Back to basics – the sports watch

August 2009

Part four: Fitness watches

In today’s world, where people are more fitness conscious than ever before, watches designed to help people stay healthier are selling very well. Though not a category traditionally seen in watch retailers, it might be time to rethink this.


T6 by Suunto



In today’s world, where people are more fitness conscious than ever before, watches designed to help people stay healthier are selling very well. Though not a category traditionally seen in watch retailers, it might be time to rethink this.
“Business in fitness training watches is growing in spite of the sputtering economy – it’s a market where we have a unique competitive advantage with our training effect parameter and design differentiation,” says John Lally, Suunto Training Category Manager. “This very committed segment of the population, fitness enthusiasts who use and train with heart rate monitors, represent a less volatile market than the general public.”
In addition, where other segments of the watch industry might be weakening, the fitness watch segment is growing as more people get involved in healthy activities. “Increased participation in running and triathlon events has benefited our overall Timex Sports watch business, and the research and development we conduct directly addresses the needs of those consumers,” says Herbie Calves, Vice President of Marketing, Timex. “The fitness/heart rate monitor business is less mature than the sports watch business and has the advantage of being on a higher growth curve.”


BodyLink by Timex

Like the general watch industry, there are recognizable trends in fitness watches. “The biggest trend is toward training watches that are user friendly with manageable button pushing and interfaces,” Suunto’s Lally says. “Also popular are watches that combine speed and distance functionality with physiological feedback. Also trends are toward training watches that look more like real watches, more fashionable – less intimidating.”
As fitness watch customers become more mature and more aware of what they actually need and want, the demands for feature-packed sports watches increase. “Everyone wants their fitness watches to be more powerful and versatile with more features while also being smaller with longer battery life,” says Jake Jacobson, Senior Media Relations Specialist, Garmin. “That’s why the innovation behind the Forerunner 405’s touch-sensitive bezel was such a breakthrough. The vast ma-jority of the functionality is done by touching, tapping or swiping the ring around the face of the watch while keeping the device as a whole sleek, light and streamlined. “
In the past, these feature packed watches were slightly intimidating with the amount of button pushing and set up required. It’s the rare user who uses all the things these watches are capable of tracking.
“Using all the features of Suunto t-line watches takes time and allows users to grow into using/applying different parameters and features during their workouts,” Suunto’s Lally says. “More important than using all the features is that we provide users with the option to select and use/apply the data and physi-ological feedback that works to motivate and inspire them.”
Experts differ on how the watches are used. Timex’s Calves says that users often wear their sports watches even when not exercising. “Our studies show that our customers also wear their watches before and after their fitness measurement activities as a badge of honour to show their commitment to an active lifestyle,” he notes. “We make sure to design our products with the all-day styling and comfort to meet that need.”
Garmin’s Jacobsen has found that their customers “typically wear their fitness watches primarily during the activities, based on what we hear. That said, the Forerunner 405 is streamlined enough that it can be worn to the office as an everyday watch for up to two weeks in power-save mode without needing to be recharged.
“Because there are so many features packed into every one of our products, it’s rare for many people to literally use every feature,” Jacobsen continues. “From what we hear from users, people tend to find their favorite features and focus on them. Because the devices serve users with a wide range of experiences and interests, our devices’ expansive array of features are put to good use.”



Fitness watches are starting to break through into specialty watch retail, giving retailers a whole new segment to market. “We do sell through specialty watch retail, because the look of Suunto is unique and fashionable and yet offers an urban consumer the connection with an authentic sports/training application,” says Suunto’s Lally. “For specialty watches I believe there is a good market for Suuntos in general and for specialty training/outdoor watches that combine training features with certain design and style elements – this type of category may be met even more with future products/lines by Suunto.”
As people become more fitness-conscious, adding sports and fitness watches can help satisfy a need. It’s important, however, if you add this segment to your store, that you have the knowledge to support it. Unlike most watch segments, which are relatively simple to explain, fitness watches are quite complicated and demand expert knowledge. “Consumers expect store associates to have the ability to understand and to serve their fitness measurement needs,” says Timex’s Calves. “Timex Sports provides retailers with the necessary training, technical support, and point-of-purchase materials to make them comfortable and successful in this demanding category. With the increase in participation in fitness events, we believe our fitness measurement products, including heart rate monitors, are appealing to all consumers, including those that shop at watch specialty retail stores.”
Fitness has already gone beyond specialty fitness stores and is much more in the mainstream. “As more and more people focus on changing the way the world eats, lives and exercises, the fitness industry broadens its reach every day,” says Jacobsen from Garmin.
The growing fitness watch business is certainly worth a look for your retail store.

This is part four in a four part series

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Source: Europa Star June-July 2009 Magazine Issue