As with every endeavor in life, there is an ebb and flow. In the world of fitness, there is also an ebb and flow and when we endured the Great Recession, sales of fitness equipment died off as people pulled back on spending in almost every area of life. Just like was seen in many other categories, once things stabilized, there was some growth seen at the high end of the business but in the mass market, fitness has continued to be on a slow decline.
There are many reasons for this. 1) Little growth in personal income for the average person. 2) The decline of traditional retailers like Sears who once sold nearly 40% of retail fitness equipment and large chains like Sports Authority. 3) More of a trend to experience related workouts like Crossfit. 4) Consolidation in both manufacturing and retail of fitness equipment.
As a result, we have seen fewer searches on Google. No matter if you love them or hate them, Google is a great way to research trends. After year after year of search decline on retail fitness equipment and specifically upon the king of the retail fitness equipment hill, the treadmill, the numbers are finally ticking up. We hope this is a sign that we have reached the trough and are now heading back to a growth industry. Year to year, search volume for those who were looking to buy a treadmill is trending at a 6% growth rate from 2016 to 2017.
What does this mean for the average person and why should you care? After years of consolidation and a reduction in choice, expect a growing business to attract new companies and new products with more money to spend on innovative products and new approaches that will help you get the job done in more comfort and with better motivation.
Back in the early 90’s, some critics were suggesting that fitness was just a fad and was going to die off. This happened just before fitness hit a 15 year massive expansion that grew the industry by nearly 600 percent, depending upon the source you reference. With an anemic growth rate of about 2% for the past 5 years, it looks like we are facing another era of growth and that is due to several trends we see culminating.
These trends are: 1) the continuing aging of the general public, especially in developed countries, 2) growing realization of the need for regular fitness in emerging markets- especially in countries like China, 3) growing incomes in developed markets so it can be time to finally replace that machine that has done its duty and newer features available on today’s equipment, 4) developed worldwide transportation and information networks that allow people to communicate and transport ideas and products on a global scale.
To sum it up, we are facing the next growth era for fitness in our opinion. After watching the ebb and flow of the fitness industry over the last 30 years, it appears fitness is finally headed up again.