State of the Treadmill Industry 2018
Commercial cardio equipment still outsells weightlifting equipment, but not as much as it used to. Cardio comprised 64% of the total exercise equipment market in 2016 compared to 36% of weightlifting. This compares to 71% for cardio in 2008 and 29% for weights, according to Fitness Industry Suppliers Association.
In June 2018 U.S. President Trump announced the imposition of a 25% tariff on some goods imported from China. The specific goods were mostly industrial, as opposed to consumer, but since most treadmill parts are made in China, the move raised the possibility of higher prices for treadmills. The initial list was presented with the possibility that more products would be added. Among those items on the list were sewing machines, dishwashers, and electric motors and parts. Treadmills use electric motors. However, even treadmills made in the USA are assembled primarily from parts manufactured in China, so tariffs could affect the treadmill market more generally. As of September 2018, it looked increasingly likely that China would place tariffs on more categories of exports in the coming months.
Overlaid against the tariff issue is Chinese pricing for steel products generally. One reason Chinese products have been relatively inexpensive is that Chinese companies have had few environmental regulations to comply with. New Chinese policies have resulted in stricter environmental rules. This has resulted in higher costs that are being passed on to customers.
ICON Health & Fitness celebrated its 40th anniversary in October 2017. Forty years previous it introduced the first home treadmill to the U.S. market under the Weslo label.
In January, 2018, A Federal Court ruled that ICON infringed on a Chinese patent related to an elliptical machine and awarded Nautilus Inc. $1.8 million in damages, plus attorney’s fees. Nautilus and ICON entered into a patent licensing agreement in 2004, through which ICON received a license to certain Nautilus patents for a 5 percent royalty on sales of elliptical machines that used the patents.
In May 2018, BH North America, the maker of Bladez and BH Fitness treadmills, moved its entire operation from Orange County, California to Missouri. The move was expected to produce substantial cost savings, as the company continued its emphasis on its BH Fitness commercial brand, which it sells to customers such as hotels. A few months prior to the move, Dan Foust replaced Bob Whip as CEO. BH North America also sells to the consumer market through its Bladez Fitness brand.
It now looks like Yowza Fitness, maker of high end ellipticals and treadmills, has gone out of business. Yowza was founded in 2009 and has sold exclusively direct to consumers through its website. The website hasn’t been undated for over a year and their 800 number no longer works. There hasn’t been an update to its Facebook pages since August 2017 and emails to the company bounced back or were not returned.
New & Different Models
At the International CES show in January 2018, Peloton, widely known for its stationary bikes, introduced its first treadmill. Peloton is still a very young company, but has gotten a lot of attention for its $2,000 bike and online classes. At $4,000, it features a huge 32 inch console, surround sound, and a deck designed not just for running, but for weight training, as well. Instead of a simple running belt, it has fifty-nine aluminum and rubber slats for better flex and cushion. The company appears to believe that enough people want more than just the cardio provided by their bikes and that their new treadmill/weights combination can meet this demand.
Clearly the company aims for the luxury market. It more than doubled its sales in 2017 to about $400 million. It differentiates itself by the level of service and individually catered classes, even so far as having the instructors yell out the names of the home users. There are more than thirty retail stores where prospective customers can try the new machine. The perceived competition for the Peloton treadmill seems to be live classes, instead of other treadmills. The company has raised nearly $450 million from institutional investors, but has been only marginally profitable, if at all.
Blue Goji, a developer of interactive fitness games, introduced its Infinity treadmill prototype at the South by Southwest conference in March, 2018. The Infinity prototype allows for natural torso movement and tracking, bio-feedback, and virtual reality games. Users can play immersive VR and 2D games using a range of body motions. The promise is that users will feel more stable and secure than with other treadmills due to the Infinity’s patented tension-sensing belt, which allows even exercise that require balance, like tai chi. The Infinity will be manufactured by Woodway and is expected to be available for sale in early 2019.
Something completely different is the Mini Walk treadmill from the Chinese company IPO Sports. It’s only a few inches high, sixty-four pounds, and has no console. What’s really unusual is that its motor adjusts the belt speed according to how fast you are running or starting to run. The front, middle, and back of the belt have infrared sensors that measure how long your feet are in each part and deduces your actual and trending speed from those readings. The company says the Mini Walk is the first treadmill to have just twenty-two components and no welding. Suggested price about $250.
You’ve heard the idea of generating electricity through use of exercise machines. There have even been some gyms that have tried to set this up. But now power generating treadmills are available to the mass market, at least in the UK. British company SportsArt has introduced its ECO-POWR line of equipment that includes the Verde treadmill. It purports to convert up to 74% of kinetic (movement) energy into electricity. It uses an inverter to return the power to the electrical grid. So far the machines are available only in the UK, primarily to commercial facilities. See the photo below:
In June 2018 a Fund Me campaign was started on Indiegogo to raise $10,000 to build the World’s First Boxing Training Treadmill, to be called the IMPACT 50-0. It was presented as the combination of self-defense and aerobic training that can burn fat faster than other treadmills. The main differentiating factor is that different color lights suggest different moves. For example, a yellow light may indicate that a defensive move is necessary, while a green light indicates an open shot that the user needs to hit designated pads within a prescribed time limit, and a red light indicates you were too slow and got hit. As of September 2018, over $2,000 had been raised.