Many Americans are getting into a fitness regimen, at least on DVD.
From dancing, kick boxing, pilates, resistance bands and spinning/cycling, to stability balls, step workouts, strength training, Tai Chi, treadmills/running and yoga, Americans of all shapes and ages are following along and feeling fitter than ever.
The coming of DVDs has helped breathe new life into the genre, and marketing has been both slick and effective. By now, anyone who has the least bit of trouble falling asleep will instantly recognize video fitness franchises like Body by Jake, Cindy Crawford, Denise Austin, George Foreman, Gilad, Kathy Smith, MTV Fitness, the 'Of Steel' series, Richard Simmons, Billy Blanks, Tony Little and others.
Consumers respond to a wide variety of messages -- product, theme, packaging, merchandising, expert credentials, star power, seasonality and gift giving -- when looking at fitness videos in supermarkets.
"Consumers have high expectations of home video, and in turn are provided with entertainment and information from a wide variety of genres," said Andrew Mun, spokesman, Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif. "When VHS was the predominant format, television shows on home video were not the enormous sellers they are today.
"The same can be said for special-interest products, of which fitness is a key component. Whether it's weight training, specific body development such as abdominals, legs, arms, prenatal workouts or alternative methods like yoga, belly dancing or pilates, consumers expect to find DVD releases."
While fitness titles lagged behind theatrical releases in terms of what was made available during DVDs' early-adoption phase, Mun noted, there are now more than 800 fitness DVDs available, and they accounted for 10.5% of special-interest DVD releases in 2004, according to VSDA. With the growing portability of DVD, he pointed out, fitness titles also "allow customers to use these workouts via laptops or portable DVD players while traveling."
Total fitness video revenue in 2004 was $142.2 million on 14.9 million units, according to Jan Saxton, vice president and film entertainment analyst for Adams Media Research, Carmel, Calif. In 2005, projections call for this to grow to $149.6 million on 15.4 million units.
The potential for line extensions that combine exercise with a theme, or with music, is proven. Billy Blanks, for instance, has an entire portfolio of videos, including titles such as "Billy Blanks Boot Camp," "Boot Camp Jamz CD Power Package," "Tae Bo Kicks Kids' Workout," "Tae Bo Capture the Power," "Tae Bo Abs Workout," "Tae Bo Fat Blasting" and others.
An "extraordinary" amount of the buying is fueled by information gleaned from magazine articles and TV spots. "Whether you got motivated on a Monday morning or after turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, my guess is it's probably coming from women's magazines like Redbook or Cosmo," said Russ Crupnick, president, NPD Music & Movies, Port Washington, N.Y. "Just over 75% of these videos are bought by women."
About 57% are bought by women aged 25 to 54, and 42% are bought by women 25 to 44. In addition, both income and education levels tend to be higher among purchasers.
About 38% of fitness videos are bought at mass merchandisers, Crupnick said. "They're much more likely to be bought at bookstores like Borders, or at Target stores, as well as from TV commercials. Sales in supermarkets have thus far proved "very weak," he added. "They're not particularly strong in drug stores, either. The truth is, they're not particularly strong in Wal-Mart relative to Wal-Mart's overall sales of DVDs."
Supermarkets have found varying degrees of success with fitness videos.
Bashas' Supermarkets in Chandler, Ariz., for example, puts its fitness videos in the hands of a different set of buyers to maximize cross merchandising in its healthy foods departments. Food items there are cross merchandised with a variety of exercise and dietary tapes and related items, said Ray Wolsieffer, video specialist.
"There is no fitness section in our video department," Wolsieffer explained.
"We have had no luck with fitness over the years," said Greg Rediske, president, Video Management Co., Tacoma, Wash. "We are trying some yoga titles in some upscale supermarkets at the moment, so we'll see. But it's been much ado about nothing for us to this point. We just got tired of beating a dead horse."
"We don't have a whole lot of fitness videos in our stores right now," noted Rachel Nichols, director of video operations for K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va. "But I have looked at an idea of maybe doing something with it the latter part of the year."
NPD found that between October 2003 and February 2004, the most recent period for which it has these statistics, the average price of a fitness video was $14.16 -- about 20% less than the average new DVD. Part of that difference is because consumers tend to purchase fitness videos through lower-priced venues such as mass merchandisers and TV offers. "It's not that the content lacks value," Crupnick said. "It just doesn't have as much built-in content as a feature film."
"I don't think there is a downturn in fitness video," noted Guy Finley, director of operations for the International Recording Media Association, Princeton, N.J. "If anything, there is probably an uptick just because of the content that goes into these videos nowadays. Nothing has exploded, but it's slow and steady growth. I don't think the genre is going away."
Jane Fonda remains the original standard for fitness videos, but more recent favorites include Denise Austin and instructors from FitTV, ESPN and PBS, Finley said.
Yoga and pilates are very popular, Mun reported, as are music-related fitness titles that incorporate dance. Celebrity fitness titles are also doing well. "The two time frames in which supermarkets do well with this category are in January, to catch all of the New Year's resolutions, and around springtime," said Bill Bryant, vice president, sales for Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "Those are the two heavy sales periods for fitness products, and the supermarkets that have in-line sections do real well with it year-round. It's just an evergreen franchise."
Prominent placement in the stores "usually drives sales," Bryant said, "and then there is the time frame in which the promotion is scheduled." As for price, he noted, "We've seen the $14.95 to $19.95 range do well. The evergreen product is usually priced at $9.98 and higher." Though sell-through dominates, rental also has done well, Bryant added, in stores that have dedicated sections for fitness.