SILVER SPRING, MD — The first members of the Association for Fitness Industry Retailers & Manufacturers (AFIRM) are on board after agreeing to meet the trade association's 10 standards.

Last month, the association announced 17 manufacturers had joined, and Chuck Leve, executive director, anticipates at least 30 members by March.

To become members, manufacturers must agree to standards that include refraining from illegal activities and deceptive sales practices while conforming to all relevant laws and regulations, supporting programs to expand awareness of the benefits of regular exercise and sports, and responding to and endeavoring to resolve within 60 days any consumer complaints made about the company to any agency.

Leve says the group plans to have a direct impact on how business is conducted in the industry. It will work to ensure more timely deliveries and more efficient/higher-quality installation, address fitness industry issues, raise revenue and reduce expenses on behalf of its members, lobby Congress for pro-fitness legislation and develop research. The group also plans to secure efficiencies along the chain of commerce in the fitness industry.

“Where we see weak links in that chain, we will develop programs to strengthen those links,” Leve says. “Where we see gaps in the chain, we will develop programs to bridge those gaps.”

The first 17 members are: Technogym, IronGrip, Cybex, Star Trac, Johnson HealthTech/Matrix, Icon/FreeMotion Fitness, TAG Fitness, Sportsmith, SportsArt, Madd Dogg Athletics, VersaClimber, World Sales Alliance, Dynastream, Lifeline International, Polar, True Fitness and GP Industries

Some of these members are part of the Small Business Division, which consists of companies with revenue of less than $2 million per year. Membership in the Small Business Division costs $1,250, but membership for the larger manufacturers is based on a sliding scale depending on gross revenues, Leve says.

“We believe the manufacturers are the industry's common denominator and that their role in industry decisions has been restricted over the years because they have not been organized and, thus, could not speak with a unified voice,” Leve says. “Now, they can and they will through AFIRM.”

Leve says that the efforts could possibly lead to lower prices for club operators, too.