Suppliers Say Workout Market Is Fit as a Fiddle24 Apr, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf
It's a comeback year in fitness, not just for first-quarter market share leader GoodTimes Entertainment, but for the genre overall, said Bill Sondheim president of GoodTimes.
For the past two years, GoodTimes has hovered among the bottom suppliers in fitness market-share, but a feisty lady named Leslie Sansone has the supplier marching all over the fitness competition this year.
GoodTimes' Leslie Sansone “walking” workouts dominate the top spots on VideoScan's year-to-date VHS and DVD sales charts, primarily thanks to the supplier's expertise when it comes to infomercial publicity and sales, Sondheim said.
Retailers should compare fitness titles that have TV visibility like infomercials to fitness titles without them the same way they compare theatrical features to direct-to-video ones, he said.
“[The infomercial] has an incredibly powerful effect, driving consumers into retail to buy similarly branded items,” Sondheim said.
“I think you're seeing the beginning of a resurgence of fitness on video,” he added, recalling the fitness-video heyday of the early 1990s.
Pilates and Yoga titles remain hot, and DVD is getting hotter, suppliers said.
Though sales in the fitness genre are predominantly VHS (73.6 percent), more than 25 percent of 2003 first-quarter sales came from DVD. Fitness DVD sales were so small in prior years that Nielsen VideoScan did not begin tracking the format until this year. DVD is really the ideal format for fitness programs with its interactive capabilities, suppliers agreed, adding the fitness consumer is starting to catch on.
“In fact, some DVD titles are outselling their VHS counterparts in selected retailers,” said Michelle Rygiel, senior brand manager for fitness and special interest for Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. “The Crunch Pick Your Spot Pilates DVD frequently outsells the VHS. I think that's because the workout is made up of three separate 15-minute workouts and consumers can see how DVD will make it much easier to quickly start at the program segment of their choice.”
It's not just about the first quarter anymore, suppliers agreed, calling fitness titles perennial sellers that enjoy sales bursts several times during the year, though the first quarter tends to be when retailers peg promotions and advertising. Almost every supplier named Target as the leader when it comes to buying, merchandising and promoting fitness on a larger scale throughout the year.
“The conventional wisdom that fitness is being driven by New Year's resolutions is really about 10 years out of date,” Sondheim said. “I think that April and May are bigger months for fitness consumers. The ‘January is fitness month' idea has exhausted its value, and retailers that only look at it that way probably should avoid the category.”
No. 5 in fitness market share this first quarter, Artisan Home Entertainment continues its strong Denise Austin programming with a new release coming this summer and a new promotional partner, Nature Made Vitamins. Starting June 15, as part of Artisan's “Wellness & Fitness Program,” a 20-minute Denise Austin workout video will be packaged with 230,000 bottles of Nature Made Vitamins C and E.
Artisan is also looking to boost its “Yoga Fusion” workout line through additional media spending, including possible infomercials, said Hosea Belcher, SVP of marketing for Artisan.
“We're looking at punching up that brand, getting more awareness in the marketplace,” he said.
Smaller players in the fitness arena continue to find ways to carve out their niche in the genre. Wellspring's wellness/fitness titles barely register on VideoScan sales charts, but make up 25 percent of the supplier's business, said Wellspring VP and general manager Dan Gurlitz.
Gurlitz said the supplier's “Paul Lamb Tai Chi” series is a consistent year-round seller. And this year Wellspring will put its foreign-language expertise to good use by introducing a line of Spanish-language fitness programs. Six titles from Latin American TV personality Eleanora Goya's line street May 27.