A rush to buy fitness equipment

Health & Fitness

A rush to buy fitness equipment

Mary Murigah
Mary Murigah. PHOTO | COURTESY 

The closure of gyms and reluctance to exercise in public spaces has spiked demand for skipping ropes, kettlebells, dumbbells, treadmills and anything that people can use to kill boredom such as darts and pool tables.

Fitness equipment dealers are reporting unexpected increases in sales as travel restrictions and social distancing keep people confined at home.

Home workouts are becoming common amid government measures taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus, leading to a temporary closure of fitness centres and bodybuilding halls across Kenya.

Band. It Fitness, an online shop in Nairobi, is among the many retailers that has seen an increase in demand for at-home equipment, as the retailer maintains its continuity plan to expand to a gym later on.

“There has been an increase in sales recently,” says Wambui Mwangi Okwemba, the founder of Band.It Fitness.


Mrs Okwemba stocks gloves, compression and protective wear, resistant bands used for training the lower and upper body, weightlifting belts and pro stream webcams to record the workout sessions.

“We have always targeted customers who exercise from home, those who travel or people who don’t go to the gym. Now I am seeing an expanding client base,” she said, adding that previously most of the buyers were personal trainers, who exercise and videostream themselves hence the need for the recorders.

Decathlon Nairobi, a shop at The Hub in Karen, has also recorded a spike in sales, more than the previous months of December, January and February.

Bryant Swenson's

Bryant Swenson. PHOTO | COURTESY

The retailer stocks fitness items, bikes, badminton, boxing, football, horse riding, karate and golf products from Morocco.

For instance, its weight training dumbbells and bars kit sell at Sh15,900, skipping ropes between Sh990 to Sh1,850 and yoga mats at Sh4,450 each.

With the fitness equipment global market expected to skyrocket more than the $11.5 billion (Sh1.2 trillion) recorded in 2019, sellers such as Decathlon are looking to open more stores.

However, David Kimanthi of Fitness & Gym Kenya in Nairobi’s city centre, says because most sellers buy their equipment from China and Dubai, they are likely to run out of stock.

In most stores, dumbbells have sold out. The best-sellers are fixed and adjustable dumbbells which range from Sh3,500 to Sh7,000 and help exercise the arms, back, and abs.

The spread of the virus is expected to disrupt Kenya’s supply chain which is dependent on imports.

According to a report by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), 61 percent of businesses surveyed reported that the Covid-19 has had a direct negative impact on their businesses with some citing stock-outs and delayed deliveries due to the lockdown.

Mrs Okwemba, for instance, sources her fitness equipment from the US and the UK through a South African firm that has exclusive rights to sell the items.

“I am about to run out of stock. When I call the suppliers at California, they say they are not sure when the lockdown will end to resume exports. There are some items I had ordered before and I hope they arrive in time and they won’t be delayed at the port,” she says. A majority of Kenyan traders solely rely on foreign markets such as South Africa, Turkey, China and the US for their supplies. South African has been the most impacted in Africa, with the country imposing a three-week lockdown. The US has also imposed stay-at-home measures in several states.

Gym equipment at Decathlon store in the Hub mall Karen in this photo taken on April 1, 2020.

Gym equipment at Decathlon store in the Hub mall Karen in this photo taken on April 1, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

“If the supply declines, we will be forced to raise the prices,” Mr Kimanthi said.

For now, most retailers have not increased prices following a warning by Competition Authority of Kenya to manufacturers and retailers.

“It would be unfair to increase prices because of the pandemic. However, I am afraid that the foreign sellers will alter the prices once we start picking up from the virus blow,” says Mrs Okwemba.

Despite the fitness equipment supply bottlenecks, there is need to continue exercising especially now.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised people to keep fit, eat healthy to boost their immune system while living under quarantine.

“During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight Covid-19 if you get it,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general.

He also advised people to reduce intake of alcohol and sugary drinks.

Mrs Okwemba says ideally stationary bikes and smart treadmills would be idle in keeping fit at home.

“But they are expensive, that’s why people use them in gyms. But without them, home workout would help everyone keep fit, build the needed immunity and maintain good health,”Mrs Okwemba said.

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