• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Chattanooga-based fitness equipment maker Echelon navigates slower growth

ByRandall B. Phelps

Apr 22, 2022

Echelon Fitness’s growth has slowed as the pandemic abates and more people return to gyms, and that shift prompted the company to “tweak” some departments, its chief executive said.

Lou Lentine, who founded the Chattanooga-based company and oversaw its rapid growth, said he was still looking to grow the business of Echelon Fitness Multimedia LLC, but declined to give it a number in an email. earlier this week.

“We are working with our retailers and do not yet have a number to share on expected growth as programs are still under review,” he said. “We hope to continue our growth but are watching the market.”

He said Echelon “has made the right size of multiple departments globally,” but also added individuals to specific areas of growth.

The company’s CEO said the private company still had 100 full-time employees in Chattanooga. Company-wide, Echelon has 290 employees, he said.

At a December open house of Echelon’s new two-story downtown Liberty Tower headquarters, Lentine said the company then employed nearly 250 people, about half of them in Chattanooga.

In the first year of the pandemic in 2020, Echelon said its revenue jumped 1,000% as many people stayed away from their offices and other locations. At the end of last year, Lentine predicted the company would grow 42% in 2022.

But Lentine said with people back in gyms, Echelon’s business is currently its fastest growing segment.

“We now have over 3,500 units of our equipment in gyms, apartments and hotels,” he said. “Our business team, members and customer base continue to grow.”

Lentine said Echelon is adapting to “move from a pandemic to an endemic world.”

A key rival, publicly traded Peloton Interactive Inc., reported a second-quarter loss of $439 million in February. That’s on top of a loss of $376 million in the first quarter, according to the company.

John Foley, co-founder and CEO of Peloton at the time, said in a conference call with analysts at the time that the company expanded operations too quickly and overinvested in some areas of the business. Foley also announced that he would take on a new role as executive chairman of the board and that Barry McCarthy would take over as CEO chair.

Peloton also announced in February that it was cutting about 2,800 of its jobs worldwide, including about 20% of its workforce.

Lentine said Echelon, like other companies, is dealing with high gas prices, inflation and an economic downturn.

“We make strategic decisions for what’s best for the business on how to move forward,” he said. “The pandemic has brought enormous growth to Echelon, and we are confident that the future will continue to deliver double-digit profitable growth.”

Lentine said he was “very optimistic” about the future and how Echelon responds to the “ever-growing market for connected home fitness” in addition to its high-growth commercial business.

“We have a lot of exciting opportunities and we can’t wait to share them with the world,” he said. “These future announcements will help us continue to be a leading global brand in connected fitness.”

Lentine launched Echelon in Chattanooga in 2017 and oversaw its rapid rise. Last December, the company announced that it was producing 250 interactive video lessons per week in its studios.

Lentine said the company has grown far beyond offering stationary bikes, selling about half a dozen other types of fitness equipment. He said Echelon’s No. 1 seller by dollar volume is a treadmill.

The New Jersey inventor and serial promoter brought his company Viatek Consumer Products to Chattanooga in 2011. He created Echelon to provide what he called a more affordable stationary bike with the tracking and interactive features of Peloton and d other more expensive rivals.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.