Fitness: Did you hear?...

Kettler founder Heinz Kettler dies at 78, first-ever ispo China trade show attracts 13,000, lawsuit filed against Curves' founder, GoFit and Athletes' Performance team up, plus much more...
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For the week of March 22-28

>> GERMANY -- Kettler founder Heinz Kettler has passed away a month before his 79th birthday. He founded Kettler in his hometown of Ense Parsit in 1949 and it still remains in the family's hands. He is survived by his wife, Inge, and his daughter, Karin, who is Kettler CEO. USA Sales Manager Ludger Busche sent this in a memo to its dealer here when Kettler passed away in early March: "Several of you have had the opportunity and privilege of meeting Mr. Kettler personally and experienced what has made our company, the company it is today. With creativity, a spirit of innovation as well as dedication and human warmth in over 55 years of work, he built up a world wide, well-known group of companies. We owe him a debt of gratitude, and will always keep him in kind remembrance. His lifework will be continued as he would have wished. To me personally, he has been a great inspiration which will continue to live on in my heart forever." The family has asked that anyone interested can, in lieu of flowers, send monetary donations to the Sports Association of Athletes with Disabilities Fund, Commerzbank AG Dortmund, account # 3509007 (Bank code = BLZ 44040037, SWIFT COBA DE FF 440), please mention "Deutscher Behinderten Sportverband e.V." Busche said his last conversation with the founder was about two weeks before his death and he was told, "Continue what you are doing and continue to do it right."

>> In the Nautilus vs. Icon infringement lawsuit pending jury trial in the U.S. District Court, Washington, the trial date has been once again reset, this time to June 20-22 and June 28-30 and continued as needed July 5-7 before Judge Ricardo Martinez. The split schedule is due to family conflicts by an attorney.

>> CHINA -- More than 13,000 attendees came to the Shanghai New International Expo Center for the first ispo China trade show March 14-17, where nearly 150 companies featured sports equipment and sportswear collections in six categories including fitness and wellness. Trade show management said that approximately two-thirds of the trade visitors came from China, while the other third largely came from the countries neighboring China. Asia is currently the third largest market for sports equipment and sportswear following the United States and Europe, and the China show represents an expansion of Messe Munich's event portfolio. The company's headline sporting goods events are the ispo winter and summer trade shows in Germany. "Our 'brands only' concept was oriented exclusively to internationally active brands. Consequently, ispo china represents the first meeting place for international sports brands and professional retailers in the Asia-Pacific region and makes exchanges of information about high quality brand products possible for the first time," said Manfred Wutzlhofer, CEO of Messe Munich GmbH. Among the special events that drew interest were the W.L. Gore-sponsored retail conference, which provided retailers with information about stock and order management, marketing and use of staff, and a seminar by trend-and-color forecaster Promostyl. The last day of the show was open to the public, but ispo management said a large number of trade visitors were still working into the afternoon. ispo china 06 is scheduled March 13-16, 2006, at the Shanghai New International Expo Center in China.

>> All is not hunky-dory on the Curves front: Seven former friends and associates of Curves are suing Gary Heavin, the founder of Curves International fitness clubs, for more than $20 million, according to an AP report. In the lawsuit filed this month in state district court in Waco, Texas, the plaintiffs allege they quit their jobs, mortgaged homes, maxed out credit cards and slept in their cars to help Heavin launch Curves in the early years on the promise he would share the wealth once the company took off, it said. Instead, they claim, Heavin "changed the rules" and forced them to accept a fraction of the proceeds he promised them at the risk of being fired. The lawsuit names Heavin and company attorney Roger Schmidt as defendants. According to the suit, Heavin turned to the plaintiffs and others when he was beginning to sell his Curves franchises and promised them that if they were willing to take a risk and invest their own time and money, he would reward them for their efforts. "Heavin told plaintiffs that he was a committed Christian, that he conducted his business based on biblical principles of honesty and integrity and that he would never try to cheat them," the suit said. A Curves spokesperson told the AP that the lawsuit is baseless.

>> Coordinated by IHRSA and sponsored by Life Fitness, the "I Lost It at the Club" weight loss challenge signed up 600 clubs to participate and tallied 25,587 pounds lost from the 125 clubs that submitted results. The in-club weight-loss challenge ran from Jan. 10 to March 4 and more than 6,500 members participated. To qualify, clubs had to sign up a minimum of 10 members in the program, and the objective was to lose the most weight per average number of participants. The three clubs that lost the most average weight per participant, and one participating club chosen through a random drawing, each will receive a Life Fitness 95Xi total-body elliptical cross-trainer. Coming in first place was Sculpt Fitness, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., whose 11 participants lost a total of 193 pounds, with an average weight loss per participant of 17.54 pounds. Second place honors went to J.R.'s It Figures! in Urbana, Ohio, where 17 participants lost a total of 186 pounds, with an average weight loss per participant of 10.94 pounds. Placing third was The Gym Health and Fitness Center in Middletown, Del. This club's 10-member team lost a total of 104 pounds, with an average weight loss per participant of 10.4 pounds. Each club won a Life Fitness 95Xi total-body elliptical cross-trainer, and in a random drawing, Broadstone Racquet Club in Folsom, Calif., also received a machine. Also, Rochester Athletic Club in Rochester, Minn., signed up the most participants -- 446 -- while Motion Fitness & Racquet Club in New Berlin, Wis., lost the most weight -- 1,445 pounds.

