(Photo by Olga Shumytskaya / Getty Images)
Australian fitness equipment retailers have seen sales spike from the latest round of COVID-19 lockdowns, helping to reiterate the 2020 exercise equipment shortage.
However, industry insiders say this buy-up is different as Australians are now looking past the lockdown and investing in a gym without a gym.
Gym Direct, an exercise equipment retailer in Sydney, has seen another “huge” increase in sales since the city’s gyms closed their doors to the public, marketing coordinator Eros Kannis told Business Insider Australia.
While the fitness equipment craze in 2020 was “dramatic and short-term,” Kannis said buying patterns in 2021 will be different.
“A lot of people are starting to think seriously about investing in their own homes,” he said.
Kettlebells, the versatile hand weights that became a hot feature during the transition to home training last year, are all but sold out across the Gym Direct store.
However, larger exercise machines – like padded benches, squat racks, and weight storage systems – are also in great demand, suggesting that more strength athletes are building more elaborate strength training setups at home.
There is a high demand for heavy training equipment across all industries.
The Australian webstore of leading retailer Rogue Fitness says 22 of its 30 barbell variations are currently out of stock.
And Iron Edge, known for its weightlifting accessories, lists many of its plates as available for pre-order, with the next round of shipments arriving in October.
“It’s a developing time when people are starting to consider their long-term options,” said Kannis.
“Many wouldn’t necessarily want to invest in a 1 to 50-pound dumbbell set if they had access to a gym.
“Today it’s more of a thought process of, ‘Okay, maybe I have to invest in these kinds of things so that I don’t have to rely on the gym in the future.”
With Australia’s hunger for iron dizzying, retailers face another challenge: sourcing the equipment themselves.
Weights, stands and benches are specialty items for most local foundries and manufacturers, which means the vast majority of kettlebells, dumbbells and rigs sold in Australia are sourced from overseas.
It is this delay in the supply chain that created similar bottlenecks around the world by 2020.
But the country’s iron addicts are now facing new challenges.
Quality weight training equipment is inherently bulky and presents serious problems for importers navigating an international shipping system that is now riddled with backlogs, port disruptions, and booming container prices.
Industrial action in the local transport industry and the burden of COVID-19 outbreaks in local deliveries threaten to postpone delivery dates further in 2021.
Gym Direct’s Kannis said turnaround times have been postponed even further with enhanced security practices across the supply chain.
The company is trying to replenish stocks as soon as possible, he added.
“It’s definitely the kind of thing we manage month-on-month so things don’t usually sell out for too long,” he said.
The pandemic was hellish for the gym operators, many of whom were forced to work with limited capacity – that is, if they were even allowed to open their doors.
The story is a lot different with national retailers like Rebel Sport, where sales have skyrocketed as Australians stock up on exercise bikes.
Rebel Sport, which focuses on apparel, running shoes, and sports equipment, grew sales 15.3% over fiscal 2021 to $ 1.2 billion.
That increase was driven by 36% growth in online orders, with many shoppers looking to replace their fitness routines with the same limited supplies of home equipment.
The franchise reported that sales were up not only in volume but also in average value, suggesting Australians will no longer have access to their preferred bootcamp or inventory gear in the Spin class after the first spate of lockdowns could.
According to Rebel Sport, the pattern will be repeated in the new fiscal year.
The recent restrictions in NSW, Victoria and the ACT “adversely affected trading in FY22,” parent company Super Retail Group said in its annual results presentation.
“However, there has been a significant increase in online sales in the regions affected by COVID-19, resulting in record online sales.”
While Rebel Sport doesn’t share Gym Direct’s focus on heavy weight training equipment, the Super Retail Group has shared their belief in the future of fitness at home, even as gyms reopen.
“The long-term health, wellness and fitness trends that support growing participation in our lifestyle categories mean the company is well positioned for the future,” said Chief Executive Officer Anthony Heraghty.
Rebel Sport also increased its inventory to $ 191.4 million, up from $ 140.1 million last year, “given the potential for global supply chain disruptions that can affect lead times, shipping rates and container availability in the second half of the calendar year “.
Gyms That Feel the Burn
It is in the best interests of equipment dealers to welcome a transition to home fitness facilities and large purchases.
However, if those claims are true – and if dealers can get their hands on imported equipment – Australia’s commercial gyms could face dire circumstances even if the lockdowns are lifted.
Stationary bike manufacturers such as Peloton and Technogym have already relied heavily on this trend and promise Australians access to training communities without having to attend physical education classes.
“Sweat Tech” is also on the rise, as Australians are increasingly looking for training content streamed via special apps, Instagram or Facebook Live.
The uncertain future of restrictions and regulations across Australia as vaccination rates improve will also overshadow the fortunes of Australian commercial gyms through late 2021 and beyond.
Even so, some business owners are doubling down on the idea that no home workout could ever recreate an old-fashioned gym session.
“Even for our more commercial customers, I think they use this time to make sure it can be a complete refreshment when everything opens up again,” said Kannis.
“New equipment, new mood, ready for post-lockdown.”
About the author