Bangalore/New Delhi: Thirty-four-year-old programme manager Montu Monnappa could barely walk steady with his loaded shopping bags. He had walked into a store to buy a pair of shoes for his daily gym workout, and ended up spending three times the money he had budgeted for.
Not just on shoes, though. He also bought a sackful of sports accessories.
Brands such as Nike, Reebok and Puma that entered India a few years ago to sell the ubiquitous running shoe are scrambling to meet demand for everything from shoes to yoga mats, as buyers like Monnappa, for whom fitness has become a way of life, open their wallets wider. They want to make exercising more of a pleasure.
“I prefer buying gym accessories on a regular basis and go for lighter gear. Durability and comfort have to go hand in hand for me,” says Monnappa, who works out for an hour every day in a gym. He spends Rs5,000-10,000 every three months buying gym accessories and owns dumb bells, weights, wristbands and headbands as well as gym bags.
Deluged with images of superstars with chiselled bodies and six-pack abs, and actors with shrinking dress sizes, Indian youngsters are more conscious about keeping fit, and willing to spend on products that help them to it. Even those who do not have the time or the inclination to visit gyms, work out at home on treadmills, trainer bikes, and the like. Consultant Shreyas Jayakumar missed working out on a treadmill so much that she brought one home. “My long work hours made going to the gym every evening difficult. So, I bought a treadmill for myself. Now I am planning to buy gym balls in a couple of months,” she says.
While it’s still taking baby steps, the Indian gym accessories market broadly includes add-ons such as wristbands, headbands, sippers, gym belts, weights, and equipment such as treadmills and cross-trainers. The active-wear market —that includes sportswear, swimwear, shoes and accessories—is estimated at around Rs2,000 crore-2,200 crore, says Pratichee Kapoor, principal consultant of retail at Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a retail consulting firm.
Healthy sales: A Reebok showroom in Bangalore. Reebok’s gym accessories include treadmills, exercise bikes, skipping ropes, gym balls, gym belts, gloves, ankle and wrist weights, and heart rate monitors. (Hemant Mishra / Mint)
Kapoor estimates the gym equipment market is worth between Rs500 crore and Rs700 crore. The market for both active-wear and gym equipment is growing 30% a year and will keep up this pace for the next five years, the retail consultant says. For now, global shoe brands dominate the gym accessories market.
Nike India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of US-based Nike Inc., offers gym bags, gym mats, training cycles, treadmills, weights and benches, as well as rowers, besides its bread-and-butter sports shoes.
Rival Puma does not yet offer gym equipment but sells wristbands and headbands, bandanas, hairbands, pouches and bags, water bottles, yoga mats, and caps. The firm introduced its accessories range in India in 2006.
“The response has been fairly good. We are seeing double -digit growth in our accessories segment. Accessories contribute about 7% to our overall sales,” says Rajiv Mehta, managing director, Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd, which is a subsidiary of German multinational Puma AG Rudolf Dassler Sport.
Mehta, however, did not disclose the company’s annual sales. He says wristbands are its most sold product, and yoga mats are also a hit. Puma plans to introduce more gym accessories with the launch of each new collection in India.
Reebok’s gym accessories include skipping ropes, gym balls, gym belts, gloves, towels, water bottles, ankle and wrist weights, heart rate monitors, mats, sweatbands, as well as treadmills and exercise bikes. But rather than wait for buyers to step into its stores, it has found a more innovative way to draw them in.
Reebok India Co., an arm of UK-based Reebok International Ltd, says it is the only company in India to introduce globally acclaimed fitness programmes, conducted under the banner of Reebok Instructor Alliance. The fitness programmes are aimed at fitness instructors, personal trainers and health club owners. The firm says it has trained and certified more then 900 trainers till now. The training programme includes sports yoga, sensational stretching, abdominals,?deck,?step?and?core?training, and the Pilates method.
“We are following a circular cycle. We train the instructors, who in turn train health-conscious people. These people find their way back to Reebok outlets to buy accessories they need either to go to a gym or for a personal workout,” says Subhinder Singh Prem, managing director of Reebok India.
When it comes to the most preferred product among gym accessories, gym balls and yoga mats top the list, he says. A Reebok store in New Delhi’s Connaught Place sells about 15-20 gym balls for Rs1,390 each, 25-30 resistance tubes, and 15-20 yoga mats in a month even as running shoes form the bulk of the shop’s sales. Individual purchases driven by hygiene considerations are also on the rise. “Earlier, people used to be happy with the equipment provided by their gym. Now, due to higher consciousness of hygiene, people do not want to use, say, a yoga mat or a weight used by others, particularly as they attract a lot of sweat,” says Nike India’s marketing director Sanjay Gangopadhyay.
Experts say the fitness and accessories market in India is growing at the same pace as the country’s organized retail, which is growing 25-35% a year. “Sports accessories is growing by leaps and bounds as everyone is getting into active sports in one way or the other—golf on the weekend or executives hitting the court,” says Ramesh Kaushik, head of marketing for sport accessories at Planet Retail Holdings Pvt. Ltd.
Planet Retail operates more than 50 Planet Sports outlets nationwide, selling brands such as Wilson and Prince in tennis, Speedo swimwear and accessories, and Callaway golf products, besides selling products of brands that include Nike, Puma, Reebok and Adidas. It plans to add 20 stores before the year is over.
Gym accessories are not only attracting those who exercise regularly but also a lot of youngsters, who are buying these products to make what they call “a style statement”.
Seventeen-year-old Noel Thomson, who joined a gym in south Bangalore six months ago, says he saved his pocket money every month to buy gym gloves.
“I buy bottles, caps, grips, socks from Nike because they last long. Also, sports accessories make a style statement like nothing else,” says 26-year-old Aditi Samajpati, a journalist, who plays basketball and prefers to dress casually.