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SNEWS 2011 Fitness Retailer Survey – Part 2: 'best' cardio equipment brands by category

This week we present the second of four survey parts from the annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey with this segment covering top brands in cardiovascular equipment categories. All the parts of our survey report will come just as you are planning your visit to the Health & Fitness Business show in mid-September. "Best" and "most difficult" fitness supplier survey results were presented Aug. 24. Coming yet are segments on strength, accessories and more.

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As always, there is a ton of information to digest in our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey. To help you not miss a beat, we’ve broken it into four parts. Click here to access the first part on the “best” and “most difficult” suppliers, plus some sales trends, which ran Aug. 24. The survey took an interesting turn this year in some areas – we think you’ll know what we mean after reading the first part and after taking a look at this week’s segment.

This week, we present results from the survey on trends and brands in cardio equipment. Still to come are looks at the strength and accessory segments, as well as what our respondents said in this year’s one “thought” question about their pet peeves and business time-wasters.

The full detailed results are open to any All Access SNEWS® subscriber. If you are a retailer who was passed this story covertly and you took our survey, please email You are entitled to full-access subscription for a year for $100 – a discount of $95. If you did not receive the discount code, let us know.

Specify the brand names of your top-selling treadmills.

True Fitness – 16.6%

Precor – 9.3%

Life Fitness – 8.9%

Vision Fitness – 8.5%

Spirit Fitness – 8.1%

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG/Horizon, BH Fitness, BodyGuard, BodyCraft, Bremshey, Cybex, FreeMotion, Landice, LifeCore, LifeSpan, Matrix, PaceMaster, Schwinn, ST/Star Trac, SportsArt.

Last year we called it the year of the Big Change. We could repeat ourselves this year. Spirit, which had done one big hurdle to take over the top spot a year ago, sunk back down again, although it stayed in the top group. Instead, True Fitness did the big leapfrog this year, going from fourth to a No. 1 position. Life Fitness had seen a big change last year in retailer acknowledgement of its efforts, pushing its way into second, and remained in the top three this year. The problem with calling any of those spots after the No. 1 spot as a certain place is that they are just a gnat’s tail apart – if gnat’s have tails – making the differences nearly insignificant. That brings us back to what we said in our segment on Aug. 24 about the “best” and “most difficult” suppliers, with so many brands ranking nearly even. Is it parity in a good way (they’re all so good) or parity in a bad way (oh heck, they’re all just so-so really in my dealings)? In addition to Life Fitness, others neck in neck after True’s climb are Precor, Vision and Spirit. We think the next year could show more change. A few more tweaks to customer service could be the final push that will separate all these brands.

Specify the brand names of your top-selling elliptical trainers.

Precor – 14.5%

Octane – 13.6%

True Fitness – 13.2%

Spirit Fitness – 10.4%

LifeCore – 9.2%

Life Fitness – 6.1%

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG/Horizon, BH Fitness, BodyGuard, Bremshey, Cybex, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Kettler, Landice, LifeSpan, Nautilus/Schwinn, SportsArt, ST/Star Trac, Vision Fitness.

Seems we’ll be able to say the same thing over and over. Results are mostly so tight here again too, just as they were in the treadmill division and in the “best” and “most difficult.” For the first year Octane slipped down the rankings slightly after holding tightly to the top spot for five years. Granted, it wasn’t by much (see information about “parity,” above), but normally Octane has been a pretty overwhelming top vote-getter. Precor last year had already done some shouldering up the ladder to second, so this is not a surprise really. Spirit is still in the battle, still in fourth like last year and still showing some strength in the cardio equipment segment. LifeCore fell totally off the list last year, but oh boy did that change as it climbed back up to take the No. 5 spot.

Specify the brand names of your top-selling stationary cycles.

Lifecore – 17.6%

True Fitness – 15.9%

LeMond Fitness – 9.8%

Life Fitness – 8.2%

Vision Fitness – 7.3%

Spirit Fitness– 6.1%

Others receiving one or more votes (in alphabetical order): AFG/Horizon, BH Fitness, BodyCraft, BodyGuard, Bremshey, Cybex, CycleOps, Diamondback, FreeMotion, Healthcare, Impex, Lifespan, Nautilus/Schwinn, PaceMaster, Precor, SportsArt, Stamina, Star Trac, Waters Fitness.

This has been a really big year for LifeCore. It may not be the biggest supplier out there. Far from it. But you don’t have to be the biggest for retailers to like you, to like the way you do business, and to appreciate your products to gain votes and, with that, also titles. LifeCore rose toward the top of the “best” overall and climbed onto the list for best elliptical. Here, in its original specialty area, it takes over the No. 1 position. And with aplomb, dare we add. Only True edged up behind it. The others below that are in their own little race. LeMond is also hanging on, even creeping up in its placement although the percentage of vote counts is similar to last year. Nevertheless, a higher overall placement can only mean good stuff. Spirit here too fell down again just a bit over its rocketing gains last year.

If you have comments or suggestions — or want to make sure you as a retailer get personal notification of our next surveys — drop a note to We are here, and we’d like to hear from you.

To take a look at past surveys, click here, then click on the jump to Fitness Retailer Surveys.

Therese Iknoian

The annual caveat about our survey: We are not economists or statisticians. We ask simple questions and get straightforward answers. We then write up what we hear from the minds of those at the frontline — the retailers. Scientific? No. Truly insightful and honest? Absolutely. As usual, we lean to pure democracy: one retail business = one vote. Period. No matter if you have one store or 20 stores. And, when the retailers take the time to express what is happening in their businesses, with their sales, and about their preferences and desires, the entire industry needs to take some time to read what they say. This is not trivial since these folks talk to the public day-in and day-out. They have their fingers on the pulse. And they tell us without mincing words what they think because of the trust established after nine years of this survey. We also know that manufacturers these days lobby their retailers not only to vote but also to vote for their company – and you brands out there thought your lobbying was a secret? Lobby all you want, though. Most retailers speak their own minds since they know what they say stays between us.

It’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.