By John Russell
New year, new you. And for plenty of companies, a new chance to cash in on your New Year’s resolutions.
From weight-loss clinics to fitness clubs, the first quarter of the year is the biggest opportunity of the year to sign up new members, sell gadgets, offer coaching services and watch the money roll in.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. Meanwhile, losing weight and staying fit are at the top of the list of resolutions every year.
There are big bucks at stake. Gym, health and fitness clubs ring up about $30 billion a year, according to IBISWorld, a business research firm. Sporting goods stores, wholesalers and manufacturers count for nearly $100 billion. Weight-loss services, along with nutrition and dietitian services, pull in another $12 billion. Pilates and yoga studios count for $9 billion.
But it’s a tough, competitive world, and consumers can be choosy. Last year’s business big sellers and hot companies can be next year’s dead dogs. (Just think of Blockbuster, Kodak, Atari, Borders and Circuit City.) So the companies with the latest, greatest pitch have the best chance to have a happy New Year.
So let’s take a look at how some companies are positioning themselves.
WEIGHT WATCHERS INTERNATIONAL
For decades this was the gold standard for losing weight. Weight Watchers, founded in 1961, steadily rang up sales and profits by offering dieting programs, food and support centers for people trying to shed a few pounds.
But that was then.
In recent years, people have been migrating to digital gadgets that measure how many steps they walk, miles they pedal or floors they climb, like Fitbit activity trackers, Apple watches and free apps like MapMyRun.
That’s taken a big bite out of Weight Watchers. Membership fell last year to 800,000 from 1.4 million in 2008. Company revenues have slipped 11 straight quarters. The stock has fallen 71 percent from its peak in 2011.