There has been heightened awareness about health and fitness in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. As gyms remain closed, consumers are resorting to home workouts, and turning to online videos and fitness sessions from apps such as Cure.fit and Fittr. This has fuelled the demand for workout equipment and accessories such as yoga mats, resistance bands, skipping ropes, and dumbbells, which are compatible for homes. According to industry estimates, the market for yoga mats alone in India was valued at $1,752 million in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8% to reach $3,202 million by 2026.
Analysts further deduce that the demand for fitness equipment in the months of April and May 2020 was 60% higher as compared to the same period last year. The demand for home fitness products such as home gym sets, yoga mats, and bands and tubes increased over five times, compared to the pre-Covid period, on Amazon. Global sports retailer Decathlon, too, claims to have witnessed over 2000% growth in the sales of resistance bands, and over 35% increase in yoga mats.
That said, the sports goods and fitness equipment market in India, which is highly fragmented, has not really taken off. “Some players tried their hands at it in the past, but were unsuccessful. Currently, there is no market leader in this category,” says Rajat Wahi, partner, Deloitte India. A case in point is Future Group, which shut down its Planet Sports stores in 2017.
Weights and mats
Brands such as Nike, Reebok and Puma have started offering a few products in the fitness equipment category, although sportswear is their mainstay. Amazon and Flipkart, too, have been trying to tap the fitness equipment category by launching private labels.
Flipkart, for instance, has a dedicated ‘Workout from Home’ section on its app to cater to the rising demand. “Consumers are increasingly searching for athleisure wear and fitness equipment online as they continue to stay indoors and explore different stay-at-home exercises,” says a Flipkart spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Decathlon, which has 60% of its stores operational currently, has seen a growth in the sales of heavier equipment, too. “We have noticed more than 200% volume growth in the sales of cross-trainers and elliptical machines, and a 30% increase in demand for dumbbells. Products for cycling, fitness cardio, yoga and running were among the top ten most purchased categories,” says a Decathlon India spokesperson.
Most of these companies have launched marketing initiatives stressing the importance of maintaining fitness even while indoors. Amazon, for example, launched a campaign around the theme ‘stay fit at home’, along with a ‘Fit India Quiz’ for its customers.
Flipkart, in partnership with sports brands Adidas, Puma, Under Armour, Asics and Reebok, launched the Stay Fit from Home campaign featuring workout videos of influencers and sportspersons such as KL Rahul and Mary Kom.
Shaping a category
Industry watchers expect this trend would give rise to a new home fitness category. “Today, most sports brands have a small section in their stores for fitness products that can be used at home. But, going ahead, this will grow and become a larger segment with more product launches,” predicts Wahi.
Brands that have been operating in the sports category, either through products or services, have a better chance at success in this new category, according to Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader – e-commerce and consumer internet, EY India. “Brands offering products like sportswear and protein shakes, and apps offering online consultations, will benefit out of this. Standalone players or new entrants will have a tough time cracking this category,” he adds.
With the demand slated to continue rising, experts foresee companies hitherto operating in the B2B space, providing equipment to gyms, entering this new category.
It will be a challenge, says Ankur Bisen, senior VP, retail and consumer, Technopak Advisors, for companies to create a distinct brand image in a category like fitness equipment. “How can a company claim that their yoga mat is better than others’? Hence, the play will become more about availability of products and their prices,” Bisen adds.