US web retailer pumps EU distribution as gym community swells

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bodybuilding.com tries to harness online energy of the gym community - but how does it handle the 'dark side' of this?
Bodybuilding.com tries to harness online energy of the gym community - but how does it handle the 'dark side' of this?

Related tags: European union, Bodybuilding, Uk, Us

US site Bodybuilding.com has opened its first UK distribution centre to better cater to its customer base in Europe - part of a community that includes 25 million unique visitors to its websites each month.

The opening means the Idaho-based firm can now offer UK customers next day delivery, 2-3 day delivery to EU customers and free delivery to orders over a certain amount.

It called the new Dunstable facility in Bedfordshire a “leap forward”​ in its international plans.

Previously the company served the EU through a third party warehouse in the Netherlands.

Andrew Ivers, the firm’s new senior EU marketing communications manager, said this had meant orders from the region were dealt with by the Dutch or US base and delivery of large orders could be split by about a week’s wait.

“The experience for customers was poor. We have an amazing site and do lots of things to ‘wow’ our customers like nice boxes, free samples, free magazines, free online content. But then we were letting them down with the UK service,”​ he told us.

The company was getting 1,500 orders a week from the UK, although Ivers was unable to give details of how this compared to the rest of Europe or globally.

A larger facility meant it had more room for stock. UK customers now had access to 6,000 products compared to 3,000 previously. The aim was to match the 13,500 available to US customers within 18 months.

Ivers said Australia and Canada would be likely picks for future distribution centres. However, production of its own brand products would remain in the US for now.

Dark & light: Inside the bodybuilding fitness community

Founded in 1999, the company’s site now provides 34,000 pages of free information on things like training programmes through videos and articles. It describes its online platform BodySpace as the fitness version of Facebook.

The company claims its site receives 25 million unique visitors per month.

Ivers said the online bodybuilding and fitness community already consisted of hundreds of forums and its services sought to harness this energy and interest.

Asked how the company dealt with the ‘darker side’ of online body building communities, he said: “There are some threads on there where you think: ‘Oh God.’ We do moderate but we try to stay out where we can because it is in a community spirit.”

A search of widely banned stimulant ‘DMAA’ reveals 81 threads with the illegal stimulant mentioned for example.

While it’s worth noting that some of these conversations were looking for advice on the safety of the ingredients, others were less innocent.

One such thread from last week listed pre-workout ingredients the user was considering buying in bulk, including 250 mg of DMAA. User 'Jack3dDeude' appeared to be banned from the site yet his contribution was still visible.

In another thread an active user says the reasoning for the ban is “absolutely inadequate” ​and asks where he can buy it now it has been removed from shelves. Another member replies: “The raw stuff is harder to find but some sites and stores still have lists / categories of products with it still available. PM [private message] me if you can't find one.”

Background

DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine/methylhexaneamine) has been linked to narrowing of the arteries, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, heart attacks, psychiatric disorders and cerebral haemorrhage.

Used largely as a pre-workout ingredient, it was blamed for the death of a UK marathon runner back in 2012 and was found in the bloodstreams of US soldiers after their death​.

It has been banned or warned against in many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.

The ins and the outs

Manufacturer USPlabs was one of those pinpointed in the DMAA scandal​ and was also implicated in its use of an ingredient called aegeline, which was linked to a fatal outbreak​ of non-viral hepatitis in Hawaii. Its Jack3D and OxyElite products have now been reformulated without DMAA and aegeline.

jack3d
The reformulated Jack3d now legally sold on Bodybuilding.com. 

Bodybuidling.com sells USPlabs products including the reformulated Jack3D range.

With such contention surrounding the body building world, we asked whether the retailer would ever consider blacklisting a brand.

Could it be that there was so much controversy around a manufacturer that Bodybuilding.com would remove all of that brand’s products regardless of their individual status?

Ivers said: “If we can tick all of the boxes and the product is 100% compliant and the customers want it, then that for us is good.”

He said it was about the product, not the brand and it had in the past requested labelling and other changes before accepting stock.

“We have a team of guys for regulatory compliance. We’re a global company so we’ve got to be on top of that. We don’t just sell anyone. We don’t take shortcuts.”

Bodybuidling.com is a member of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's (ESSNA).

It opened the facility with a £10,000 (€13,780) donation to military charity Help for Heroes. 

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