|Founder||Edward Pauls, Chaska MN USA|
|Owner||Icon Health & Fitness|
NordicTrack is a manufacturer of exercise equipment, best known for its classic Nordic ski machine, low-impact exercisers, ellipticals, and incline trainers. The brand is owned and managed by ICON Health & Fitness and is headquartered in Logan, Utah. The company has been manufacturing exercise equipment since 1975.
Founding - 1970s
NordicTrack was founded by Edward and Florence Pauls in 1975, when Ed invented the original NordicTrack ski machine in his garage in Chaska, Minnesota, in an effort to train for the local VJC cross-country ski race. Ed was an engineer, usually got home after dark, and was motivated to beat his Swedish friend in the race. At the time, Ed and Flo were making the Flip Ski (a crutch ski used by leg-handicapped downhill skiers) as a part-time mail order business in their basement. Several of their first machines were branded "Nordic Jock", as their original market was anticipated to be college ski racers. A cardiologist contacted the Pauls and told them that this machine was the best cardio exerciser he had ever seen. The product's name was changed to NordicTrack.
The company was moved to the Jonathan industrial park in Chaska, where it first rented and later built a number of buildings for manufacturing, mail and phone sales, and warehousing. The sales concept was mail-order.
Ads were placed in high-end intellectual magazines, including Smithsonian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. The ads were different in that they were mostly script explaining the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, and usually a small picture of the machine being used. In 1975 exercise was not "in" yet. A large amount of effort was needed to sell the machines, through explaining why the customer needed one, and how one's life could be longer and better with regular exercise. So much writing was done in these ads that it became the largest single promotion of the sport of cross-country skiing itself, and actually had a great deal to do with cross-country's popularity to this day.
The company was built and operated on the cash-and carry basis, and no money was ever borrowed during the Pauls ownership from 1975 to 1986.
In the new era of out-sourcing manufacturing (the 1980s), the Pauls family, having a mechanical background, chose to manufacture the machines in-house. From the start, machines were built one at a time on special benches. The company later moved to an assembly line that could put out several thousand units a day. From the start, the woodworking, varnishing, welding, machining, sewing, assembly, packaging, advertising, mailing and sales were all done in-house, mostly by local Chaska residents who were trained by NordicTrack for their specific jobs. As sales grew, more specialized automated procedures were brought in. A UV-varnish conveyor line, full powder coat paint line, robotic welders, two level assembly lines, and a full printing operation and bulk mailing facility were added.
The use of the new VHS video technology was pioneered as a way to show the new buyer during the 30-day trial period how to use this somewhat difficult machine he had just unboxed at home. A NordicTrack ski machine takes the average person some time to learn; like a bicycle, it takes balance and coordination to operate, thus providing a very effective exercise. The advent of disposable VHS tapes helped to teach and prove to the new owner that this thing worked. This is why the ski machine has never sold well in stores; people were embarrassed to fumble in public, whereas at home with the video, they mastered it in short order. The 30-day returns dropped drastically after the video addition.[original research?]
The NordicTrack was shipped in two boxes and was designed to just squeak under the 40# UPS weight limit. In 1975 United Parcel Service changed from a limited-destination to a full national and international shipping company. Both companies grew and benefited from the daily truckloads of exercisers rolling out.
Around 1984 Ed and Flo decided that it was time to move on, as they were getting older and managing a new startup takes a whole different personalty than managing a name-brand, multi-national corporation.
In 1986 NordicTrack was sold to CML corporation, which moved operations out of Chaska, opened retail stores nationally, went heavily into the new marketing medium of infomercials, began making and selling almost every other type of exerciser they had advertised against, and even started a short-lived restaurant chain, all to take advantage of the huge name recognition. After years of retail overhead, expensive marketing, and market confusion from the variety of machines now all sold as the best, CML's NordicTrack was a bloated multi-national. It couldn't stay ahead of its spending, closed its 300+ retail stores, and filed bankruptcy in 1998. CML had bought up a number of successful mom and pop startup companies during the 80s, most of which didn't last much into the 90s.
In 1998, Icon Health & Fitness acquired NordicTrack. Since then, NordicTrack has thrived and the company continues to manufacture their classic skier, but this model is declining in popularity. NordicTrack treadmills are the top-selling brand worldwide. They also carry a full line of elliptical trainers and exercise bikes. In 2009, NordicTrack pioneered the incline trainer, a specialty treadmill that can reach an incline of up to 40%. These are some of their most popular machines today.
In 2017, Consumer Reports gave NordicTrack one of their models a Best Buy and three models received a Recommended rating.
Two NordicTrack products received the Consumer Reports Recommended Buy awards, and two NordicTrack treadmills received Best Buy awards in 2016.
- NordicTrack C1650 (2017)
- NordicTrack Elite9700 Pro (2016)
- NordicTrack 790 Pro (2016)
- NordicTrack C970 (2017)
- NordicTrack C990 (2017)
- NordicTrack Sport 7.5 (2017)
- NordicTrack Commercial 1750 (2016)
- NordicTrack C1650 (2016)
- Pederson, Jay P (2001). International Directory of Company Histories. 38. St. James Press. ISBN 978-1558624436. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
- "Treadmill Ratings". Consumer Reports. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
- "Treadmill Buying Guide". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 2016-01-22.