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SNEWS 2011 Fitness Retailer Survey – Part 4: accessory brands, plus what wastes your time?

This week we present the fourth and final part from the 2011 edition of our annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey. This segment covers top brands in the accessory category, as well as what retailers say wastes their time. Miss a part? The links to this year's other three parts, plus previous years are here too.

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As always, there is a ton of information to digest in our annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey, this year being the ninth edition. To help you not miss a beat, we’ve broken the 2011 results 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 see the second part covering cardio equipment brands, which ran Aug. 31.

>> Click here to read the third part about the strength equipment category brands, which ran Sept. 7.

Below, we present the final results from the 2011 survey – this one on the accessory category as well as what our respondents said to this year’s “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 top-selling accessory brands.

Spri Products – 27.4%

GoFit – 7.5%

TKO – 6.5%

Body-Solid – 5.9% (tie for 4th)

Super Mats — 5.9% (tie for 4th)

USA/Troy — 4.3% (tie for 5th)

Valeo – 4.3% (tie for 5th)

*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): Ab Coaster, Apollo, Bosu, Cap, Fitter, Harbinger, Ironbody, JAD, Lifeline, OPTP, Polar, RB Rubber, Sandbell, Savage, Schiek, Sil, Stamina, , Supermats, Suunto, TDS, TRX, Valeo, York, and various private labels.

We tallied and tallied and tallied, with votes so spread out across so many brands, albeit fewer than in years past. But, in the end, nobody seems to be able to conquer Spri’s domination of the accessory category. With votes growing year after year, others are just scrambling for second, third … and beyond. OK, so Spri’s percent dropped a smidgen but it was relatively insignificant in the grand scheme. GoFit seems to have won its match against Body-Solid in this area; GoFit has clung to second, while Body-Solid has slipped a few after appearing significantly on the list a year ago. Meanwhile, TKO has reemerged with enough votes to step it up on the list again.

After last year’s surprise plummet of Polar, there was no recovery this year, perhaps leaving the heart-rate monitor category – still an important one to fitness retailers – wide open for somebody to pounce. In that HRM segment, only Suunto gained mentions but not enough to be called a significant player – yet.

Brands mentioned this year dropped significantly to just 29, versus 47 a year ago and 48 the year before that. But that’s still a lot of companies fighting for what many retailers consider a bit of a commodity. Any accessory company needs to set itself apart in service, education and product – not just price.

Do you carry accessories?

Yes – 94.6%

No – 5.4%

We nearly stopped asking this one since most everybody does, but we always find the changing percentage interesting. Of course, nearly all retail respondents said “yes.” But the ones who said “no” often blame the lack of ability to compete with online or big box retail, i.e. they are looking only at price in many cases. One respondent noted however that it’s not just about price, writing, “The reason we don’t is … I can’t get products that are different from the online stores.” That certainly leaves the door open for brands to look at differentiation.

Belly-button pondering

What wastes your time the most in running your business? What needs changing to make the day-to-day run smoother and easier? Any pet peeves in this area?

As expected we got an earful here. Many fell under large categories of: communication (good, bad, too much), warranties, telemarketers, and bucking online pricing.

Comunication – with vendors, with customers, on the computer, with unannounced sales reps or unwanted telemarketers.

>> “Way too much electronic communication. People are not TALKING to each other enough. What is my demeanor right now? Fired up or concerned? Hard to tell (in electronic words), isn’t it?

>> “Bad communication and reps not doing their job.

>> “Solicitors calling and showing up unannounced wanting an appointment with ‘the owner.’”

>> “Vendors with poor communication systems: Needing to contact more than one person for an answer or having to contact the same person multiple times for an answer.”

Bucking online pricing – Retailers sure hate the customer who uses them for info then goes and searches online for a better price. Who wouldn’t? We had a couple of lengthy responses here that are worth printing in full.

>> “Educating (customers)… Although it’s an investment, not a waste of time, it takes up the bulk of our time. Yet, the returns may be far or non-existing, as the consumer may take our advice, then still buy something online or from a department store..UGH! Often the message will only sink in when they need service, which may not go smoothly … but we may be going out of business waiting for them to return to specialty.

“I wish there was a means to build the respect for specialty fitness stores, the same way that jewelers, golf or ski shops, or any other specialty niche are looked up to….”

>> “Spending an hour or so with a customer and having them try the equipment out and then have them say they need to go check the “reviews” online. Then having them call back and say ‘I can get the same thing online for this $,’ (significantly less than MAP pricing). After finding out where they can get it for that price, it is some rogue Internet dealer or a dealer that tells the customer that they will drop ship the product to them. And you now have to try to combat the price difference and convince them of the benefits of buying local. Vendors need to be a lot more diligent in policing these rogue and unethical dealers….

“A pet peeve for me is when you find this happening and you bring it to the attention of the vendor, and all they can say is ‘sorry about that, there really isn’t much we can do about that. Why don’t you match the price?’”

Others, from employees to computer systems to displeasure with vendors:

>> “Mostly employees not writing up transactions properly, then creating transaction issues. Need an easier POS system.”

>> “Vendor apathy. Poor quality. Poor parts availabity. Poor customer service. Lack of innovation.”

>> “Inventory tracking is the top of my list…. When a problem happens, it usually becomes time-consuming, especially when it involves inconveniencing a customer.”

What, me worry? — We had a few happy-go-lucky types who said with a virtual shrug, “nothing,” or in more detail: “Can’t say that I consider anything I do to run my business a waste of time.”

Shut up and deal – A few had not-so-kind words for the complainers, noting this was the business, so just do it:

>> “We are striving always to be wildly successful. We don’t waste time.”

>> Said one respondent, complaining: “Dealing with all the details.” Then another – and maybe we should get these two together — “Nothing is a waste of time. Retail is detail. It’s all important.”

Thanks for taking part in or reading and learning from the ninth-annual SNEWS Fitness Retailer Survey.

Therese Iknoian

Our Methodology

In 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, 2010. 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, accepting only one survey from each retail business (and in fact deleted some repeats or those from inappropriate businesses to include). After about six weeks, we closed the survey so we could start tallying.

Where are the full results?

The results for the SNEWS Fitness Retailer are 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 cardio, strength, accessories/thought questions separately as the next three 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

The Fine Print

>> Tied companies are listed alphabetically within that place and are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking within the group.

>> All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 10th 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.

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.