By Dirk Sorenson
Like many others, I’ve been living semi-isolated from the public because of COVID-19 and have been reinventing many of my daily routines—including how to alter my fitness program in the absence of gyms, basketball courts, pools, and fitness studios.
It doesn’t surprise me that companies in the home fitness space are working overtime as consumers are being challenged to reinvent their personal routines. In many ways, I believe this crisis is speeding up some home fitness trends that were already underway pre-pandemic.
Over the last year, consumers have increased spend within the home fitness category. In the 12 months ending February 2020, home fitness sales in the U.S. grew by 2% to $2 billion. I believe there are three main trends impacting this growth in the home fitness market.
Treadmills, rowers, and stationary bikes all have abundant options for virtual coaching and multiplayer gaming, and these equipment sales are benefitting, with treadmill sales +7%, rowers +31%, and stationary bikes +15%. In addition, the average selling prices for these products have also grown, which leads me to believe that consumers are willing to spend more and purchase big pieces of cardiovascular fitness equipment that allow for “smart” technologies and streaming media to be incorporated.
This trend is yet to offer lots of options for elliptical and stepper machines. Elliptical and stepper machine sales are both down by 19% and 7%, respectively, as in my opinion consumers seem to be swayed, instead, by products that are enabled by the Internet and streaming media.
Tying in with the first trend is a need to store the bulky cardio equipment consumers are buying for their home gyms. NPD data shows that fitness flooring is now a $21 million category, with sales up 10% in the last year.
Finally, consumers are demonstrating an interest in purchasing items associated with the functional fitness movement that is an extension of studio-based workouts such as CrossFit, Orange Theory, F45, and others. Free-weight equipment sales grew by 4% in the last year, while weight machines were down 5%.
We will be monitoring how shifts in consumer behavior, due to COVID-19, influence home fitness trends as more consumers seek ways to workout at home. With physical stores closed and consumers practicing social distancing, I expect that companies with strong direct-to-consumer sales and distribution platforms will likely see some short-term gains. Other companies in the sports equipment, apparel, and footwear spaces should look to leverage these trends through smart online advertising and shifts in product design.
Partnership creation between dedicated hard goods companies and those in the athletic apparel and footwear spaces is particularly interesting. A number of direct-to-consumer free-weight and stationary bike manufacturers already leverage their e-commerce platforms to sell complimentary footwear and apparel products. For the footwear and apparel companies, the advantage of a low-cost marketing and sales platform that targets a unique and growing fitness segment is very compelling. The hard goods manufacturer benefits from added margin dollars at low risk.
These fitness trends align with consumer desires to improve their home lives, claw back personal time, and embrace health and fitness—lifestyle goals that I believe will endure beyond the short-term.
Dirk Sorenson is executive director, industry analyst, sports for The NPD Group.