Local fitness retailer sees 392% increase in sales of exercise equipment during COVID-19


As fitness enthusiasts began to work out at home during the pandemic, Play It Again Sports saw a drastic increase in their sales of exercise equipment. 

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic meant the closing of gyms across the country. Athletes, “gym bros” and fitness enthusiasts alike needed to find new ways to stay fit at home. As a result, the market for weights and other at-home fitness gear blew up seemingly overnight.

Despite many St. Louis area gyms having reopened at the start of June, the demand for at-home fitness equipment has not slowed down. Dylan Martin is a manager at Play It Again Sports, one of the most popular fitness retailers in the St. Louis area.

“We’ve definitely noticed a huge demand for weight and fitness gear since the pandemic started,” Martin said.

The Play It Again Sports location in Kirkwood saw a 392% increase in the sale of exercise and fitness gear since September of last year. The unprecedented increase in demand has made it quite difficult to keep fitness equipment in stock.

“There have been a few occasions where we’ve had to tell our customers that some items could take a few weeks to a few months to arrive,” Martin said.

Dumbbells, kettlebells, stationary bikes and other popular fitness equipment have, at different times, been on back-order for as long as three months. Fitness manufacturers such as Body-Solid, Life Fitness and Cap have struggled to fulfill the large backlog of orders in a timely fashion.

Shortages in the supply of weight equipment have led to cost markups for retailers and therefore higher prices for the consumer. Martin reported that weight prices at Play It Again Sports have increased nearly 80% per pound since March. The cost of a singular 20 pound cast iron dumbbell was $20 at the beginning of March, versus $36 in September.

The uncertainty regarding the safety of going back to traditional gyms means consumers are still looking for ways to maintain those gains from their homes. Dylan Giacin, a college hockey player who is home for the semester due to COVID-19, still enjoys having the option to work out from home.

“My gym closed down for a while during the start of the pandemic, so it was nice to get to continue my training at the house,” Giacin said. “I definitely don’t prefer lifting at-home, but if the gyms were to close again, I like having the option to continue my workouts from my basement.”

Retailers aren’t expecting the weight craze to slow down any time soon.

“No one really seems like they’re in any kind of hurry to get back to the gyms,” Martin said.

While Play It Again Sports has seen record sales of weights and fitness gear since the pandemic started, the same cannot be said for many of their other categories. Sales of team sports such as baseball, soccer and lacrosse are down as much as 40% since last year.

Team sports have started to make a return, as a few summer leagues just finished their abbreviated seasons. Many fall leagues have begun practicing as well. Until team sports are fully back in swing, weights and fitness equipment will undoubtedly remain on top, according to Martin.

“You know, unfortunately, we’d rather be sizing up little Timmy or Suzy for tee ball or ice hockey, however, the fitness sales have definitely kept us afloat,” Martin said.


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Tyler Merkle
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