RICHMOND, Va. -- Whole health-minded supermarkets like Ukrop's here are discovering strong sell-through opportunities in yoga, Pilates and other fitness video categories by pairing them with yoga accessories.
Ukrop's has plans within the next week to roll out yoga mats, balance balls, yoga straps and other items along with 40 video and five DVD titles to capitalize on the gift-giving season, according to Dana Forsman, natural and organic buyer.
"We're focused and committed on whole health and wellness, so it's a natural transition," she told SN.
Three stores in Richmond, one store in Williamsburg, Va., and one store in Fredericksburg, Va., will test a slew of titles on various levels of yoga, prenatal yoga, back care and stress relief along with yoga equipment by manufacturer Gaiam, Boulder, Colo.
The four-foot wooden endcap display featuring the videos, DVDs and equipment sits in the center of Ukrop's whole health store-within-a-store format, said Forsman. The retailer rolled out yoga products in its new Joe's Market concept several weeks ago and has had strong initial sales, Forsman said.
According to recent reports, 15 million to 18 million Americans practice yoga.
Karla Huff, executive brand director, Artisan Home Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif., said supermarkets are a "perfect setting" for offering yoga videos and DVDs.
"It's a great distribution point as far as convenience for the average woman," she said. "[The videos] make supermarkets a total wellness area."
Huff said several supermarket chains around the country are currently merchandising Artisan's "Yoga Fusion" series and its other yoga and Pilates videos.
Providing customers with both the videos and the tools to use them can generate "fabulous incremental sales," said Jane Pemberton, president, Gaiam International, Venice, Calif., the retail distribution company for Gaiam.
"If [consumers] buy a video, they're going to need the yoga mat," she said.
A knowledgeable staff is a significant factor in sales success for the fitness videos and DVDs, said Sherrill Anderson, natural foods department manager at an Appleton, Wis., Copps store, a division of Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis.
"Customers have a lot of questions about which videos are appropriate," she said. "It would not work if [the yoga videos] were plunked down in the middle of the store without a staff."
Anderson said the Appleton store houses a four-foot yoga video, DVD and equipment display in between the natural foods department and bakery section.
"It would get really lost in a big video department," she said.
Debbie Leland, natural and specialty foods buyer, Kowalski's Markets, St. Paul, Minn., said the retailer's Woodbury store has been offering 40 to 50 video titles and a host of yoga tools for the past six months with great success.
"They're selling very well. I was surprised," she said. "Yoga is big and it just seems to be getting bigger and bigger."
Lunds/Byerly's, Edina, Minn., showcases its yoga video offerings in eight stores by playing the different exercise videos on televisions in the Living Wise natural and organic section. One uptown Minneapolis store also offers yoga and Pilates classes to its customers.
"Yoga is one way people keep themselves healthy, and we supply people with resources on how to be healthy and well," said Bea James, whole health manager for Lunds/Byerly's Living Wise sections.
The fitness video category has evolved from a January-driven seasonal product to more year-round, said officials.
"[Consumers] think about wellness every day of the year, that's why they've taken the seasonality out of it," Pemberton said. "There's enormous profit opportunity, and we've proven there's a year-round business in supermarkets."