By Anaridis Rodriguez

MANSFIELD (CBS) — Housed inside a massive Mansfield warehouse is every piece of fitness equipment one could need — except for dumbbells, because amidst a pandemic, even suppliers sell out. This week, you’d be hard pressed to find free weights. Rows of racks sit empty.

“I sold over 61,000 pounds of dumbbells, plates and kettle bells in the last eight weeks,” said Stan Soboleski, operations manager at Fitness Brokers USA.

Based out of Foxboro, the distributor of used fitness equipment is one of the largest in the country. Sales for the supplier would typically be split even between international and domestic clients. But with the coronavirus crisis challenging the supply chain, business is shifting.

“We’ve actually run out of spin bikes. The company that manages our website called us because our website was flooded,” said Darlene Soboleski, a managing partner.

Darlene said the overwhelming demand for equipment underscores the importance of gyms and the role they play in keeping people healthy. In Massachusetts, fitness centers have been ordered closed until at least mid-summer.

An empty rack of fitness equipment at Fitness Brokers USA’s Mansfield warehouse Friday. (WBZ-TV)

“I think what the new norm is going to be is people waiting in line to get into gyms during peak hours,” said Paul Moccia, of Walpole. “Missing machines because they’ll have to space them out. Home gyms are going to be the new norm.”

Moccia, who’s in the market for a seated shoulder press for his home gym, stopped by Fitness Brokers’ warehouse Friday. After searching online, Moccia said they had the most affordable options.

According to market research watchdog IBISWorld, the gym and exercise equipment manufacturing industry generated $2 billion in revenue in 2019. But with most equipment made in China, the COVID-19 crisis disrupted the supply chain. As a result, major retailers are out of stock, and online sellers like Amazon have limited supplies.

Former NFL player Shawn Loiseau owns and runs a nutrition store in his hometown of Shrewsbury. Since gyms have closed, Loiseau is pivoting on the fly and becoming a middle man, buying free weights from wholesalers and selling it online to his customers.

“I’ll promote on social media like ‘Hey everybody I’m coming back to the store with dollar-a-pound kettle bells or dollar-a-pound dumbells,” Loiseau said. “Because on Facebook Marketplace or any other place you could buy fitness equipment, everyone is trying to sell it for three, four bucks a pound.”

As Massachusetts begins its phased reopening, gyms will have to wait to welcome members. Experts predict the demand for equipment will continue and the supply will come in waves.

“Regrettably, in the sense that some clubs are going to have a tough time weathering this storm,” said Fitness Brokers USA co-owner Jim Sullivan. “As a result, there’s going to be an increased supply in the not so distant future.”

Anaridis Rodriguez


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