Where Have All The Kettlebells Gone?
Perhaps the more appropriate question is when will kettlebells be back in stock? If I had to pinpoint a date when the surge for fitness equipment began, March 15th, 2020 is the obvious choice. All of the data and statistics for this website show a huge spike in interest for kettlebells – seemingly overnight. This directly correlates with the national shutdown of gyms and other businesses in the U.S. on that approximate date.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been researching and reaching out to various fitness retailers about their inventory levels for kettlebells. No one seems to have a definitive date as to when consumers will be able to order them again. I can’t help but parody the 1997 Paula Cole song Where Have All The Cowboys Gone in my head. Where are those cast iron bells, where are the steel bells… where have all the kettlebells gone!
The most optimistic timeframe for restocking seems to suggest a shipping date of late April. However, this estimate only includes the extreme sides of the weight spectrum – either super light or super heavy. Those who want the more popular weights of 12, 16, 20, and 24 kg might have to wait until mid-to-late May at best to purchase them.
Why Is It Taking So Long To Restock?
I understand that many companies outsource manufacturing these days overseas. Particularly, in China. I just never realized that when it comes to fitness equipment, especially kettlebells, how dependent the U.S. is on outside production. I could swear I’ve read many brands proclaim that they make their kettlebells proudly in the U.S.A. Surely, with brands like Kettlebells USA that would be the case. Apparently, it isn’t.
This excellent article by GQ contributor Alex Shultz goes into great detail about the obstacles that kettlebell manufacturers are facing. In his article, it really sheds a light on how much America relies on products and goods imported from other nations. Just imagine all the hurdles a company must go through to have a product made outside of and shipped back to their home country during this pandemic.
- Social Distancing: Manufacturing plants and warehouses overseas are practicing their own guidelines for keeping their workers safe. This puts an understandable strain on production as safety should always come first.
- Shipping Protocols: It’s likely that international shipping times are much longer than usual so that proper quarantine and sanitizaton methods are followed.
- Trade War/Blood Bad: Ever since Trump took office there’s been a pushback against China for unfair trade practices. Politics aside, the U.S. and China are not on good terms currently and this could only further complicate matters.
Now, I’m not trying to stoke a debate on the good and evil on overseas manufacturing. I’m merely observing and commenting as things unfold. I’m sure there’s a lot of ignorance on my part on just how involved it is to make a kettlebell. When I look at a solid piece of iron I think to myself, “That should be relatively easy enough to produce than say an iPhone”.
For a little more insight, let me refer back to that GQ article. One of the key takeaways from that piece is the disconnect between kettlebell manufacturers and American foundries. It would appear that these two industries are also not on good terms when it comes to compensation for production. Although Rogue Fitness, one of the premier fitness equipment manufacturers in the U.S, has struck some sort of deal with one such foundry.
The above Facebook post is from Cumberland Foundry back on April 2nd. That’s certainly encouraging news but as noted in the GQ article, they can only produce some 40 to 50 kettlebells every day. Obviously demand is much much higher than that and perhaps the kettlebells that Cumberland Foundry makes will be used just to fulfill backorders. Still, credit is deserved for their effort in jumping into unfamiliar territory so quickly.
Beware Of Kettlebell Price Gouging
There are always some individuals eager to take advantage of a bad situation. I’m not talking about the people who are selling their used kettlebells above fair value. Hey, that’s supply and demand, I get it. However, when you’re selling a stash of new kettlebells nearly twice their value, that’s just not right in my opinion.
I find it similar to the folks who buy toilet paper, sanitizer, and other household items that are rare these days. The ever elusive 35 lb kettlebell (16 kg) might as well be declared an endangered species at this point. I can’t find any new ones for sale anywhere, except on eBay.
If you absolutely must have one, there are some still strencor 16kg/35lb powder coat kettlebells available for $124.99. The inventory does fluctuate between “sold out” and replenished so check back regularly. Normally, the price range for powder coat kettlebells in that size is anywhere between $50 and $70. At least shipping is including, and honestly, the seller could have jacked up the price even further.
Each day I’ve been checking kettlebells on Amazon sorted by newly listed. The prices listed for 4 – 12 kg kettlebells from these mostly random letter unknown brands are obscene. $200, $300, even $400 dollars and the real kicker is that they all say that shipping won’t happen until late May. Yet, I’m sure that those who are impatient and unfamiliar will purchase them. Please don’t be one of those people.
Getting Kettlebells Outside Of The U.S.
I’m oblivious to the availability of kettlebells in other countries. What’s it like in the kettlebell homeland of Russia? What about the UK? I’d really like to know if this shortage is worldwide or primarily with countries that depend on outsourcing. Feel free to leave a comment below detailing your situation.
Also, I’d like to reiterate that my goal here is not to bash these manufacturers who outsource. It’s easy to point fingers when you don’t have all the information. I’ve developed many relationships and affiliations with reputable brands and can say first hand that quality and customer satisfaction is very important to them. Any retailer that would like to expand on this situation may also comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Kettlebell Kings Chimes In
Almost immediately after sharing this post on my Instagram account, I received a message from Kettlebell Kings asking if they could answer any questions. Being a big fan of the brand and owning a pair of their 16 kg kettlebells as well as a fitness edition kettlebell, I was very appreciative of the offer. So I contacted Kettlebell Kings co-founder Jay Perkins via email regarding production, logistics, and inventory.
The email I received back from Jay was a long and detailed overview of the challenges his company (and others) are faced with production here in the U.S. In short, there are a lot of expensive upfront costs before production even begins. After those initial costs, a deal must be struck with a foundry to make it worthwhile for both parties. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right? That’s what I thought…
It turns out, foundries have quite the bit of leverage and power. Think about it – 90 percent of all manufactured goods rely on metal castings. The demand for auto parts with metal castings alone probably results in a good amount of business for foundries. Why would they be interested in making kettlebells with strict weight guidelines? Even with demand for kettlebells at an all-time high there is no guarantee it will last for months, years, and longer.
Jay did relay a bit of good news and informed me that there are a few large shipments of kettlebells in transit currently. He expects that pre-orders will start next week for Kettlebell Kings inventory with several thousand kettlebells on their way. Will this be enough to satisfy demand? Time will tell. They’re at the mercy of federal and state guidelines and whether gyms will stay closed through May, June, or beyond.