Bladez Fitness finishing reorganization for next product/sales push

Saying its ready to take itself to the next level with a full product line, Bladez has reorganized nearly from top to bottom with management changes as it readies to roll out another level of equipment and has put together a new sales structure.
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Saying its ready to take itself to the next level with a full product line, Bladez has reorganized nearly from top to bottom with management changes as it readies to roll out another level of equipment and has put together a new sales structure.

"Come Denver, we'll be a serious company with a lot of new and exciting products," Frank Finn, Bladez founder and co-owner, told SNEWS®, referring to the Health & Fitness Business specialty-focused show in August. "We're looking forward to this year, adding some big box accounts in the general merchandise and sporting goods areas."

Management changes include Finn, co-owner with manufacturer Hans Huang from DK City, who is now president as well as vice president of sales and marketing. John Coyle, formerly the company's Eastern regional sales rep, is now the director of fitness, replacing founding director of fitness Kris Reibel.

Steve Wilkins, formerly CFO, is now CEO and will likely continue with CFO duties, Finn said. John Galasso, who was national sales manager for all of Bladez' divisions, is now the Western regional sales rep for fitness, while John Hinkel, who was heading up Midwestern sales for all divisions, has taken over Coyle's Eastern area and will focus on fitness. That drops the company's reps from four to two, who will split the country in half and work with independent rep groups.  

"There's been a little shuffle on the corporate management side," Coyle told SNEWS®. "It's about using the talents of people most effectively."

Launched in the United States with bright blue treadmills at the Denver show in August 2003, Bladez' fitness division is only one part of the company (www.ebladez.com). Owner/manufacturer DK City is an exporter of everything from homecare products such as beds and sofas, to scooters and dirt bikes, as well as reclining chairs. Its main export markets, according to its website (www.dkcity.com), are the United States and Japan, which together account for 90 percent of sales. The company, with a company motto of "produce only that which you would yourself purchase," has four plants in Taichung, Taiwan, with a total of 430,000 square feet and one plant in Shanghai City, China, with 1 million square feet.

DK City actually began making fitness equipment in 1975, going back to the AB Roller, and has made equipment for companies such as Fitness Quest, including the Total Gym and Torso Track, as well as indoor cycling bikes for the Japanese market, its website states.

Coyle, who has worked with Bodyguard and Landice, said the new structure will benefit the push into fitness.

"Specialty fitness needs a dedicated sales staff," Coyle said.

Both he and Finn said they look forward to a big splash of equipment and technology -- some of which was shown behind closed doors at The Super Show in January. The entertainment product with large TV screens will get its first public showing in Denver, as will its ellipticals with LCD TVs.

"We know we can't just be a treadmill company," Finn said, saying it's taken a couple of years to work up to this point. "That'll be a big difference for us -- being a full-line cardio company."

The company's higher-end specialty line will continue to be Bladez, while its second-tier specialty line will be Power Trainer. Coyle said its soon-to-be-out sporting goods line will be Ion by Bladez.

"We're not going away," Coyle said, answering rumors that some stores were dropping the line and the reorganization meant the company had problems. "When we get to Denver, it'll be apparent where we're going as a company. I'm more exited about Bladez for the future than ever before."

SNEWS® View: Bladez had some really outstanding product behind doors at The Super Show that could make a good hit -- if it can get over the customer service, product development and delivery issues we hear from retailers the nascent company has struggled a bit with. The reorg that hit nearly all levels seems to indicate the company has recognized it needed to take a hard look at the way it was moving to be able to become the success it could. It does have big plans for its future.

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