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SNEWS 2011 Fitness Retailer Survey – Part 3: 'best' strength equipment brands; kettlebell update

This week we present the third of four survey parts from the annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey. This segment covers top brands in strength equipment, and there are a few changes … again. Already posted: "best" and "most difficult" fitness suppliers, plus cardio trends and winners. Still to come: accessories.

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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.

>> Click here to access the second part covering cardio equipment brands , which ran Aug. 31.

This week, we present results from the survey on brands in strength equipment, with an extra look at the state of kettlebells. Still to come is the report covering accessories, 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.

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

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

Inspire – 18.7%

Body-Solid – 14%

Hoist – 10.3%

TuffStuff – 9.8%

BodyCraft – 8.9%

Vectra – 8.4%

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): AFG/Horizon, Apollo, Bowflex, Cybex, Hudson Steel, Impex, Keys, Life Fitness/Hammer, Paramount, Powertec, Precor, Stamina, Star Trac, Task, Torque.

Inspire regained its top spot from two years ago, elbowing Body-Solid down a notch. It wasn’t because Body-Solid had a lower percentage of votes, rather Inspire gained about 50 percent more than it had last year, showing its renewed strength and stealing votes from others. Hoist is still in third, with all the shuffling happening around it. TuffStuff hurdled two slots higher from sixth to fourth, but oddly its vote count was just a hair lower. BodyCraft however seemed to take a bit of a hit in this home gym category, dropping three spots to fifth and losing about a third of its vote percentage from a year ago. Still, it’s really the top two spots that are clear. The ones below that – especially fourth, fifth and sixth, are very close overall, leaving next year up for grabs.

Of note is the number of brands called out crept back up to 21 from its downward slide in the last couple of years – 17 last year, from 19 the year before, from 23 three years ago – despite fewer retailers to sell them all. And several respondents even called out “used” as their “brand” of choice.

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

Body-Solid – 22.8%

Hoist Fitness –12.1%

TuffStuff – 11.2%

BodyCraft – 7.3%

Inspire – 5.3%

PowerBlock – 4.9% (tie for 6th)

USA/Troy – 4.9% (tie for 6th)

*Tied companies are listed alphabetically only within the group tied for that place, with the order no reflection on higher or lower values or rankings among the group

Others receiving votes (in alphabetical order): Apex, Apollo, Atlantis, Body Power, Cap, Cybex, Eurosport, Hammer, Hudson, Impex, Iron Body, Kamparts, Keys, Legend, Paramount, Powertec, Precor, ProSpot, Spri, Star Trac, Task, TDS, TKO, York.

Last year, we called Body-Solid’s continued climb in votes “domination,” and that has continued with another first-place spot, saying pretty loudly and clearly who is No. 1. Hoist is still in second, while TuffStuff regained one of two places it lost last year. BodyCraft is also still in the mix, fighting it out and regaining some votes to climb up to fourth in the rankings from last year’s sixth. What’s interesting is that two players who only play in the free weights segment are tied for sixth on our list of top brands, being outranked by players with broader offerings. PowerBlock in fact lost about half of its percentage and USA/Troy lost about a third of its count.

The mad scramble continues with a wide array of brands offering product here despite some respondents noting that this free weight category is mostly about price. Last year we noted that we were surprised that more brands hadn’t shaken out with the economic doldrums. We’re still a bit surprised, but expect a few may call it a day soon.

Do you carry kettlebells?

We started tracking kettlebell sales in our 2007 survey and have found a steady climb in retailers telling us they do sell them. This year the numbers climbed yet again, with 94.3 percent of respondents saying they do, with only a few being holdouts these days. That’s up from last year’s 91 percent, and before that 89, then 76, then 21 percent four years ago.

Then we ask which brands and most of our answers include two if not three or four brands. Dominating among the mentions are Body-Solid and USA/Troy, with the others frankly just barely creating a ripple. We think that as adjustable kettlebells gain favor, so will the brand that has the most user-friendly version. This won’t go away, this kettlebell workout, but it will become less trendy and, shall we say, Hollywood in its pitch. Having an adjustable bell that can accommodate multiple household users and multiple exercises will just make it easier for more consumers to take the dive.

Therese Iknoian

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.