Fitness 2005: SNEWS® picks top stories, reviews the news

In the past few years, SNEWS® has reviewed the year's news at length, perhaps some would say at too much length. (You can't say we don't like detail.) This year, instead of going over every last story by category, we'd like instead to name some top stories. Yeah, yeah, we'll still do a few reviews of certain areas like legal skirmishes and bankruptcies. Enjoy the look-back!
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In the past few years, SNEWS® has reviewed the year's news at length, perhaps some would say at too much length. (You can't say we don't like detail.) This year, instead of going over every last story by category, we'd like instead to name some top stories. Yeah, yeah, we'll still do a few reviews of certain areas like legal skirmishes and bankruptcies.

Why are these stories "top"? Perhaps they meant a lot to the industry as a whole, affected it in some way in a grand scale, or were the kick-off of a company or event doing better…or doing worse. Maybe it was just plain fun or maybe it was a revealing investigation. Whatever its reason, we think you'll like to see the list, in mostly chronological order, and our comments. We bet in a few cases you'll say to yourself, "Oh my gosh, that was just last year?" If you missed it before -- or even if you didn't -- we bet you'll enjoy it now.

The Super Show is up for reassessment -- again and again and again. Seems that headline or something similar kept popping up. We found some version of that story in January, March, June and August. The show owner, the SGMA, waited until 2006 to actually announce it was putting the ailing beast to sleep, so you didn't read that here since we ain't talking 2006. A sampling: "The Super Show up for major reassessment," Jan. 24; and "SGMA digs deep to analyze future of The Super Show," March 23.

Exergaming: A new category we can't ignore. SNEWS®'s GearTrends® magazine analyzed the growing Exergame market in its 2005 issue out in August. Click here to see the coverage if you missed it. What is that? Exercise and games. You know, making exercise fun rather than a drudge? Not a bad idea. We like it. A lot. Something every manufacturer should consider and every retailer should be able to sell. We covered the trend also on March 14, "Exergaming comes of age: Companies, consumers ready to jump on the bandwagon."

Investigations happen, too. Especially when we start hearing from a number of readers raising questions. One issue was about Cap Barbell's relationship -- or not, depending on whom you listen to -- to WarehouseFitness.com. It was a moving target, but we found the bull's eyes. Yes, Cap and Warehouse are related. See our March 28 story, "Questions arise about Cap Barbell's connection with WarehouseFitness.com."

Underhanded business? You decide. In our normal surfing for info, we stumbled onto an oddity -- Superior Fitness had "taken" the names of its competitors on the web and had those URLs pointing to its website. The explanation that URLs were like property and anyone could buy and sell was true, but was it ethical? See our April 18 story, "Superior Fitness buys up potential competitors' web URLs." Then Superior partly fixed it by giving back the URLs of one competitor, but not the other, for reasons that weren't explained to us or we could figure out. That story came out Oct. 17, "Superior returns URLs to competitor Lifestyle, hangs onto Charlotte's."

Everlast licensing the world as we know it. When it announced in early 2005 that it would do exercise equipment licensed from M&M, we wondered who this M & M was. Finally, we tracked it down through business records, license and phone numbers. Mitchell Modell of Modell's. See that story from July 18, "Modell's is the one behind Everlast fitness equipment by 'M & M Fitness.'"

We are fat. That's come up again and again and it still is. In fact, this last year, the venerable American Heart Association actually dedicated an entire issue of research just to the issue of obesity. That was a sad commentary. See our April 27 story, "American Heart Association dedicates entire issue to obesity."

New ways to do specialty business. Although a lot of work to run them well, combinations of retail shops and training studios make a lot of sense. We covered a few who have done it awhile and find it profitable. That story ran May 20, "Thinking out of the specialty fitness box."

Naked yoga? Bet we got your attention. Yes, it exists and we wrote about it on May 31, "New yoga class puts the "oooooo baby" in "ohmmmmm."

From naked yoga to Scooby Doo. Got ya again! We couldn't resist writing about allegedly new fitness gurus. "Unlikely fitness gurus: Ronald McDonald and Scooby Doo?" ran on June 23.

On a more serious note: Life Fitness founder Augie Nieto and Lou Gehrig's disease. Nieto came out and talked quite openly about his diagnosis last year of Lou Gehrig's disease, otherwise known as ALS. We published a personal interview with him on Aug. 19, prior to his IHRSA award: "Augie Nieto discusses life as he cruises toward Life Time Achievement Award." A couple of weeks later (click here), we discovered that his campaign alone had raised $1 million toward research. We applaud what he's done and what he continues to do. You can still help by going to www.als.mdausa.org.

Katrina pounds the Gulf Coast. Then in late August, as folks were getting ready to head home from the Health & Fitness Business Expo in Denver, a fury of a storm was heading toward the coast. It struck the following week, leaving folks barely enough time to batten down, grab their families and head out of town. Both Alpha Fitness and Fitness Expo were pounded and have checked in regularly since early September, including pictures of their devastation. Check our Hurricane Katrina center for the stories and updates.

