Fitness: Did you hear?…

Customer service call horror, Second Wind creates buzz over ads, Pres. Bush 100-degree running club, Doug Pearson practicing what we preach, Brooks Sports Fleet Feet vendor of the year, and more..
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>> A customer service call that nobody would want to get – a story heard from a Canadian retailer at the Health & Fitness Business show: He gets a call that a customer's new treadmill needs service. Retailer inquires what for. Customer says, I'll explain it to the service person. Retailer sends serviceman, who is told that the customer went to use his treadmill one morning and couldn't get his cat to leave it alone. He finally swatted it away and started the motor, only to hear the worse squishing and mooshing sound he'd ever heard. Seems the cat had chased a mouse under the treadmill, and the mouse had obviously taken pretty good cover. Oh gross. So when the motor and belts and such all got churning… OK, you get the bloody picture. There were apparently mouse insides everywhere and we do mean everywhere. Glad it wasn't you?

>> Second Wind Fitness has created such a buzz with its new not-even-released-yet ads that everybody's already talking: "Have you seen Dick's new ads?" is the question that has spread like wildfire. Dick, as in owner Dick Enrico, showed SNEWS the ads, and we promise to share a few choice ones quite soon. But we won't share them all since this IS a family publication… And ads that talk about dicks and we don't mean Enrico's name may not be suited for our readers (oh ha!). Enrico did share with us that his company is -- how should we say it? -- helping the buzz along. Enrico's son, who does much of the web side of the business, started a viral email with one choice ad embedded in it, sending it to 100 people but coded it so he could trace its progress. Within a few hours, 1,100 (yes, 11 times the original recipients) had actually seen the ad. Yes, the power of email.

>> New hire at Precor floating the HF Biz show floor: Ken Kobayashi, the new director of consumer sales who started about three weeks ago. He's yet another transfer from mainstream, having come from Ford Motor Company, where his most recent post was as Lincoln Mercury's Northwest regional marketing manager. Interesting is his comment that the dealer network for the automobile industry is very similar to fitness. But, of course, fitness speaks to his personal passion. A rather large Precor contingent was in and out of the floor since the company had a lot of meetings in the days prior to the show in Denver, although it wasn't exhibiting.

>> Heard on CNN last week was a story that President Bush goes running in 100-degree heat while at his Texas ranch, and in fact prides himself on it. Recently, he hit the road with temperatures hitting 112. Any of his buddies there who join him get T-shirts showing they are members of his "100-degree club." Commented the vice president: Don't worry, I'm not a member of the 100-degree club.

>> Last minute no-show at the HF Biz show was York Barbell/Andy Fitness. So last minute that organizers made a call when their crates didn't arrive to find out what was up. The rather large space became an extra seating area, which actually came in pretty handy for meetings and sit-downs (a superior expansion so we've always wondered why shows never have enough places for this). We hear the company's no-show was related to a product issue. But we'll let you know for sure.

>> Doug Pearson, heading up The Fitness Experience stores, practices what he preaches: In the last year, he's dropped 40 pounds, going from 250 to 210 pounds -- and dang proud of his svelte figure. "We need to lead by example," he told SNEWS. His partner Brian Massie just smiled; Massie stays fit playing in an over-30 soccer league. Both munched on bagels and muffins as a light lunch at the show; no slip-ups just because you're traveling!

>> One new fitness equipment manufacturer SNEWS talked to at the HF Biz show had an interesting answer when we inquired about the viability of its lower-body only elliptical machine: Why was the vendor making a lower-body only model in addition to one with upper-body arms. The president of the company told us: "We found that women were taking the arms off of Octane Fitness ellipticals and just using the ellipticals for lower body work. Or they were using hand weights while exercising on the machine. So we made one of our pieces just lower body." We thought this sounded strange. (Why single out Octane anyway?) Octane was as surprised as we were. SNEWS View: For tiny little Octane, this must mean that it is indeed perceived as a bit of a threat.

>> Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. (NYSE: BFT) has reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2003: Second quarter net revenues totaled $251.3 million, a $5 million increase over the prior year quarter of 2 percent. Free cash flow, defined as cash flow from operations ($12.1 million) less cash used in investing activities ($10.8 million), was $1.3 million during the quarter. That brought the year to date total to $10.8 million compared to deficits during the prior year periods of $24.7 million and $33.9 million, respectively. To see details, go to www.ballyfitness.com and click on company.

>> Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE: S) has announced today that comparable domestic store revenues decreased 0.8 percent for the four weeks ended Aug. 2, 2003. Total domestic store revenues were $1.9 billion in July 2003, down slightly compared with the four weeks ended Aug. 3, 2002. More at www.sears.com

>> Running company Brooks Sports has been chosen as the Fleet Feet Footwear Vendor of the Year for the second year in a row. Brooks was previously named Fleet Feet Apparel Vendor of the Year in 1999, 2000 and 2001. This award is given to the footwear vendor which offers consistent good customer service, cutting-edge product with a strong sell-through and increased overall dollar volume, while delivering on-time. Brooks' sales at 48 Fleet Feet retail locations were up 56 percent last year. Fleet Feet sales have further strengthened Brooks' revenues in the specialty retail channel by more than 14 percent this year.

>> Everlast Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ:EVST), manufacturer, marketer and licensor of sporting goods and apparel under the Everlast brand name, has announced that it has entered into a licensing agreement with New York City-based Vitamin Branding Corp. for the development of a line of Everlast nutritional products, including nutrition/health bars, sports drinks, vitamins, and health and bodybuilding supplements. The line produced by Vitamin Branding will be marketed in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with expansion into additional international markets underway. The Everlast nutritional line will debut early next year.

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