Fitness: Did you hear?...

Club Industry East attendance up, Star Trac pays for "award," Reebok shows jump in net income, Reebok/New Balance to show at ispo, Sneaker Day May 16, IHRSA's official show wrap
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>> Folks are just filtering back into their offices April 28 from Club Industry East, which moved back to New York this year. Seems traffic was back up a bit over last year's rather sleepy show in Washington, D.C. We heard that the overall feel was "positive." For one, Life Fitness told SNEWS that booth traffic over the three days was "tremendous." It introduced its new line of treadmills (97Ti, 95Ti and 93T), which will replace the standards 9700HR, 9500HR and 9100. Industrial and futuristic designs seemed to be the name of the game (see that gleaming photo? - photo not available in weekly News Digest), although they retain the same consoles. The 97Ti also moves from a minus 3-percent incline to a 15-percent incline. Also introduced was a new strength-training line called Signature. Cybex, which had a two-booth format for the first time (one at 20-by-50 and a second at 20-by-60), told us the show was "better than expected." It conducted ArcTrainer classes again and found to its surprise that the product, although introduced last year, is still brand-new to many people.

>> Harbinger will be the primary sponsor of a documentary on professional skateboarder Jon Comer, who at the age of 4 was hit by a car and consequently, at the age of 7, had his right foot amputated. "Never Been Done" is the story of Comer's ability to excel in the sport of skateboarding despite a physical limitation. Comer, 26, now living in San Diego, Calif., began skateboarding at the age of 12 and quickly progressed to the pro level. Fitness accessory specialist Harbinger has been making protective gear since about 1988 (www.harbingerskate.com) and sponsors more than 100 athletes, including skateboarders, inline skaters, mountain boarders, BMX riders and downhill skaters.

>> Remember those alleged awards by the company Frost & Sullivan, which did a "report" on the fitness industry (price: $4,000)? Our story ran Nov. 11, 2002. The deal was that the research -- U.S. Fitness Equipment Market, #A316-54 -- also announced awards to five fitness companies. But the twist was they couldn't talk about it, promote it or even mention it, except internally -- unless they paid a licensing fee for a "promotional package," which, SNEWS learned, could be as much as $15,000 per year depending on the company size and sales. Well, as far as we can tell, all politely declined -- except Star Trac, which ante'd up whatever its fee was to gloat about its award for product quality leadership. To see that announcement, click here. For the record, other "winners" were: Icon, marketing engineering leadership; Life Fitness, product line strategy; Precor, product differentiation innovation; and The Nautilus Group, business development strategy. But none of the decided to "pay" for the honor.

>> Pier Paolo Righi will take over as head of Nike Germany. Righi, who was marketing director for Germany, takes over the position from Bernd Wahler, who has left to start his own business. Formerly, he built the brands Speedo, Ellesse and Berghaus for the Pentland Group, where he was general manager.

>> The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has launched a new website design (www.acefitness.org) to provide certified professionals and general readers with more information on exercise and fitness. A large part of the new design is an expanded and improved ACE Pro site to help ACE-certified professionals build their fitness careers. The Pro Site offers a new online education center and archives of ACE's various publications and e-newsletters. The site also includes a new Get Fit section completely devoted to fitness consumers.

>> Reebok International Ltd. (NYSE:RBK) has reported an increase of 9 percent in net income for the first quarter of 2003 compared to the first quarter last year, or $41 million compared to $37 million. Net sales for the 2003 first quarter were $798 million, an increase of 8.5 percent from 2002 sales of $736 million. In the United States, sales for the Reebok Brand increased 9 percent in the first quarter of 2003 as compared with 2002's first quarter. Reebok's U.S. footwear sales in the first quarter of 2003 were $257 million, an increase of 4 percent when compared with 2002's first quarter U.S. footwear sales of $247 million. Apparel sales in the United States were $89 million, an increase of 24 percent. The company's international sales of Reebok branded products amounted to $321 million in the quarter, an increase of 10 percent over 2002's first quarter. Paul Fireman, chairman and CEO, said in a statement, "We were able to achieve our strategic and financial goals for the quarter despite the geopolitical environment, the challenging conditions at retail and the lack of travel to many important markets around the world." He also pointed to the launch of the new Premier running series. The company also reported that its gross margin for the first quarter of 2003 was 37.4 percent, an improvement of 20 basis points when compared with the gross margin of 37.2 percent in the first quarter of 2002.

>> In the burgeoning category of non-news from a company that should know better: The headline on the press release last week read: "Nautilus Offers the Gift of Health for Mother's Day and Father's Day; Equipment to Improve Mom and Dad's Cardiovascular Health is a Gift of Life." The release goes on to read: "Flowers and candy, neckties and golf equipment -- each is a fine gift for your mom and dad this Mother's Day and Father's Day. But, the flowers will wilt, the candy will be eaten, the neckties will go out of style and the golf equipment will end up buried in the corner of the garage. Why not give your mom and dad the gift of health with a new piece of cardiovascular equipment from the Nautilus Group Inc." SNEWS View: OK, legit gift equipment does make sense, but is this a reason for a press release?

>> May 16 is Sneaker Day. Never heard of it? No wonder. It's the inaugural Sneaker Day by the Women's Sports Foundation -- wear sneakers to work in support of sports and fitness programs for girls and women. Destined to be in the New York area its premiere year, the foundation has a five-year goal of making it a national event. www.sneakerday.org. SNEWS View: Won't have to convince many in our industries to wear sneakers.

>> Reebok and New Balance will reappear on the ispo stage, taking their spots in the running segment this summer. The show will run only three days, from June 29 to July 1. Show management says that with their return, the running show is now "complete" with all the major players. Some 1,100 international sporting goods and sportswear industry exhibitors from more than 40 countries will be exhibiting, ispo has announced. With the growing emphasis on running, the show has added a 10K run as a part of the ispo community night on June 30. The run will be on the grounds of the German National Garden Show. Anyone can participate, and registration and other information will be available starting in May at www.ispo.com.

>> According to Forbes, Sears management says the company's revitalization is going as planned, albeit not fast enough for some. Shares of the 110-year-old Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based, retailer are up 23 percent since the company said on March 26 that it was "exploring strategic options" for its flagging credit card business.

 >> Some two months after the March 1 close of the IHRSA trade show in San Francisco comes the news about registrations and booths. The association reported that convention registration increased by 12.5 percent over last year; total U.S. convention and trade show attendance increased by 9.5 percent; total international convention and trade show attendance increased by 6.7 percent; and exhibitor booths grew by 4.6 percent. Next year's show will be March 22-25 in Las Vegas, Nev., which is a departure from the weekend norm with a Monday through Thursday schedule. The keynote speaker for the 2004 event will be former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. SNEWS View: Of course, we had already reported on March 3 that attendance had hit some 9,000, not including the 4,000 associated with exhibitors (that was about 400 booths this year, or a sold-out San Francisco hall.).

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