Busy Body CA still busy: buys Exercise Equipment of Nevada

After a couple of months of negotiations, Busy Body of California has added the Reno, Nev.-based, three-store chain, Exercise Equipment of Nevada, to its roster -- increasing its total store count to 56.
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After a couple of months of negotiations, Busy Body of California has added the Reno, Nev.-based, three-store chain, Exercise Equipment of Nevada, to its roster -- increasing its total store count to 56.

"We're staying busy," Kenton Van Harten, COO and president of Fitness Holdings International (FHI) dba Busy Body Home Fitness, told SNEWS®. "They were the Precor dealer in those markets, and we were looking to expand in those markets. It just sort of made sense."

The deal closed the last week of May. Financial details remained confidential.

Exercise Equipment of Nevada (EEN) has stores in Reno and Las Vegas, as well as in Fresno, Calif. The chain began in 1992 and now carries Precor, Vision Fitness, Life Fitness, Vectra and Parabody.

EEN owner Phil Huddleston was out-of-town and unavailable for comment before deadline.

The Nevada chain (www.exercise-equipment.com) already answers its phones and has outgoing voicemail messages that identify it as Busy Body Home Fitness. Van Harten said that the stores will keep their EEN signs and slowly add Busy Body signage and identification over the next six to 12 months, as its other acquisitions in the last eight months are doing.

When SNEWS® covered FHI's last acquisition in early May of Denver, Colo.-based, All About Fitness (see story May 3), Van Harten said he expected the company to be close to 60 stores "by the busy season." Some of that growth may be organic, it seems, since he now tells SNEWS® the company expects to open two of its own stores in the Las Vegas area and another in Fremont in Northern California, quite soon. He said it is also looking for a couple of spaces in Southern California.

We also asked about any plans in other areas where the company may not have as much geographic coverage, such as Utah or Oregon. "No immediate plans for Utah," Van Harten said. "No immediate plans for Oregon."

With the acquisition race in full sprint since last year, he said some stores have even contacted FHI to broach being bought.

"We're going to focus on getting all these behind us," he said. "We're just looking at staying with what we wanted to be, the dominant player on the West Coast.

"If there's a good opportunity," Van Harten said, "we look at it."

FHI announced on April 29 its acquisition of All About Fitness, with nine stores in Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. In mid-November 2003, the company purchased nine Hoist Fitness-owned Fitness Warehouse stores in the San Diego, Calif., area, and in early October 2003, FHI purchased the 17 West Coast stores owned by Omni Fitness (a Life Fitness company). With various realignments and a few openings and closings, the company was at 44 before the All About Fitness deal. With that April deal, Busy Body Home Fitness grew to 53, which was three more than previous largest national dealer, Midwest-focused retailer The Fitness Experience, which is down from 55 to 50 in the last few months.

Based in Southern California, Busy Body (www.busybody.com) is run by Fitness Holdings International with Brian McDermott as chairman. McDermott and Van Harten are also partners in Hancock Park. FHI had purchased 16 of the former Busy Body stores in the former chain's 2001 bankruptcy -- as well as the rights to the name in the Western region. Van Harten has said they are aware of the mistakes made by former Busy Body before its bankruptcy and FHI won't overpay or take unnecessary risks.

SNEWS® View: In early May, after the All About Fitness purchase, we speculated that one market Busy Body would hit up next would be Nevada. Well, howdy-do-de, lookee here. Of course, we suppose that was a bit of a no-brainer with so many players looking to move into that high-growth area, and what it came down to was getting there first, as well as of course doing it right. In regard to rocket-fire growth, FHI seems to be aware of rocks and pits in the road, but man this is moving fast. This latest move is closing in on tripling Busy Body's store count in eight months -- from some 22 last October before the Omni purchase to today's 56, with closer to 60 to be flying under the Busy Body flag very soon. The problem, however, builds for the small guys and regional players since one mondo Western U.S. retailer locks up cornerstone brands in a lot of markets, and we hear time and time again how difficult it is to make it in retail without at least one major brand. Stay tuned for additional movement in the specialty retail market, with East reaching toward West and Midwest changes too. By 2005, we could indeed have an entirely new face.

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