Busy Body snaps up Fitness Warehouse, grows to 48

Busy Body Home Fitness is on a roll. With the ink barely dry on its acquisition of the 17 West Coast stores of Omni Fitness last month, the West Coast retail stronghold has nabbed the nine San Diego, Calif., area Fitness Warehouse stores, founded and formerly owned by Hoist Fitness.

Busy Body Home Fitness is on a roll. With the ink barely dry on its acquisition of the 17 West Coast stores of Omni Fitness last month, the West Coast retail stronghold has nabbed the nine San Diego, Calif., area Fitness Warehouse stores, founded and formerly owned by Hoist Fitness.

That deal, sealed late Nov. 6, takes Busy Body of California's store count to 48, making it the second-largest retailer in the United States based on storefronts. It has now surpassed 43-store Omni Fitness in the East and is only a breath behind The Fitness Experience in the Midwest with 55 stores.

The expansion also confirms the intent of the retailer to become "the dominant dealer on the West Coast," as it told SNEWS when it bought the Omni stores in October. At that time, Kenton Van Harten, Busy Body president and COO, told us, "I wouldn't say we're done."

Hoist CEO Jeff Partrick told SNEWS the company wasn't actively looking but the opportunity came up and was being discussed over the last few weeks. Busy Body had already been a Hoist customer. Details of the deal, including purchase price, were not disclosed. Busy Body officials weren't available for comment by deadline.

"This allows us to focus more on our manufacturing," Partrick said. "Our stores were doing very well, but we have so much going on. This allows us to focus on our core competency."

Hoist and retail have been synonymous nearly since the company's birth in 1977. Partners and founders Randy Webber and Roger Cloyd opened their first store in 1978, a small space in the front of their garage-sized manufacturing area. Now, the company has 135,000 square feet in San Diego.

By Nov. 10, Fitness Warehouse stores were already answering their telephones with "Busy Body;" the Busy Body corporate phone system in the last couple of weeks has changed its voicemail to say it is "leading the west United States in sales of quality home fitness equipment," updated from its pre-Omni purchase message of "selling exercise equipment in California, Colorado and Arizona."

Based in Southern California, Busy Body is run by Fitness Holdings International with Brian McDermott as chairman of the board and CEO. It 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 -- then closed two and added seven stores. It was scheduled to open another store in Denver this month -- what would have been its 39th.

SNEWS View: The three-strong regional lock on the U.S. specialty fitness arena begins to get more interesting -- Busy Body is the west, TFE is the Midwest and Omni is the East. Although Van Harten said in October the company's "hands are full for now," the definition of "for now" is up for grabs with this purchase being sealed only about five weeks after the other. We wouldn't be surprised if another acquisition were to happen in the next few months to make Busy Body THE No. 1 retailer in the United States. As we said before, these three dominating regionally don't mean other independents or smaller chains aren't doing a grand job. They certainly are. But they also have their work cut out for them to keep customers coming, get the brands they want or need, and offer the prices desired when these three alone now account for 146 total stores in 17 states. This divisional domination of the country makes tons of sense since each one has customers that are somewhat different in needs and preferences. We just hope it doesn't push out the mom-and-pops.


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