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SNEWS 2010 Fitness Retailer Survey – Part 2: Strength-training ‘best’ brands, trends

The second part of the annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey takes a look at what was going on in the strength-training category in 2009. Don’t miss our report on top brands, top-selling categories and other trends. The full detailed results are open to any All Access SNEWS® subscriber. Still to come this month: cardio and accessories trends and more.

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With so much fascinating information to present from our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey, we again have broken up the results for 2010 into four parts, with the first part running Aug. 2 and subsequent parts running weekly. All of the news and votes make for interesting reading, and we don’t want any one category to get lost in the flood of percents and stats, which we know can happen when it’s presented as one huge novel of a story.

>> Best supplier, “most difficult supplier,” plus sales trends — Expanded results were presented on Aug. 2, 2010, as well as a few general survey categories such as top-selling and fastest-growing equipment with insights gleaned about sales trends. Click here to see that sought-after first part of the results.

>> Cardio equipment — Our annual look at top brands, equipment and other trends in the cardio segment. Click here to see this part, posted on Aug. 16, 2010.

This week, we present results about the strength-training equipment segment looking at best brands, equipment and other trends. In the next two weeks, we’ll take a look at both cardio equipment sales, brands and trends, as well as accessory brands and trends, where we also include a summary of our “thought” questions.

The full detailed results are open to any All Access SNEWS® subscriber.


What are your three top-selling strength equipment categories this year?

No. 1

Home gyms, traditional – 36.8%

Home gyms, functional/cable – 33.3%

Home gyms, hybrid – 10.5% (tie)

Multi-weight dumbbells – 10.5% (tie)

No. 2

Home gyms, functional/cable –29.8%

Home gyms, hybrid – 28.1%

Home gyms, traditional – 12.3%

No. 3

Home gyms, hybrid – 19.2%

Smith machines – 17.5%

Multi-weight dumbbells – 15.8%

Although there is some shifting in the No. 1 and No. 2 areas, it’s No. 3 that should catch your attention: Last year we had a neck-in-neck race for the top two spots with Smith machines, traditional gyms, functional/cable gyms, benches and multi-weight dumbbells. But this year, it shook out completely with benches and traditional gyms falling by the wayside. We suspect the ones that have floated to the top will now exert their power on the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. Hybrid gyms – those with both traditional arms and cables – rose resoundingly, just about doubling the votes for them. Smith machines, which used to gain a higher percent of votes cast for the No. 1 and No. 2 best-seller spots, still came close to doubling its percent of votes as a No. 3 best-seller. And multi-weight dumbbells, which we at SNEWS call adjustable weight dumbbells, also rose strongly. All of these seem to say something about the flexibility users are perhaps looking for these days.

Traditional gyms gained a few percent as a best-seller, but then lost a few as a No. 2 seller, too. We think they may fade a bit as more education is offered about how to use cable and hybrid gyms. Same goes for the adjustable dumbbells, which tripled its vote count as a No. 1 best-seller. Flexibility wins again. 

Specify the brand names of your three top-selling home gyms.

Body-Solid – 14.3%

BodyCraft – 13.1%

Hoist – 12.8%

Inspire – 12.5%

Life Fitness – 11.2%

TuffStuff – 10.6%

Precor – 8.5%

Vectra – 6.4%

Torque – 5.2%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Batca, FreeMotion, Keys, Matrix, Northern Lights, Paramount, Powertec, Vision.

The home gym category continues to shift, with the big winner being Body-Solid, which hurdled over three others to take its place as the top-selling home gym brand after dropping a couple of spots a year ago. The company must have been doing something really right with last year’s continued economic struggle. BodyCraft isn’t ready to cry “uncle” yet, though, and moved up two more spots this year to No. 2 after moving to fourth from sixth last year. Inspire dropped from its No. 1 spot last year to barely missing out on third to Hoist – would we call that difference statistically significant? Not really since it’s so narrow, so read into it what you’d like. We’ll call it a horse race. After that, the same brands sidled into their spots basically. We dropped two more brands among those named, down to 17 from 19 last year, which was down from 23 the year before that. The shake-out continued in 2009. 

Specify the brand names of your three top-selling free-weight equipment brands.

Body-Solid – 24.6%

Hoist Fitness –11.3%

PowerBlock – 10.7%

TuffStuff – 10.4%

USA/Troy – 7.1%

BodyCraft – 4.2%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Apollo, Body Power, Cap, Cybex, FreeMotion, Hampton, “House” brand, Hudson, Keys, Magnum, Matrix, Nautilus, Northern Lights, Paramount, Powertec, Precor, ProSpot, ST/Star Trac, TDS, TKO, Torque, Ultimate, Vision, York.

Can we say world domination? OK, maybe Body-Solid hasn’t nailed world domination but free-weight domination for sure. It’s climbed yet again, gaining just a bit in percentage and maintaining its top spot after leaping into the spot from far below a year ago. Hoist took a step upward as did PowerBlock, both at the expense of TuffStuff, which lost a couple of percentage points and sunk two spots. After that, it’s the same players – USA/Troy and BodyCraft. And after that? It continues to be a free-for-all, which a whole lot of suppliers finding enough of a niche to – we guess – make a business out of it. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been as much of a shake-out here with the economic doldrums as we would have thought.

Do you carry kettlebells?

The number of retailers among our respondents who say they do carry kettlebells continues to climb: This year 91 percent said they did or were going to compared to 89 percent a year ago, 76 percent two years ago and 21 percent three years ago. When we asked what brands, many of the respondents didn’t stick to only one in their stores; in fact, they named two, three or even four brands. We do see more brands being mentioned too, while GoFit, Body-Solid and Troy garner the most mentions overall. But PowerBlock’s adjustable model gained a few votes that indicates “adjustable” may be the future. It is possible the trend’s climb will slow and could even drop a bit in the next couple of years, but we don’t see it going away. So much for those who said they found them simply too expensive or too heavy to carry – if the customer wants them, you may be losing out.

Our Methodology

In early May, we sent emails to retailers around the country, big and small, new and well-established, in small towns and in the biggest cities, inviting them to take our survey online. We also wrote a story on SNEWS seeking respondents, and we sent several reminder emails and wrote several reminder stories. Each time, we asked retailers to go to a secure website run by a third-party survey provider and take our personally designed survey. We reminded retailers frequently on the survey that we were looking for comments and votes related to the previous calendar year, 2009. We did not influence votes with lists of company names; rather, we asked open-ended questions when it involved brands and let respondents write-in their choices. We scanned responses frequently while the survey was open, accepting only one survey from each retail business (and in fact deleting some repeats). After about six weeks, we closed the survey so we could start tallying.

–Therese Iknoian

The Fine Print

>> All answers have been rounded up to the nearest tenth of a percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

Where are the full results?

The results for the SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey will be presented in detailed analysis in a four-part series of reports about various segments of the survey (best/worst/overall trends as part 1, then strength, cardio, accessories/thought questions presented separately in three more parts). Complete result details are a special feature available only to SNEWS All Access subscribers. To subscribe, or to upgrade from a SNEWS Freebie limited-access subscription, visit’s a no-no to reprint: The SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS. Contact SNEWS at for reprint details and restrictions.