Fitness 'Not a Fad': Study Shows Strong Influence of Infomercials

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ATLANTA -- TV advertising, particularly infomercials, is one of the most important factors in affecting purchase decisions of home exercise equipment, although infomercials do not command as high a price point as other forms of marketing.

These findings were published in a new study commissioned by the Fitness Products Council, a part of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in North Palm Beach, FL. The council hired market research firm Target Management Inc., Wilton, CT, to perform a comprehensive study of the home exercise equipment market and better understand consumer purchase behavior.

The overall prognosis for the $3.1 billion home exercise equipment industry is positive, said Russ Squier, chairman of the council.

"Our study indicates there is a strong trend of continued growth," he said. "It's not just a fad."

Among the most important findings affecting DRTV marketers, the study found about one-fifth of equipment buyers said that seeing a product on TV played a major role in the purchase decision. That factor ranked higher than recommendations by friends and family for certain kinds of exercise equipment, but TV was less influential than personally testing the product before buying it.

"One thing that's clear from our findings," said David Morgan of Target Management, "is that most people had made up their minds about buying a certain type of equipment before ever walking into a store."

The study said that "fewer than 10 percent of the machines are purchased as the result of a decision made after entering the store."

While the power of infomercial advertising is particularly evident in such products as aerobic riders, ski machines and abdominal trainers, it does not command as high a price point as other marketing channels. The average price paid for equipment in an infomercial was $271, which ranked sixth behind other kinds of purchases.

Manufacturer direct purchases averaged $574, followed by sporting goods store purchases of $499. Home shopping fared the worst, though, with an average purchase price of $179.

That disparity in price point may help to explain why some exercise equipment manufacturers are pulling back from infomercial marketing, such as NordicTrack, whose company president said its average price point is in the $700 range.

"Infomercials do not reach the high end customers that come into our stores," said Bill Leahy, president and CEO of NordicTrack. "That's why we want to focus on our retail operations."

Broader Trends

The wholesale market for exercise equipment this year is estimated to be $3.1 billion, which represents 10 percent growth over last year, Squier said. That figure means that home exercise equipment is the third largest sporting goods category behind the $20 billion sports apparel market and the $10 billion athletic footware market.

The study found that the most important reason people buy home exercise equipment is convenience, a factor which DRTV marketers may want to consider in selling a product through television.

About 65 percent of survey respondents ranked convenience as most important, followed by privacy, 20 percent. Morgan said that there was anecdotal evidence that women who were starting an exercise program felt intimidated by the thought of joining a gym and decided to buy home exercise equipment instead.

Women also were more inclined to say weight loss or management was the most important goal in buying exercise equipment, while a majority of men said better muscle tone was an important goal.

The survey was completed last year by Target Management, which interviewed 1,607 individuals about their exercise habits.

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