When the pandemic hit, Meijer saw fitness equipment such as kettlebells, hand weights and dumbbells fly off its shelves as fitness centers across the nation shuttered and many Americans began a quest to build their home gyms.
To bolster supply and address the more than 300% increase in demand its stores were seeing for fitness equipment, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer saw an opportunity to partner with a local company to manufacture hand weights for its Meijer Active brand. "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 solution,” said Scott Schuette, team sports and fitness buyer for Meijer, in a release.
Read on to learn how Meijer and Great Lakes Castings in Ludington, Mich., worked together to replenish the retailer’s stock.
From Spring to Summer
Planning with Great Lakes Castings began in the spring, and was quickly followed by engineering 3D mold patterns, sourcing local materials and beginning the process of pouring test designs at its Northern Michigan foundry.
By August, the partnership added Grand Haven Power Coating to the finishing process and piloted a program at 14 Grand Rapids-area stores.The entire stock of more than 500 cast iron hand weights sold out in 10 days, Meijer said.
Made in Michigan
Great Lakes Castings President and CEO Rob Killips said in a release that 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.
Shifting for Demand
Great Lakes Casting and Grand Haven Power Coating expanded 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.
"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," 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."
1.5 Million Sold
The complete line of Meijer Active hand weights is now available at Meijer supercenters in 10-, 15- , 20- and 25-pound weights. In 2020, Meijer said it sold nearly 1.5 million pieces of fitness accessories, and expects the trend to continue this year.
"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," said Schuette of Meijer. "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."