Fitness: Did you hear?...

Woman sues hotel for treadmill injury, Nautilus second quarter earnings down as expected, Life Fitness Academy teams with Human Kinetics on education, Big 5 sales up, drugs instead of exercise? Iron Grip enters licenses with Icon, a lesson in brand awareness, and more...
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>> A northern New York woman has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against a hotel where she broke her ankle while exercising on a treadmill. Angela Ormond of Potsdam said she slid backward off a treadmill at Embassy Suites Hotel in East Syracuse about 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 30, 2002. She filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court against FelCor Lodging Trust Inc., which owns the hotel, according to the Watertown Daily Times. The civil suit claims the treadmill was too close to a wall. Ormond seeks $1 million in damages for herself and $100,000 for her husband, Edmond Ormond.

>> We loved the press release put out by Prospot Fitness and we know they're great folks with great products, so a little tease won't hurt. The release mentions a new product being unveiled on Aug. 8 at the Health & Fitness Business Expo in Denver -- being whipped-up into a bit of a frenzy with the secrecy. This is what it said: "Excitement is growing over these new products. We've already received calls from the media asking about it." SNEWS View: Ain't it our JOB to call and ask about product? No matter how great or not, secret or not? If a journalist doesn't call, he or she isn't doing a proper reporting job. We admit it. We called.

>> Moira Stott-Merrithew and Lindsay Merrithew, founders of Toronto, Canada-based, Stott Pilates are among finalists for the 2003 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The winners will be announced Oct. 2.

>> Life Time Fitness Inc. held its Multisport and Adventure Exposition at the Minneapolis Convention Center prior to its Second Annual International Triathlon, but a SNEWS reporter on the scene said attendance was sparse -- at least on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 1, when most attendees were more interested in picking up race registration and getting back out the door. More than 60 exhibitors either were selling product or giving away samples to attendees. Though the event was open to the public, Friday afternoon the expo apparently looked like a ghost town. Seminars included triathlon training, yoga and Pilates, cycling, karate and dance; and exhibitors were as diverse as Wheaties, Clif Bar, Nokia and the Women's Hockey Association. SNEWS View: A great idea but maybe not ready for prime time.

>> The Nautilus Group second-quarter earnings announced last week didn't have news that anyone didn't expect: For example, net sales down ($100.6 million compared to $140.4 million for the corresponding period last year), net income dramatically down ($4.7 million compared to $25.8 million a year ago), operating income down ($6.2 million compared to 39.7 million last year). Reasons? The economy, higher percentage of retail-commercial sales that have lower margins, decreased Bowflex sales, and skyrocketing TV advertising costs. "The company has stumbled of late," said CFO Rod Rice in a call last week with analysts, "and you're keenly aware of it." In addition, Rice said in the call that selling Bowflex at retail brought in about $6.7 million or 15 percent of the company's retail sales. The company also reiterated its comfort with revised guidance for the remainder of 2003, with revenues expected to range from $450 million to $470 million, and Nautilus expects the third quarter will represent approximately 18 percent to 20 percent of earnings. "We continue to position ourselves as the global leader in fitness in the long term," said CEO Brian Cook, "and we believe our products are unmatched in the industry." For details or a call replay, go to www.nautilusgroup.com.

>> The Life Fitness Academy has teamed with publisher Human Kinetics to offer Internet-based continuing education courses for fitness professionals and personal trainers. These online classes will allow fitness professionals and personal trainers worldwide to take courses needed to prepare for or maintain certification in the American College of Sports Medicine, Cooper Institute, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and other professional associations. The agreement makes available at the Life Fitness website the 28 current Human Kinetics online courses in fitness, training and rehabilitation, with other classes to be added in the future. Courses available now include Advanced Strength Training, Exercise Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Prices range from $65 to $100. More information is available by going to www.lifefitness.com and clicking on Commercial.

>> Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. (NASDAQ: BGFV) has reported financial results for the fiscal 2003 second quarter that ended on June 29 with net sales increasing $7.4 million, or 4.6 percent to $170.1 million from $162.7 million in the second quarter of 2002. Same store sales increased 0.9 percent versus the second quarter last year, representing the company's 30th consecutive quarterly increase in same store sales over comparable prior periods. Gross profit margin increased 0.1 percent during the second quarter to 36.8 percent from gross profit margin of 36.7 percent for the same period last year. Selling and administrative expenses were 27.3 percent of net sales for the 2003 second quarter.

>> Another reality show you'll want to know about (yeah…RIGHT!): The Travel Channel is searching for "motivated Southern California men and women" (not our words) to participate in a "swimsuit slim-down." Wanna know if you qualify? The show needs five people, ages 25 to 54, (three woman and two men) who reside in Southern California (Los Angeles-area). What the channel said: "People who are uncomfortable putting on a swimsuit and hitting the beach, and are motivated to get in shape are encouraged to apply." What a participant gets: A 10-week supervised fitness program with trainers to help them lose weight and tone up. Oh, and of course to teach them "beach skills" like inline skating and volleyball. Series will film in September. More info by clicking here.

>> Is your employee morale (heck, maybe your morale) down? A recent national survey of executives and managers found that morale is significantly lower than it was two years ago. Three-quarters of them rated overall employee morale then as either extremely or somewhat high, compared to just over half today; almost 20 percent of the survey respondents said that two years ago morale was extremely high, while about 10 percent said that was the case today. This from the Net Future Institute. Said one respondent: "Time, increased workloads, and economic conditions are eroding employee confidence and morale. People are more concerned about losing their jobs and family security." Said another: "Morale is slipping because the organization's leadership is once again slashing costs to improve margins. Unfortunately, this leadership is lacking both the vision and the intelligence to grow the business. So, it's cut, cut, cut." How does your company fit in?

