DTC Era   /   April 15, 2020

Riding Peloton’s coattails, at-home fitness startups are seeing a spike

When Peloton went public last fall, many analysts deemed it likely a bad investment. Now that shelter-in-place orders have been enacted nationally, however, the at-home workout category as a whole is getting a second look. And Peloton isn’t the only brand seeing a lift.

Virtual workout hardware — which previously had trouble attracting and retaining consumers who prefer studio workouts — is seeing a sales boom as a result of gyms being closed. 

Peloton’s stock has been on an upward trajectory as early as the first week of March, and other startups are riding its coattails. Peloton, which extended its app’s free trial period to 90 days to reach a wider audience, is being joined by competitors also hoping to ride out the trend beyond the outbreak. With devices retailing up to $3,000 dollars, along with monthly subscription fees, exercise-oriented startups like Mirror and Tonal are seeing exponential growth among new users. And they’re doubling down on the timely trend by introducing new digital products and ramping up marketing.

According to Mirror founder and CEO Brynn Putnam, sales have “more than doubled” since the advent of Covid-19 in the United States. With its three showrooms, located in New York City, Los Angeles and Stanford, Calif. closed, the company’s efforts have shifted to “accelerate the benefit of the Mirror experience to members during this time,” according to Putnam. 

The company, which launched its wall-mount fitness device in 2018, is now streaming live and on-demand classes and member-exclusive personal training during the quarantine.

While fulfillment and shipping are seeing delays across the board, Mirror is offering customers instant digital service “while they await the delivery and installation of their Mirror at home.” To mitigate the wait, starting this month new members are being offered immediate access to the Mirror app’s virtual content.

Meanwhile Tonal, the wall-mounted weight simulation system, has seen its best period of sales yet since launching two years ago. According to chief marketing officer Chris Stadler, the startup’s surge in sales and demand in March was at 5x it was the same time in 2019, with 3x of the sales forecast projected to have reached this point in the year. 

To capitalize on this demand, Tonal has been broadcasting free sessions of non-equipment classes, such as yoga, through its YouTube channel as a way to introduce Tonal to new customers. On the marketing side, the brand has also increased TV spending in the past several weeks, along with the all-important paid search amid consumer interest rising. With more people at home paying attention to digital channels, the company hopes Tonal will continue to see a boost in sales via search for alternative fitness gear.

The at-home workout trend has also prompted legacy gyms to pivot quickly. Equinox, for example, has accelerated the rollout of its recently-launched Equinox Media services. Equinox Media’s new app Variis and home SoulCycle bike, which coincidentally launched last month ahead of its clubs’ closures, have become integral in keeping membership sustained. The fitness brand has modified marketing efforts to feature its “workout from home” campaign, which includes releasing its weekly class schedule on Instagram Stories.

“Although the company’s original plan was to introduce the Variis app to Equinox members via a phased market rollout,” throughout 2020, Equinox Media decided “to significantly accelerate the Variis app rollout due to substantial member interest,” according to an Equinox Media spokesperson. 

The parent company is also seeing continued demand for SoulCycle’s at-home bike, which had pre-orders begin in mid-March, and plans to begin delivering units in late spring.

Boutique studios — such as Barry’s along with independent personal trainers — are also taking the digital subscription platform route to keep up with demand.

Workout machines and classes aren’t the only ones noticing a lift. Theragun, which sells muscle recovery devices, has also observed new interest from customers “who did not previously own” one, according to the company. Products like its basic deep muscle treatment device Liv, priced at $199, have been continuously sold out in recent weeks. 

The company cites the new increase in demand as a result of closures of massage therapy facilities, as people aren’t able to see their chiropractors during their area’s shelter-in-place. 

With no clear timeline of when brick and mortar workout facilities will reopen, a boost of interest in home workout solutions may continue to play out for months to come.

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