One of the common questions that used to be extremely important but less so today is, “where should I buy my next treadmill?” For some people, this can be the most important question that you ask. It just depends upon your priorities.
In the old days when there were over 1,000 storefronts that specialized primarily in fitness equipment and many more chains of sporting goods stores like Sports Authority, most of the shopping for fitness equipment was only done in store. Starting primarily with Smooth Fitness, fitness equipment started to be sold over the internet
Although I knew of some mail order businesses before Smooth and there were a few companies that started to dabble with the internet before Smooth, they were the first ones to do it on a large scale. The problem Smooth had was that even though they were first to market and sold a bunch of machines, they didn’t innovate so eventually the business atrophied to the point where Icon Health and Fitness now owns it.
Years ago, I saw an estimate that Sears sold over 40% of all fitness equipment at retail in the United States but as Sears has declined, so has their share of fitness equipment sales. When Smooth started selling fitness equipment on the internet, no one had a good idea of how to consistently deliver a single piece of fitness equipment (which is bulky and heavy) undamaged to consumers.
Smooth figured out how to do this first and eventually the secret was out and today, we rarely hear about damaged goods. In fact, when my brother in law bought a machine a few years ago, he bought at Sears and they had to deliver multiple machines because the first few deliveries were damaged. I jokingly told him he should have bought online.
So, the unanswered question still in the room is “where should I buy my treadmill?” The answer depends upon your priorities. If you want a local dealer where you can visit and see the machines before buying, then a physical store is your place. Places like a specialty fitness store, Sears (as long as they stay open), Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Academy Sports are good options. If you like the physical experience but don’t want to try it out, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco (sometimes the warehouses are seasonal) are options.
I will venture that today, a majority of retail sales of fitness equipment happen online. Speaking with several of the large retailers, an amazing amount of business occurs online. Even at the high price ranges. One of the large factories told us that sales of their $9,000 machine have grown year to year by over 20% for the last several years!
When you look at websites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Costco.com, SamsClub.com, Overstock.com, and all the factory sites out there from the expensive ones like Precor, Landice and True to the mass market machines from Proform and NordicTrack, all of the factories will deliver to your door.