Demand for gym equipment skyrockets as S'poreans turn to home workouts

Sales of dumbbells, ab wheels, pull-up bars and training bands increased by up to 400 per cent. PHOTO: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - When the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) began introducing stricter measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of May, Ms Sarah Lim, who used to visit various parks and nature trails for her runs, decided to work out at home.

A fortnight ago, the 26-year-old bought two dumbbells and a resistance band online for over $40 and has been following online workout videos instead of going out for her runs.

"I was quite concerned about the growing number of cases in the community, especially with so many unlinked cases," said Ms Lim, who works in communications.

"I was expecting more people to go out and exercise like what happened during the circuit breaker last year, so I thought it would be safer to avoid those areas for now."

Ms Lim is among many fitness enthusiasts who have contributed to a boom in gym equipment sales this month since the MTF enforced more stringent Covid-19 measures.

The majority of retailers that The Straits Times spoke to experienced at least a 200 per cent surge in overall sales since the measures for phase two (heightened alert) were announced on May 14.

The stricter measures took effect on May 16 and will last till June 13.

It is deja vu for many gym equipment suppliers as the current situation is similar to what they faced last year when the circuit breaker was announced.

There was a mad scramble for gym equipment for the April 7 to June 1 period, with some retailers observing a threefold increase.

Last week, French sportswear and sport equipment chain Decathlon saw a spike in sales of home gym equipment, with the sale of cross training and bodybuilding sport equipment rising by about 290 per cent.

Sales of dumbbells, ab wheels, pull-up bars and training bands increased by up to 400 per cent.

Bicycles, which range from $200 to over $1,000 for adults, as well as cycling and running accessories were also popular items among customers.

Since the pandemic, bicycles have become a hot commodity.

Brompton folding bikes, which are in short supply, are advertised for as much as $8,000. The new ones from retailers cost about $2,500 but have a long waiting list.

Equipment retailer Gym 51 owner Reave Ng has seen sales shoot up by at least 500 per cent compared with the period before May 4 - the day authorities imposed the initial round of stricter Covid-19 rules - with items from his current stock sold out.

Bigger equipment such as multi-function racks and workout benches have become hot-selling items in recent days and Mr Ng thinks this is because customers are not optimistic about the Covid-19 situation.

The multi-function racks typically cost $450, while the price of the workout benches that have been snapped up range from $300 to $450.

Mr Ng, 33, said: "I guess people are willing to invest in those heavy weight equipment as they probably believe that Covid will be here to stay and could possibly forever change the way gyms operate.

"They probably prefer to work out at home without worrying about another closure or limitation on the number of users on commercial gyms."

With an overwhelming demand for home workout equipment, Gymsportz founder Chen You Soon, whose company saw a 200 per cent increase in sales, faces the challenge of restocking his shelves as factories are encountering delays in production.

Among the more popular items at his store were dumbbells as well as cardio machines such as treadmills and exercise bikes.

Instead of the usual two months it takes to restock items, Mr Chen is now facing a four- to five-month wait, which has prompted him to place advance orders.

The 32-year-old said: "This can be tricky as we have to ensure we do not overstock. It has to be monitored closely.

"We also have to notify our customers on the arrival of these restocks as much as we can. Keeping them informed of the expected lead time is critical."

Online marketplace operator Carousell has also seen a surge in the number of inquiries for searches for home gym equipment since the heightened phase two measures were announced.

Searches for spin bikes increased by 320 per cent, while those for weights, barbells and dumbbells went up by 200 per cent.

This trend was also observed last year. The demand for fitness items on Carousell spiked in March, the month before circuit breaker measures were enforced, and grew by 200 per cent, peaking in August.

Those who are unable to buy, or have taken a wait-and-see approach before investing in a piece of equipment, have turned to renting equipment instead.

Besides selling gym equipment, Homefitness also offers the option of rental for a period of two weeks to a month. The rental rate for treadmills is $170 for two weeks.

Apart from a five-fold increase in sales, its director Ermin Woon has also seen a ten-fold increase in gym equipment rental, especially for treadmills.

But while all this growth casts a somewhat rosy picture for the gym equipment industry, not all of these suppliers are enjoying a booming bottom line.

Mr Wayne Poh, owner of Direct Home Gym, an online retailer, said that traffic to his company's website increased by four times compared with the period before the heightened phase two measures were imposed, but the company's gross profit has not changed because many of his customers are buying small-ticket items like strength equipment.

He also noted that the company has not made any corporate gym sales, which make up 50 per cent of sales usually, since May 4.

The 36-year-old said: "Instead of buying equipment to set up a full home gym, some buyers are looking at equipment just to tide over this period before gyms reopen.

"Corporate gym sales tanked this month mainly due to the uncertainty about the current guidelines."

Likening consumer sales to "staple food", he added: "We need them but they cannot be 100 per cent of the diet."

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