With home fitness equipment running low during the pandemic, Meijer got clever, partnering with local companies to quickly develop a line of hand weights under its Meijer Active store brand.
The rollout of the own brand weights helped steady a more than 300% increase in demand in its stores for the fitness products, as more consumers were working out at home during the pandemic.
“Millions of people were suddenly staying at home and looking for ways to exercise, creating a demand that all retailers were trying to address,” said Scott Schuette, team sports and fitness buyer for Meijer. “We realized finding the right partners locally was key to shortening our supply chain and help customers find all the accessories needed for their home gym solutions.”
Meijer began calling on local foundries in Michigan, where it’s headquartered, and found Great Lakes Casting in Ludington to produce a new line of Meijer Active hand weights. Later, the partnership expanded, bringing in Grand Haven Power Coating to the finishing process, and together Meijer was able to pilot a program at 14 Grand Rapids-area stores. The entire stock of more than 500 cast iron hand weights sold out in 10 days.
The decision to fast-track the program — as gyms in most states struggled to stay open due to ongoing pandemic surges — enabled Great Lakes Casting and Grand Haven Power Coating to expand to three shifts to achieve the production schedule for steadily increasing distribution of Meijer Active hand weights to more stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Since that pilot program, a representative of Meijer said the 10-, 15- , 20- and 25-lb. versions of hand weights have remained hot sellers. Elsewhere in the category, Meijer Active private brand items have surged in sales including in kettlebell weights, yoga mats and other accessories, and the retailer expects to see sales continue to sell at a rate they saw last year when Meijer stores sold nearly 1.5 million pieces of fitness accessories, the representative added.
“This partnership has created a new way for us to pursue opportunities as we enhance our capabilities to fit the reshoring needs of businesses that traditionally work with countries outside the United States,” Great Lakes Castings’ President and CEO Rob Killips said. “The average consumer would not recognize where our castings are used, so we are incredibly proud to step up and manufacture a product that so many people can use.”
Killips said the “Made in Michigan” extension includes product sourcing of all sand used for the molds, which comes from a processing plant in Muskegon, while all the steel poured for the Meijer Active hand weights comes from various regional scrap suppliers. The Great Lakes Casting company is also one of the first foundries in the United States to utilize recycled product and re-use its sand to reduce waste streams.
“Our teams worked tirelessly to create an incredibly short supply chain and that is starting to make a real difference in keeping shelves stocked with fitness equipment,” Schuette said. “This is just another example of how being a good neighbor and seeking local partnerships can benefit communities throughout the Midwest, making Michigan a better place to work, live and — in this case — exercise.”