How COVID-19 Has Changed the Fitness-Equipment Industry

During this global pandemic where uncertainty rules in practically all aspects of our lives, socially and in the workplace, there is one sector that has been seriously affected: gyms & sports and wellness centers. 

In March, COVID-19 broke out in the United States and the population was forced to carry out a massive lockdown without an expiration date. All sports centers in the country were also forced to close their doors indefinitely, regardless of the economic consequences that this could generate. And a fitness-loving population had to adapt.

Now, all those people who have been forced to keep quarantined and remain isolated from the outside world for months continue to have the same need to practice some kind of physical activity to keep their body healthy and fit. What the best way to acquire sports equipment for indoor training? Online shopping.

Major online sales platforms saw their sales quadruple in just a few weeks, with eBay being one of the main beneficiaries, recording more than 3 million sales during the confinement. With closed gyms and any other option to do outdoor sports ruled out, the only legal and practical way to keep practicing sports was to bring the gym equipment to our own homes. That led to a mad rush, where nearly everyone who could afford to bought all kinds of equipment that could fit in a room and help them stay active: dumbbells, exercise bikes, jump ropes, kettlebells, elastic bands, and more.

Below, I will provide an in-depth analysis of how COVID-19 has affected the sports and private gym sector, providing real data on the number of online sales that were registered at the height of quarantine, as well as the increase in virtual gym subscriptions that have allowed people to continue training with the help of a professional from home.

If people are equipped with everything that a gym offers them, the only thing they will need afterward to be able to use it correctly is a teacher to guide them from a distance.

Statistics Don’t Lie

Experts agree that such a significant increase in online sales over previous years would not have happened if the pandemic had not existed, giving rise to the next big question that haunts all professionals who live from sport: Has COVID-19 permanently changed the way we exercise?

The answer is still up in the air, but recent data indicates that the practice of sports as we knew it has gone down in history. Without going any further, eBay reported an increase in dumbbell and plate-weight sales of more than 1,000% over the previous year. This data clearly shows that the population predicted they would never again feel safe in closed environments such as a gym.

Here are a few other companies with dramatically improved stats:

  • ICON Health & Fitness, maker of NordicTrack: sales increased 200%
  • Gymcatch: online bookings increased 2000% 
  • Peloton: stock up 30%
  • iFit streaming workouts: up 300% during other countries’ lockdowns

Leaders Choose the Company’s Path

As owner of Juke Performance, an online fitness and athletic equipment company, I saw firsthand the start of the buying frenzy of fitness equipment. 

Most of the equipment purchases online or over the phone have been toward home gyms, while others were for corporate gyms to keep their employees healthy. A healthy and fit employee has less chance of contracting an illness.

My company has seen an increase of nearly 400% in sales. We are considered a small company compared to our large competitors and as we have seen that much of an uptick in sales, you can only imagine how much of an explosion other companies have seen. Most of us know we will never see this again. 

I knew I had to capture this opportunity and scale up production, increasing marketing and ad spend to scale the company to its next level during this time. We were very fortunate to be one of the markets that did well during the pandemic and for that we offered and still offer discounts. 

Unfortunately, I saw from the beginning that our competitors were taking advantage of the situation and price gouging. I did not want to do that to the people who were not in a good situation. When this is all over, I did not want to be remembered as one of the companies that took advantage of people in a time of need. 

With the numbers below you will see why many fitness-equipment companies fell to the temptation to price gouge. It was simply because the demand for fitness equipment was so high.

Below, we show you in numbers the increase in sales on eBay of some of the main products that were bought en masse during last spring’s home gym bonanza:

Product           Sales volume

Dumbbells               1,980%

Weight plates          1,300%

Benches                      530%

Barbells                       355%

Pushup products    200%

Kettlebells                1,000%

All this data was given by the official eBay sales department, capturing the increase in sales volume of all those products during the month of April compared to the previous year’s data. The statistics do not lie, and it is clear that people quickly realized that the only way to keep fit was to buy all the material online. 

Other outlets also greatly benefited from this, such as Amazon, Etsy, and many publicly and privately owned fitness equipment companies. The main beneficiaries? The online sales platforms, of course.

Gyms Adapted to COVID-19

What also began to grow during quarantine were subscriptions to online training by athletes of all levels. Although many gyms were caught totally unprepared by the virus and without any alternative strategy to maintain their subscribers, many took advantage of the main online content platforms and social networks to offer their customers all kinds of distance classes.

Proactive gyms pivoted to provide home-based sports classes, a safe and easy way to continue earning income while complying with the new security measures imposed by the government and maintaining contact with subscribers. Such was the increase in demand for these courses that in April and May gyms that already had some type of online content had an increase of up to 2,000% over last year. People quickly and seemingly happily adapted to these virtual alternatives.

After all, those who regularly went to a gym already paid a monthly fee, so paying another type of fee (usually lower) to continue having their live Pilates or Peloton classes would not be a big deal.

Below are the top 10 most in-demand fitness products during the pandemic, according to ACI Worldwide:

  1. Dumbbells
  2. Activity trackers
  3. Fitness DVDs
  4. Weight plates
  5. Resistance trainers
  6. Activity controls and GPS
  7. Benches
  8. Home gyms
  9. Barbells and attachments
  10. Abdominal exercisers

Looking at this data, it could be said that both the increase in the purchase of equipment for practicing sports and the increase in the number of gym classes in the virtual mode are mutually beneficial. If people are equipped with everything that a gym offers, the only thing they need to be able to use it correctly is a teacher to guide them from a distance. The client has what they want and the gym owner continues to generate income—everyone wins.

In conclusion, COVID-19 has managed to consecrate the internet and technology as our main source of salvation in case of extreme need. We have turned our houses into gyms and gyms into professional sports streaming platforms. There may be no turning back.


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