Scott Egbert has never seen anything like it.
When gyms and studios closed in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people rushed to buy home exercise equipment and stores were emptied of everything from cheap dumbbells to treadmills high-end and elliptical machines.
“The dumbbells,” said Egbert, president and CEO of Utah Home Fitness, “were like toilet paper.”
With Utah’s strong economy, there had already been high demand for fitness equipment before the pandemic, he said. Utah Home Fitness – with 25 retail stores across the country, including three in Utah (Salt Lake City, Sandy, and Farmington) – has maintained a healthy supply of products in its warehouses.
At least that’s what Egbert thought.
“When COVID hit, sales exploded,” he said. “We sold everything in our warehouses and they sat empty for several weeks. “
In a traditional year, the home fitness industry will see sales start to increase in the fall, peaking in December and January as people shop for Christmas gifts or to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions. summer is the off-season when people are on vacation or doing outdoor activities.
In 2020, however, those numbers have shifted. Sales continued at a record pace in June, July and August, even as gyms in Utah and many other states reopen.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time,” Egbert said, “and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Even today there is still a wait time for some products, and often when stocks become available they are bought quickly as more and more consumers transform guest rooms, basements and even garages into full-fledged fitness studios.
Rogue Fitness, which sells weightlifting equipment online, explained the situation on its website. “We have been criticized and have worked hard to put the items back in stock,” the company said. “We release products daily as they become available, however, most items sell out within minutes of release. “
Icon Health & Fitness, a Logan-based company that manufactures NordicTrack and ProForm equipment, has seen sales increase exponentially, said Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing.
In March 2020, sales were 200% higher than in March 2019, she said. April sales were 400% higher than the same month last year, and in May, monthly sales were up 600%.
“And the numbers haven’t come down,” she said. “Seeing this kind of growth in spring and summer is truly unprecedented. “
Treadmills are the most popular piece of equipment, both before and during the pandemic, but everything – at all prices – sells, including elliptical machines, stationary bikes and rowers.
Much of the equipment is high tech, offering streaming technology that allows the user to run / walk / hike the pyramids in Egypt, the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Iceland ring road or dozens of other sites around the world.
Sales are expected to remain high over the holidays and into 2021. And Egbert and Logan predict consumers will continue to favor home fitness equipment over the neighborhood gym in the future.
“I don’t think it’s a fad,” Egbert said. “This one will stick.”
Exercise has always been a way to maintain health, fight disease, and strengthen the immune system – concepts that resonate with customers in the midst of a pandemic. Statistics show that people who are overweight or have heart or lung problems have a harder time recovering from COVID-19, and that fact has prompted people to take action.
“It really opened people’s eyes,” Egbert said, “about the importance of being fit and maintaining your health.”
Many people who have already paid for a gym membership may not return – especially as transmission rates in all but eight Utah counties remain high. “The health club environment,” said Egbert, will be “a difficult place to train with confidence”.
Mike Fisher and his wife Carol Dickson are among those who will likely never return to a gym.
Last month, the couple invested in four exercise machines, turning a spare bedroom in the basement of their Salt Lake City home into a fitness studio. The facility includes a commercial grade rower, treadmill, stationary bike and weight system.
“We’re thrilled with it,” said Fisher, 53.
Before COVID-19, Fisher said he went to his local gym every morning at 6 a.m. to use the rower. Dickson – 51 and no morning – went later in the day and worked out on the treadmill and bike.
However, the couple’s routine came to a screeching halt in mid-March, when gyms and fitness studios closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
Initially, Fisher tried to run around the neighborhood, thinking he would just get over the pandemic. “We didn’t buy right away,” he said, “because no one knew how long it would last. “
But as weeks turned into months, Fisher said he gained 10 pounds on his lanky 6-foot-7 frame. “I absolutely needed the exercise,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, I ran and played basketball in high school.
He doesn’t miss the gym, where he sometimes had to wait to use certain equipment.
“Now I can use what I want, when I want,” he said. “Even when we get to the point where it’s safe again and there’s a vaccine, there’s no reason for us to go back.”