say.

The results:

  • First ‘most difficult’ to work with: Precor with 13.79 percent of the vote
  • Second: Nautilus and Icon with 10.34 percent of the vote
  • Third: Johnson Health Tech, Life Fitness, Life Core and Star Trac, each with 6.9 percent of the vote
  • Fourth: (In alphabetical order) AFG, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Hoist, Keiser, LifeSpan, Pacemaster, Power Plate, Teeter, Troy and Vision, each 3.45 percent fo the vote

It seemed Precor got the reputation of the ‘worst’ supplier to work with because many retailers said they felt the company didn’t value specialty home fitness business. Many expressed the same reasoning in choosing Nautilus, noting the company seemed to value commercial only and not pay attention to retail, though one retailer did express the company is getting better in this aspect.

Lack of customer service, support and not visiting stores was a problem among manufacturers who took the third spot on the ‘most difficult’ list.


These are the trends we spotted in our survey responses.

Store sizes go both ways. In last year’s survey, retailers who survived the economic downturn had downsized their stores. This year we found retailers are both upsizing and downsizing. In our 2012 survey, which reflects data from 2011, we 29 percent of respondents say their store sizes were between 3,000 to 3,999 square feet, and 27 percent of respondents say their stores were between 4,000- to 5,999-square feet. While last year no retailers said their stores’ average space was “less than 2,000,” this year, 12 percent of respondents said this was the case and 10 percent of respondents said their average square footage was 2,000 to 2,999.

Sales volumes rising. Last year, retailers reported lower sales volumes but this year, apparently thanks to light-commercial and commercial sales, sales volumes are up. In 2010 23.9 percent of respondents said their sales volume was “less than $499,999 while in 2011 only 13 percent of respondents said that was the case.

Here’s a little glimpse into the differences between 2010 and 2011: In 2009 45 percent of respondents chose sales volumes between $500,000 and $2 million; that number dropped to 38 percent of respondents in 2010; rising a percentage point to 39 percent of respondents in 2011.

Most notable, however, was the rise in respondents choosing sales volumes between $2 million and $6 million — 13 percent chose sales volumes between $2 and $3 million; 8 percent choose volumes between $3 and $4 million; and 23 percent of respondents chose sales volumes between $4 and $5 million for 2011.

In terms of those numbers, most of the sales volume came from fitness equipment (76.54 percent) while accessories, and outdoor products and bikes followed closely.

Sales for 73 percent of respondents were up 1 percent to more than 16 percent, 12 percent of respondents said sales are about even, while 13 percent said sales were down anywhere from 1 to 15 percent.

Sales rise for commercialcategory. Many retailers continued to see an increase in commercial sales. 37 percent of respondents said commercial business is 81 to 90 percent of business, while 45 percent said it was between 50 to 80 percent of business. Many respondents said commercial is way up for them.

One caveat: Our survey results reflect the answers retailers shared to our simple questions. We warn readers that we are not economists or statisticians, we are simply reporters reporting what retailers have shared with us. If you have comments, questions or suggestions, send us a note to

–Ana Trujillo