Fitness: Did you hear?...

Nautilus stock takes a beating, 24 Hour Fitness free workouts, ACSM speaker: Physical activity is magic bullet, Icon is Sears vendor of year, "AmeriCooning" a trend
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>> Nautilus took a beating last week as the military uplift of the stock market began to crack a bit. The stock began its drop on Tuesday, closing at 11.19 after it had peaked on a gradual recovery climb to reach the high 15s earlier that day. By the end of the week, it was down to 10.96, hitting lower lows in between. Starting the week on April 14, it recovered slightly -- reaching 11.55 at its close. When the company reduced its target, some analysts also reacted by downgrading the stock. In a Barron's report on April 14, the paper wrote: "The folks at Nautilus have some heavy lifting to do to convince the Street they have a firm handle on the business. The stock fell to a 52-week low of 10.50 Tuesday after the maker of Bowflex, Stairmaster and other exercise machines blindsided the Street -- and Barron's -- by lowering its annual profit and revenue forecasts for the third time in six months.... Nautilus joins a parade of companies blaming the outbreak of the war in Iraq for their troubles. In Nautilus' case, the direct marketer couldn't find spots on cable TV to run its commercials, for all the war coverage. Sales "the first two weeks in March were good," said CFO Rod Rice. "But when we went to war, folks were fixated on watching TV and not buying products." With a back-end-loaded forecast, Nautilus is betting the public's preoccupation with war ends by the second half of the year. If not, and if the economy doesn't improve, it's possible Nautilus could rein in numbers again." In the last 12 months, the stock price has dropped 69.97 percent.

>> The Wacoal Sports Science Corp., maker of the CW-X conditioning tights, has hired the advertising agency Mad Dogs & Englishmen of New York to undertake a new advertising campaign for the company's CW-X Performance Conditioning Wear, introduced in the United States in late 2002. Mad Dogs & Englishmen, with offices in New York and San Francisco, has had an eclectic mix of clients including Banana Republic, Crunch Fitness, HBO, MTV, the N.Y. Islanders and YooHoo.

>> Stressed? War got you down? Taxes beating you to a pulp? In celebration of Stress Awareness Month (Ed. Note: is that something to celebrate?), 24 Hour Fitness will open all its locations to the public for free April 14-20. "Let's face it, we could all use a little stress relief right about now," the club wrote in a press release last week. "Between the international turmoil, taxes due, the struggling economy and a high unemployment rate, Stress Awareness Month couldn't come at a better time."

>> A keynote speaker at the American College of Education's Health & Fitness Summit in Reno, Nev., last week told attendees that combating the trend of larger burgers, driving even short distances and bulging waist lines can be combated by promoting physical activity guidelines often ignored by the public. "Physical activity is the closest thing that we have to a magic bullet for health," Harvard Medical School researcher I-Min Lee said at the seventh annual meeting. "There is no single drug that can give the same overall benefit to health that physical activity does. Everything that gets worse as we get older gets better with exercise." She pointed out that obesity has more than doubled since 1960, and more than 30 percent of Americans are now considered obese -- a common utterance among all speakers at the conference. Lee says too many Americans aren't active enough in daily life despite the fact that science has said that as little as 30 minutes a day of moderate activity -- even when accumulated 10 to 15 minutes at a time -- can provide significant health benefits.

>> There is patriotism and then there is self-promotion. A press release crossed our desks touting the wonderful things that Denver, Colo.-based, sports drink company, Go Fast, was up "to supply coalition troops with its leading-edge energy drink so they can perform better in the face of fatigue, sleep deprivation and other combat-related stresses." It is offering to consumers that they can sponsor pallets of shipments of the drinks to coalition forces or individual servicemen or servicewoman by going to its website, www.gofastsports.com. The company conveniently offers different packages with mixes of drinks and T-shirts for purchase. Now, we do see that if you buy a case, the company will also ship a case overseas, but considering the government has declined to accept packages or mail just generally sent to the military, we're not sure how much good that will do.

>> Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE: S) has announced that comparable domestic store revenues decreased 3.1 percent for the five weeks ended April 5. Total domestic store revenues were $2.4 billion -- a 2.3 percent decrease compared with the five weeks ended April 6, 2002. March sales were better than expected because of a strong performance in home improvement.

>> The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting grant applications from entities that are hoping to initiate, expand or improve physical education programs. The target age group is children -- kindergarten through 12th grade. This money is earmarked for training teachers and staff and purchasing equipment. The U.S. Congress has allocated approximately $59 million this year for Carol M. White Physical Education Program (aka Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act). Eligible applicants for these grants are local educational agencies and community-based organizations, which include faith-based organizations that meet the statutory and regulatory requirements. To apply for a grant, go to www.ed.gov/offices/OCFO and click on "grants" on the left side. Application deadline is May 12.

>> Icon Health & Fitness has been named Sears hardline vendor of the year for 2002, the company announced. This award is presented annually to the outstanding vendor of hardlines, a category which includes products such as fitness equipment, washers, dryers and tools. In addition, both Icon and Escalade Sports were named as top Sears suppliers called "Partners in Progress." Begun two decades ago, the program recognizes suppliers "that make significant contributions to the growth of Sears businesses and the creation of new ways to better serve Sears customers."

>> Among directions seen by futurist Faith Popcorn is "AmeriCooning." She describes: "Unashamed of the link between a brand and the American spirit, a new kind of flag-driven marketing will appear. Upbeat, patriotic advertising and marketing messages will celebrate the American way of life. The abandonment of America by France, Germany, Canada and Mexico will only heighten this imperative." Popcorn also says that "our natural inclinations are dramatically exaggerated during periods of extreme-anxiety such as the current war with Iraq." Popcorn said, "We are embarking on a period of 'Trend Extremis' destined to change our culture in ways both profound and commercial." SNEWS View: That won't stop at the walls of the fitness or sports industries, as we are already seeing companies touting, nearly above other benefits or features, the fact that a product is made in America.

>> Nordic walking will be the bridge that ties the running ispo segment with the outdoor segment, management for the ispo sporting goods trade show in Munich, Germany, has announced. A Nordic walking parcourse will be set up in the halls between the two areas, and discussions will be held about the trend of both Nordic walking (walking with ski poles) and fitness walking. Retailers should be able to leave the halls at the end of the day with a good understanding and overview of what running, outdoor, Nordic walking and walking is all about, as well as how that can translate into business for them, said Tobias Groeber, community manager for outdoor and running at the show. www.ispo.com

>> Representative Robert Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, has announced that the fitness contract for the U.S. House of Representatives has been awarded to Gold's Gym International. Under terms of the contract, membership at Gold's Gyms throughout the D.C. area will be available not only to members of the House, but also to their entire staffs.

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