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Trade Shows & Events

Costco Roadshows benefit manufacturer, retailer

Costco Roadshows offer fitness manufacturers another chance to push volume and raise awareness of their brands among consumers. SNEWS chats with Doug Johns, Precor's vice president for global marketing and product management, about its Costco Roadshow success.

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Realistically, 3,000 to 5,000 customers don’t walk into a specialty retail store in one day. But that’s how many Costco members come through the warehouse doors.

That’s why Costco Roadshows have proven to be a great marketing (and sales) tool for a few fitness manufacturers, notably Precor and Life Fitness. While Life Fitness representatives were unable to talk with SNEWS because of current negotiations with Costco, Doug Johns, Precor’s vice president of global marketing and product management, told SNEWS the bulk shopping warehouse is a good place to do occasional business.

The specialty retailer isn’t left out, Johns said. Precor works to promote not only the products at Roadshows, which are occasional periods of time when Costco features products not sold in its stores for members to see and buy, but also its dealers.

Road to the Roadshow

Costco’s Roadshows are a regular event for the retail warehouse giant’s members. What’s not regular are the products displayed at Roadshows, which typically last about 10 days. Roadshows feature everything from coffee to jewelry to fitness equipment.

Roadshows, Johns said, have the same “idea of the treasure hunt. (Costco) wants their members to feel like they’ve got to come back to the warehouse on a regular basis because they never know what’s going to be there.”

“The challenge is getting people to come in on a regular basis versus a couple times a year for a huge shopping trip.”

It’s run by the club’s Special Event Department, which was established in the 1990s by Price Club. The department lived on when Costco and Price Club merged in 1993.

According to an email from Costco, companies interested in becoming part of the Roadshow rotation should contact the Special Events Department to ensure they meet its criteria.

Each company that participates in a Costco Roadshow is responsible for its own staff during the period the show runs, and for delivering, setting up and removing inventory. The products are on consignment, reps from Costco explained, and the supplier is paid for what is sold.

Because the Roadshow is somewhat of a treasure hunt, it doesn’t generally feature products regularly sold on its shelves. But sometimes, Johns said, Costco will pick up products from companies that participate in Roadshows for its regular retail offerings. 

Keeping secrets for success

Johns said Precor and Costco share a home state – Washington – so becoming involved with one another was a logical step.

“Their merchants are always looking for premium products that have strong brand recognition amongst Costco members,” Johns said. He added that Precor has experienced success with the Costco Roadshow because it’s partnered with its specialty retailers, which helps them gain exposure in the community.

“The benefit to the dealer of a Costco Roadshow is they get access to a great demographic of shopper and high traffic,” he said. “High traffic is the biggest business challenge for the specialty retailer.

Johns declined to say exactly how the specialty retailer and Precor work together for the Roadshows, saying it was a secret for success he’d rather not reveal to competitors. But, he added, retailers do benefit.

“By doing the Roadshow with our dealers, it generates awareness for us, Precor, as a brand, and for them as a specialty dealer in their local area,” Johns said. This helps in the case of an indecisive shopper who’d rather take their time making a decision like purchasing a treadmill. When that customer finally does decide to buy that treadmill, they’ll know where to go, he said.

The manufacturer benefits as well, Johns said, though he declined to say how many Roadshows the company has done and how much it’s made from sales.

This, he said, is just another push for the two companies that Costco confirmed partipated in Roadshows, to gain more brand recognition. Johns said it’s in line with the announcement Precor made in October that it was lowering price points in an attempt to reach more consumers.

For more information on how to participate in a Costco Roadshow, visit

–Ana Trujillo