The Rise of Peloton, Tonal, Mirror and Other DTC Home Fitness Products (Long Seclusion)
Back in January we wrote a longform piece about the rise of Peloton. It’s worth revisiting. Subsequently, the at-home fitness space has only gotten more interesting with (i) Peloton’s soon-to-be-released treadmill and (ii) a couple more well-funded startups going after the gym crowd with high-priced at-home apparatuses that give one further incentive to just stay home, never talk to anyone and never do anything outside. Because that's just what we need in today's hyper-polarized environment: more people just scurrying off into their own corners and refusing to deal with and compromise with anyone or anything. And that apparently includes the use of gym equipment.
"…among the first start-ups to pounce on the success of Peloton, a stationary bike start-up that investors recently valued at $4 billion. Peloton blends the hardware of a bike with the software of a video streaming subscription and the content of spin classes. Its skyrocketing growth has made investors wary of missing the next big thing in fitness."
The next big thing in fitness appears to be a flashy screen, a solid wifi connection, expensive hardware and streaming fitness instruction brought to you by a recurring revenue subscription model.
Web Smith frames it another way.
Silicon Valley wants to redefine the fitness membership. Through the adoption of connected devices like the Peloton bike, there’s been an inflection point as consumers seem to be trickling away from the current model. No longer do you have to drive to a place to be in a community. As Americans become more health conscious and driven to maximize performance, the DTC equipment industry is a timely bet on the next generation of fitness data-driven IoT (internet of things).
Whereas the Fitbit-phase of wearables emphasized individual fitness, the next generation of connected devices seem to be incorporating community in ways that could emerge as a challenge to the status quo: community-driven fitness facilities.
By building systems that allow community to be gained outside of physical retail outlets, these tools are aiming to become the new medium for instruction and training. These internet-enabled equipment manufacturers aren’t just selling plastic and metal, they’re selling virtual community.
He finished by saying:
"...it could spell trouble for your gym. Spin franchises are already beginning to adjust to the threat of Peloton and as the threat of connected cycles continues to grow as also-has brands rise up in the wake of Peloton’s premium pricing."
That sound you may have just heard was the collective moan of mall owners who are increasingly dependent upon gyms to fill space:
Okay, okay, let's dial it down. Peloton has created a luxury brand experience that, it is argued, makes economic sense relative to the long-term economics of attending Flywheel or SoulCycle classes. We're not so sure that translates to other non-niche forms of fitness. Especially at the price-points these companies are touting.
Apropos, some of the comments to the NYT piece are amusing:
Obviously, these machines are for a niche market where money is irrelevant and style is paramount. Best of luck to them, but I'll stick to the free version...my own body.
So far the comments are 22-0 against. I wonder if the Tonal can automatically adjust that resistance.
Or, you know, you could just go outside, feel the sun and wind on your back, do some pushups and chinups to feel your own weight against the pull of the Earth, hear nature all around you, talk to a person (gasp!)...
But then again it's so nice to stare at a screen all day long, so what do I know.
Look for these items in the free piles left curbside after garage sales in about 6 years.
While we're not necessarily convinced that Tonal and Mirror are the future of fitness, it seems to us that gyms ought to start thinking "omnichannel" like retailers and figure out way to drive more value to customers both in and outside of the gym, during on and off hours. How is it, for instance, that Equinox doesn't have any streaming classes that you can do at home or in your office?
Whatever happens, expect the area to get more heated as more and more money chases this burgeoning at-home community-based exercise market. Bloomberg already notes that “the treadmill wars are here.” And, Peloton, for instance, is now suing Flywheel for patent infringement. It knows that the at-home fitness opportunity is now. If it can slow down a rival (in advance of an IPO?), all the better.
We asked in January whether Peloton could thrive in a downturn. Now the question is broader: will any of these companies with high-priced hardware be able to survive a downturn?