FITNESS, HEALTH VIDEOS MAKE GAINS ON DVD

Retailers are responding to consumers' New Year's resolutions with a broad array of fitness and health-related titles.Just as DVD has opened shoppers' eyes to the wide variety of entertainment content they can watch, so too has the fitness and health segment of the business expanded with exercises to fit every age and taste, and health titles that inform about many conditions and cures.Karen Schroeder,

Retailers are responding to consumers' New Year's resolutions with a broad array of fitness and health-related titles.

Just as DVD has opened shoppers' eyes to the wide variety of entertainment content they can watch, so too has the fitness and health segment of the business expanded with exercises to fit every age and taste, and health titles that inform about many conditions and cures.

Karen Schroeder, national buyer of mercantile and books, Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, Colo., said the craze in pilates has bumped yoga out of the No. 1 selling fitness video. Other unconventional types of exercise, like belly dancing, are climbing in popularity.

Walking is another category that is showing a lot of growth, sources told SN, with videos intended for in-home use gaining in popularity along with some audio tapes available for outdoor exercising.

"I see a lot of action and dance fitness. Pilates is the No. 1 selling category -- it has been for the last two years. But I also see dance workouts," said Alex Haussmann, product manager, Newmark Media, Addison, Ill. "We do belly dancing, cardio hip-hop, and cardio salsa is a big title for us. That's something that's definitely a newer trend that's trending upward in popularity. Short workouts are popular. Boot camp has some popularity."

The videos become more enjoyable once people get a taste of what it is they are looking for. Then they take it to the next level, which is getting involved with a group and meeting other people, said Bea James, whole health manager, Lund Food Holdings, Edina, Minn.

U.S. consumers are very interested in living healthy lifestyles. There are a variety of diets and exercise programs out there to comply with their needs, said Sean Bersell, vice president of public affairs, Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif. One place consumers think about health and fitness is the supermarket, as they try to correspond their diet and exercise requirements with the food they eat.

The prominence of natural and organic foods today correlates with health-related and fitness videos because consumers want to be independent and gather their own information, sources said.

"After they find out what their disease state is or what exercise they need, then they start looking for nutrition to fulfill the need they found," said Ray Stone, president, HealthSmart Rx, Elmhurst, Ill. Fitness and health-related videos are part of the HealthSmart Rx information areas set up in such retailers as Stop & Shop and Hy-Vee.

DVD has aided in diversifying the market because its convenient size makes it easier to stock and allows consumers to customize their workout. Suppliers and retailers agree that VHS is still viable, but DVD is the dominant video format.

"DVDs are outselling VHS about three to one right now. DVDs are better for workouts because you can directly skip to segments you like," Schroeder said.

Since DVD is a smaller product, retailers can easily display it on endcaps or near checkouts as an impulse buy. However, more supermarkets are positioning health and fitness videos near the pharmacy or establishing a dedicated section where consumers can easily shop the selection.

"We have a dedicated section strictly for media, adjacent to the book department. In the newer stores, we are now able to view 'clips' of each video to preview before you buy. We have installed a touchscreen TV in the department. It is broken down into categories. It has made a difference in our sales. The customer can tell whether it will work for them before they buy," Schroeder said.

Health and fitness titles can be merchandised year-round. Yet unless they address a chronic condition, it's hard to incorporate them into the mix, said Theresa Daniels, video manager, McMaken's Supermarkets McVideo, Brookville, Ohio. It's during New Year's resolution season that the category really becomes viable.