National ad campaigns 2006 that send consumers to specialty. Nautilus is one company of note that has done some national ad campaigns, but New Balance Fitness Equipment took it a step further, taking ads onto national TV channels such as Oxygen, ESPN and Lifetime. See our Sept. 30 story about New Balance's (Fitness Quest's) campaign worth millions: "New Balance Fitness $2+ million ad campaign directs consumers to specialty dealers"

Cybex CEO John Aglialoro a World Series of Poker champ. Yup, if you didn't know why he's so shrewd, he says it's the poker training and games. We couldn't resist telling you about how he learned it, how much he plays it, how much he's won and how it's taught him business strategizing. That came Dec. 9: "Cybex's John Aglialoro holds all the cards"

Companies promising more of themselves
During any year, there are also manufacturers and suppliers who want to talk to us about new strategies, plans and focus. Among those last year were: Keys Fitness ("Keys Fitness taking big steps to grow business, says to expect more" on Feb. 11), GoFit ("Accessory company GoFit.net to strengthen retail and education focus" on April 18), Bladez Fitness ("Bladez finishing reorganization for news product/sales push" on May 12), and PaceMaster ("PaceMaster readies itself to be more than a small treadmill company" on June 10. In some cases, we saw the results, and in some cases? We're still waiting.

Life Fitness also told us in October it had revamped its corporate structure to birth a new specialty retail division to put more of an emphasis on retail and, especially, specialty. And Body-Solid also was seeing life through the eyes of newly dubbed co-CEOs Stu Glenn and Scott McDonald after co-founder Earl Schraiberg retired. The company was promising a fresh touch in our Oct. 27 story, "Body-Solid poised to grow, promote itself more, think bigger."

Another that professed it was going to make a big splash in 2005 did so, but in a way that it hadn't intended. TKO told us in a story that ran April 25 that it was going to be a brand name and make huge strides in equipment too: "TKO goes for industry 'technical knockout'." But something happened on the way to the big splash. A bit of a belly-flop. The company filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy reorganization in October. Then, in November, although the company wasn't talking, we discovered a trail of business that could have meant the company had been in trouble for much longer than known. Our story ran Nov. 4," TKO's penny-stock offering may have been attempt to avoid bankruptcy." The company's not gone yet though.

Companies in transition: bankruptcies, bye-bye, acquisitions, on the move
We can't begin to name them all and we won't link you to them all, but lookee here: Body Masters files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy reorganization in January and, by fall, its prognosis was looking really good to exit cleanly. Not so for another January filing: The Fitness Experience went belly-up, filing for reorganization, then going quickly to Ch. 7 liquidation. No happy ending here. The company in fact never finished complying with federal and court requirements with its paperwork. Scott Egbert bought a string of TFE stores in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, then passed the Wisconsin stores in a sale to 2nd Wind. Egbert also bought Fitness Showcase's Washington state stores in a deal that closed in early January; he renamed them Precor Home Fitness.

TFC Fitness of Ohio shut its doors and liquidated. G & G Fitness wasted no time moving in. Bodyguard canceled its formerly highly touted Newton strength line. Octane Fitness was acquired by investment group North Castle Partners that emphasises healthy living companies. Icon Health & Fitness sold its spa division to Keys, which immediately revamped it and turns it into a division that brought smiles all around Keys headquarters.

Tunturi parent Accell Fitness was acquired by its distributor Wynne Fitness in Canada and shows a hugely revamped line in August, while retailers report the company is nothing but a pleasure to work with. Dyaco of Taiwan bought out the Hurt Family that founded Spirit Fitness and the company became…different. 2nd Wind took over Fitness Factory in May. And Nautilus bought not only Pearl Izumi but also its Canadian Bowflex distributor.

Busy Body acquired The Fitness Store in Los Angeles, and its parent FHI took over Omni Fitness in the east from Life Fitness. Leisure Fitness acquired Fitness Superstore. Gyms to Go bought Affordable Fitness and Precor's commercial dealer in Florida. Fitcorp acquired the Fitness Headquarters' retail division.

Lamar Health, Fitness & Sport inked a deal with ueber-brand Champion Fitness to supply equipment with the Champion name. With a name like that, what a coup.

Legally speaking…
Oh puu-leeze, do we have to go there? Let's see, Nautilus chased after Icon with lawsuits, Icon chased after Nautilus with lawsuits. Both crowed when they won (and Icon got the upper hand this year when a court dismissed Nautilus' patent infringement suit against Icon. Yes, of course, Nautilus is appealing. What are you ever thinking?).

Cybex lost its patent suit -- worth $2.5 million -- and planned an appeal. The suit began more than three years ago over its so-called Stableflex treadmill deck system. Precor sued Fitness Quest and Sportcraft for patent infringement. And in one settlement out of court -- hallelujah -- Nautilus and Icon settled a second trademark suit over Icon's Crossbar name, which Icon had renamed its Crossbow when that name didn't sit well with Nautilus or the court.  

But wait…
…no, there's not more. There could be. But we can't name a year's worth of news -- literally many many hundreds of pages -- in one story. So you'll have to be satisfied with this teaser, and be sure you never miss another SNEWS®.

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