Fitness: Did you hear?...

SportsArt official Fleet Feet treadmill provider, Amer Group revises earings guidance down, Nautilus bombards Tour de France with ads, Brunswick fitness segment sales up, Kettler to hold tight on Internet sales, and more...
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>> SportsArt is now the official treadmill supplier for all new franchises for technical running retailer Fleet Feet. That means the mandate from Fleet Feet corporate headquarters will permit SportsArt to exclusively supply all new stores – five are expected this year to open – with free (to the store) top-of-the-line 3110 home treadmill for runners and walkers to test their shoes in the store. SportsArt and Fleet Feet will do promotional signage, link exchanges, and other joint promotions. Dealers should love the deal since the treadmills will cost them nothing, and they'll be installed and serviced at no charge. Older stores with other older models from other brands can discuss with Fleet Feet corporate getting in on the deal too. SNEWS View: Great idea and a great market to reach.

>> Nautilus ran a Tour de force of ads on the Outdoor Life Network's three weeks of Tour de France bike race coverage just finished July 27. But after about two weeks of watching that same dude promote the Treadclimber (one night we counted four in about an hour), it got a little tiresome. But we guess it worked for Bowflex, why not for the Treadclimber? The company certainly has the messages down: Half the time, same results, boost your sex life, fitness for life. What else do consumers want to believe? Interesting was the play to men with a shot that resembled a Men's Health magazine cover with all those sexy promises … and a spokesman who had the same set of abs to boot.

>> Precor parent Amer Group has revised its 2003 earnings guidance downward. According to a company statement, "continuous weak demand for sports equipment in the USA has negatively impacted Amer Group's expectations for 2003 as a whole." Although it doesn't call out fitness has a hard-hit segment, it does point at the strong Euro as one reason. The company said that Amer Group's net sales for 2003 as a whole are expected to be similar to 2002's, whereas operating profit is expected to decline to around Euro 70-80 million (2002: Euro 103.0 million). In 2002, Amer Group's net sales amounted to Euro 1,101.9 million. It added: "Industry growth has been slow in recent years but Amer Group believes that the industry's growth rate will pick up again in the future. Amer Group expects that it will be challenging to achieve rapid organic growth against this background, but the group's healthy balance sheet and strong operating cash flow will enable it to continue its development of the business."

>> Bally Total Fitness (NYSE: BFT) has announced it will be part of Sports Illustrated's "Fresh Faces Swimsuit Model Search." The goal – at least according to the release – is to "discover a new, fitness-conscious All-American beauty" who will appear in the 2004 SI Swimsuit Issue. According to SI execs, it's a strategic alliance that will further their search for smart, attractive, athletic and undiscovered women. SNEWS View: Fresh faces? How many people will be looking at their faces?

>> Aerobics Inc., manufacturers of Pacemaster treadmills, surprised us when the entire office – OK, it's small but still – just shut down for a two-week vacation the end of July, or at what we thought would be a rather busy time pre-HFB show. But, nope, nobody there, with an outgoing message on the main line saying a caller could leave a message for somebody if he or she knew the extension but "you will not receive a response until Monday July 28." SNEWS View: Maybe we're just jealous they got a vacation and we didn't.

>> Germany-based manufacturer Kettler has laid down the law when it comes to their goods showing up on eBay and other discount sites on the Internet. A new clause in the contract with its dealers says that any sales using electronic means such as the Internet requires the dealer to get permission from Kettler in advance.

>> Life Fitness parent Brunswick Corp. (NYSE: BC) has announced a 16-percent increase in net earnings on a 5 percent sales gain and a 12 percent increase in operating earnings in the second quarter of 2003. Diluted earnings per share rose to $0.59 compared with $0.51 per diluted share for the second quarter of 2002. During the second quarter, the company made a $62 million payment (approximately $50 million after tax) to the Internal Revenue Service relating to a tax case that is currently under appeal. The company elected to make the payment to avoid accruing future interest costs. In its fitness segment, sales in the second quarter of 2003 totaled $105.1 million, up 1 percent from $103.6 million in the year-ago quarter. Operating earnings rose 33 percent to $5.3 million from $4.0 million, and operating margins were 5.0 percent, up from 3.9 percent in the second quarter of 2002. "Life Fitness sales in the domestic commercial segment were up double digits in the second quarter with increases coming primarily from the regional health club and military markets," the company said in an official statement. "This strong performance helped offset weakness in international markets, as well as lower retail sales."

>> Clif Bar has a very admirable promotion going. Instead of honoring the winners of the Tour de France, they are conducting on-line voting to select the best so-called "domestiques," or the members of a competitive bicycle-racing team whose role is to assist the team leader, as by setting the pace. They often sacrifice their own races, equipment and bodies to protect their leaders. "Cycling is, after all, a team sport, yet it's always the team leader who receives the lion's share of the prize money, endorsement contracts, and media praise. We thought it would be just to pay tribute to the guys who do so much work, but receive so little recognition," the company said. You can vote online at www.clifbar.com through Aug. 3.

>> Reebok International Ltd. (NYSE:RBK) has reported improved earnings for the second quarter ended June 30, 2003. Net income was $26 million, or $.41 per diluted share, as compared to net income of $25 million, or $.39 per diluted share in the second quarter of 2002, an earnings per share increase of 5 percent. Net sales for the 2003 second quarter were $803 million, an increase of 12 percent from 2002 sales of $717 million. For the Reebok Brand, worldwide sales in the 2003 second quarter increased 15 percent to $671 million. In the U.S., sales for the Reebok Brand increased 14 percent in the second quarter of 2003 as compared with 2002's second quarter.

>> The National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) has in a recent report connected 13 fitness activities with purchases of seven separate pieces of equipment. It is the group's first attempt to link participation and purchases, which it says may allow use of this data to make more educated assumptions about Americans who attempt to be physically fit. "The survey will provide insights into relationships between types of activities people engage in and the products they purchase," said David Waitz, president of Irwin Broh & Associates, the company that produced the report. The study examines fitness participation in 2002 based on equipment purchased during that same period. The questionnaire, which was sent to 20,000 households, asked in which type of exercise the male or female heads of household participated, as well as his or her frequency of participation, type of exercise equipment purchased, and other demographics. The activities surveyed are aerobic exercise, bicycle riding, exercise on treadmill, exercise with other equipment, exercise walking, hiking, running/jogging, inline skating, Pilates, yoga, t'ai chi, martial arts, boxing, and work with personal trainer. For each of the 13 activities surveyed, the report summarizes if the person is a more avid user or less avid user based on participation. The equipment surveyed were multi-purpose home gyms, treadmills, stationary bicycles, cross-country ski exercisers, elliptical/cross-trainers, free weights/weight sets, and heart rate monitors. The purchase data was then cross-checked with participation. For more info, go to www.nsga.org or email info@nsga.org.

>> Latin America's fitness industry trade show, the 4th-Annual IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Trade Show, will be September 11 to 13 at the ITM Expo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Keynote speakers at this year's event include John Wilson, international franchise director for Bally Total Fitness; Debra Siena, regional director of Tennis Corporation of America; and Bernardinho, former member of the Brazilian Olympic volleyball team and current coach of the Brazilian men's volleyball team, current champions of the Volleyball Worldwide League. More information is available at www.ihrsa.org.

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