>> Using data from the U.S Commerce Department, SGMA International said the dollar value of sporting goods and athletic footwear exported from the United States increased by 5.6 percent in 2004,with exercise equipment topping the list. Exports increased by 9.7 percent in 2003, and have risen four of the past five years. The total declared value of U.S. sporting goods exports for 2004 was $2.107 billion compared with $1.996 billion for 2003. Comparing 2004 with 2003, total sporting goods equipment exports increased by 7.1 percent, and athletic footwear fell by 17.7 percent. The total dollar value of the 16 sports equipment categories was $2.002 billion compared with $1.869 billion in 2003. Total athletic footwear import dollar value totaled $104.5 million compared with $127 million in 2003. The gym/exercise equipment category topped the growth list with a rise of 25.1 percent.

>> Go-Fit, maker of hand-held fitness products, is teaming up with Athletes' Performance trainers to package its products together. Go-Fit will include a DVD training program, developed by Athletes' Performance, with a select line of its training products. In April, Go-Fit will also introduce a line of sport-specific DVD training programs developed by Athletes' Performance and sold via direct response. In addition to the DVD programs, Go-Fit and Athletes' Performance plan to create a new line of fitness and training products under the name of Go-Fit Sport.

>> You don't have to be 21 to have a fitness success story. NIHSeniorHealth.gov, a U.S. government website for older adults that provides health information, is looking to feature exercise stories of adults 60 years and older. The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), developed the website, which reaches more than 3 million. To get a form for someone you know or to learn more, contact Colinmilner@icaa.cc.

>> Everlast Worldwide has entered into a licensing agreement with New York City-based GoodTimes Entertainment, a multimedia consumer product marketing company, for the development of a line of branded fitness videos to be sold individually and combined with fitness-related ancillary products. Everlast's CEO George Q Horowitz said the partnership allows the company to expand its product offerings within the fitness marketplace, one of its single most important categories.

>> Gold's Gym International has reworked its franchising program with several new appointments. Keith Albright has been named as senior vice president of franchising, overseeing all franchising operations. Joel Tallman, formerly vice president of franchising, has been promoted to vice president of U.S. franchising, partnering with Luis Campalans, who will spearhead international franchising operations as vice president of international franchising. Kay Corio, who previously held the position of vice president of franchising, has been promoted to vice president of franchise communications. Also, the franchising division has introduced three new regional field managers: Chris Finch, Northwest field manager; Steve Nohns, Midwest field manager; and Anna Welsh, Northeast field manager. They will join Mic McCulley and Rich Thomas, who will serve the Southwest and Southeast regions, respectively. Each field manager will provide hands on franchisee support to their local region.

>> Fifty-nine percent of online consumers begin their shopping searches on aggregator sites -- such as search engines, comparison shopping sites, shopping portals and auctions sites -- rather than at merchant sites, according to a report conducted by BizRate Research on behalf of Shopzilla. That's a 13 percent increase since late 2002 and an upward trend that Shopzilla said it expects will continue. A contributor to the growth is the amount of price comparison available on the web. The survey found approximately 87 percent of online shoppers compare online retail offers with catalog merchants and retail stores to find the best price. Roughly 71 percent said they were able to find better sales and discount offers online than with offline retailer or catalog merchants. Search engines are the most popular type of aggregator used by online shoppers, with 54 percent of the market, followed by comparison shopping sites at 24 percent. Auction sites and shopping portals draw less than 15 percent of traffic. The survey also found that 34 percent of online shoppers said they buy the same brand "most of the time" when shopping online, 62 percent reported buying the same brand "some of the time," and about 1 percent said they "always" buy the same brand.

>> Since it's still Marshmallow Peep season for those out there who are Peep fans (and we know there are a lot of them since there is a fan club at www.marshmallowpeeps.com -- no, really, we didn't make this up), we thought we'd share the fact there is apparently a surplus of Peeps this year. So here are a couple of suggestions of what you can do with them. We did not make these up, either, mind you: Dress them up in cute little outfits -- little sequined hats, tiny tuxedos -- and then put them in the microwave oven and watch them puff up. Conduct peep experiments; discover a few by going to www.peepresearch.org that outlines some ideas anyone can try, for example, what happens when you expose a Peep to liquid nitrogen (once you're past the Peep screams), or expose it to cigarettes or alcohol. Oh, we at SNEWS® also read recently that if you stare into the eyes of a Peep long enough the entire being will seem alive. Hmmm, we think Peep lovers just have too much time on their hands.

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