>> Saucony Inc. (NASDAQ: SCNYA and SCNYB) has announced that net income for the second quarter ended July 4 increased 44 percent to $2.2 million from $1.5 million in the comparable period of 2002, and diluted earnings per share increased 40 percent to $0.35, compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.25 for the comparable period in 2002. Net sales for the second quarter, however, decreased 5.5 percent to $34.5 million, compared to $36.5 million in the second quarter of 2002. "Our strong bottom line performance was primarily driven by a 500 basis points increase in gross margin due to improved inventory management, supply chain execution and the favorable currency impact of a weaker U.S. dollar, as well as the pre-tax benefit resulting from our litigation settlement," said John H. Fisher, president and CEO.

>> The following seems to send the message that if exercise doesn't work, just do drugs: The number of drugs in clinical development to treat obesity has increased a whopping 400 percent since the year 2000, according to Pharmaprojects, a pharmaceutical intelligence database. There are many causes for obesity, the group said, including genetics, metabolic imbalances and various environmental factors; it has even been suggested that a virus might be involved. The overriding causes, however, are overeating and lack of exercise. "If an effective treatment is found, it is almost guaranteed to be a blockbuster of greater success than Viagra," the company added.

>> The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) has announced the line-up of speakers for its upcoming conference, Active Aging 2003: Communicating the Message of Physical Activity to the Older Adult. The event will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., from Dec. 4-6. Keynotes will be given by Steven N. Blair, P.E.D. president, CEO and director of research at The Cooper Institute; Keith Harrell, president and CEO of Harrell Performance Systems Inc.; and Rick Pitino, University of Louisville's basketball head coach. The ICAA will hold its conference in conjunction with Athletic Business. For more, go to www.icaa.cc and click on convention.

>> Iron Grip Barbell Company has recently entered into two license agreements with Icon Health & Fitness, granting the consumer equipment manufacturer certain rights to sell weight plates with two or three handgrips under Iron Grip's U.S. Patents 5,137,502 and 6,436,015, respectively. These licenses represent an amicable resolution of pending litigation between the parties.

>> The Sports Authority is contacting agencies nationwide about handling creative duties on its estimated $80 million to $90 million account, sources said. The chain, which is currently shifting its headquarters to Englewood, Colo., in February announced its intention to merge with No. 2 competitor Gart Sports Co., and is currently in the process of figuring out what to do in terms of agency relationships, according to one source. The deal is expected to close in October, and the assignment will be to brand all stores under the Sports Authority name.

>> Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans nationally have launched a new campaign it calls "WalkingWorks," it says "to inspire Americans to get moving and make other healthy lifestyle choices, little by little." Many of the 42 Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans across the United States have adopted the WalkingWorks program to encourage walking as part of everyday routines. Blue plans are individually tailoring walking programs to their local markets. In Michigan, the health plan has a free walking log and information about the walks available at www.bcbsm.com. In that state alone, researchers say a lack of physical activity cost nearly $8.9 billion in 2002. SNEWS View: Might be another way for the industry to try to link up with other segments that want to encourage activity.

>> On July 30, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced legislation titled the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act. If passed, this would allow for the favorable tax treatment of health club memberships as an employee benefit. The Workforce Health Improvement Program would allow employers to deduct the cost of providing or subsidizing health club benefits to their workers. In addition, this measure would exclude this wellness benefit from being considered additional income of employees. The WHIP bill was introduced in the House of Representatives (HR 1818) on April 11by U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Penn. Additional information about the WHIP bill and IHRSA’s online lobbying tool, "Exercise Your Rights" can be found at www.healthclubs.com.

>> In the recent battle over how to identify and not fall prey to dehydration, the non-profit American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) sent a release that said it "expresses concern that editorial remarks published in the July 19 issue of British Medical Journal criticizing existing guidelines on fluid replacement may lead to potentially dangerous misinterpretation by athletes, coaches and health-care providers. Further, ACSM experts emphatically deny that water and sports drinks, when consumed as recommended, are dangerous to athletes. ACSM's Position Stand, 'Exercise and Fluid Replacement,' is the fourth issue of fluid replacement guidelines and recommendations for fluid ingestion and the prevention of heat injury during exercise. The last edition, published in January 1996, is the culmination of scientific data and expert consensus and is based on available evidence. That position stand is currently undergoing standard review by a committee of sports medicine and exercise science specialists. This delegation of heat and hydration experts will review and address all existing information and expert opinion on this topic later this year when the college plays a leadership role in convening a roundtable to conduct a timely review of hydration guidelines for athletes." For more, go to www.acsm.org.

>> In SNEWS' continuing quest to find out how aware consumers are of brands, we recently asked another man we have contact with about his treadmill. He's been getting on it almost every morning for three to five miles before work, he told SNEWS proudly. Great! We responded. What brand is it? Hmmm, came the response with a furrowed brow and a long pause. Oh! He answered, the lightbulb going on -- ProCorp! We asked, would that be Precor? Yeah, yeah, that's it, he said. SNEWS View: Oh, heck, one of these days somebody will get it! At least they're, one, buying quality equipment and, two, using it! 

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