Fitness: Did you hear?...

Legal firm does show floor business, Sears unveils new home fitness products, Woodway to introduce lower-price club tread, Brunswick announces preliminary increased earnings, athletic shoe prices down slightly, Discovery Health Challenge has more than 152,000 registrants, and much more…
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>> We thought it was pretty hilarious that one of the largest booth crowds we saw at The Super Show was at the booth of a legal firm specializing in intellectual property called Fish & Richardson. No really. Of course, it helped that these were lawyers with an attitude. "Want a fish?" was the question tossed about at passers-by since they were giving out stress squeeze toys in fluorescent pinks, yellows and oranges shaped like, yes, fish. And a sign on the back wall of the tiny booth said, "Fish, not sharks." Seems they pulled some business at the show even when the company Trikke, with its innovative three-wheeled "bike" that you move your body on to propel it, saw what it deemed a knock-off called Triking. A little research by a couple of satellite offices from the show staff and, voila, a cease-and-desist order was issued at the show to Triking.

>> Announced at the show were the Product of the Year semi-finalists, including Clear Blue Hawaii's clear kayak, Famous Trails binoculars, an automated inflatable hockey player (hm, maybe we should get one of those), a Schutt helmet, and a reversible bra by Under Armour (it's a bra, for goodness sake!).

>> Sears has announced a new line of home fitness products in partnership with Icon Fitness at the International Builders Show. The products also in many cases include tools such as nutrition programs and air ionizers. The line includes several strength training systems, treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike products from NordicTrack, ProForm and Weider. For example, the NordicTrack interactive wireless workout pedestal (Retail: $199) works with compatible NordicTrack equipment to allow users to tap into iFit technology, to control the equipment from 15 feet away, and to use built-in speakers and an air ionizer that cleans up to 300 square feet. Sears said it saw a significant increase in demand for specific fitness product categories in 2003. Sales of fitness equipment like Icon's Crossbow strength-training systems increased 52 percent and elliptical trainers were up 27 percent over 2002. SNEWS View: Why the need to control equipment from across the room? Is that so you can run the treadmill from the couch?

>> With an almost even divide between increases and decreases in average prices for the 24 categories of athletic and sports footwear surveyed by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), the average price point for all footwear declined only slightly in 2003. The average price fell 0.3 percent to $38.88 from $38.98 in 2002. In 2001, the average price fell 3 percent. A decline of 1.4 percent in the single largest category, walking (average price $41.61), offset increases in two other major categories, gym shoes, up 0.7 percent (average price $26.71) and fashion sneakers, up 2.0 percent ($32.78). The information on average shoe prices will be included in the NSGA report, "The Sporting Goods Market in 2004," to be published by the Association in May. For more information, go to www.nsga.org.

>> Woodway treadmills has said it will introduce what it calls a lower-priced treadmill for the mass club market. The Evolution will list for about $9,000. In 2003, the 16-year-old company had sales of more than $11 million. In each of the last four years, the company has increased sales by more than 20 percent, Jim Chasteen, the company's vice president of sales and marketing, told The Business Journal of the Milwaukee area. In the next five years, Woodway's marketing goal is to double its sales by placing more treadmills in health clubs owned by national chains.

>> According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), holiday retail sales in the GAFS category (general merchandise stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliances stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores) increased 5.2 percent over last year to $216.32 billion, up from $205.63 billion in 2002. Due to strong sales in the week after Christmas, which may not have been reported in time for the Department of Commerce report, NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells anticipates that holiday sales will be revised upward in February. The 5.2 percent holiday sales growth more than doubled the 2.2 percent growth seen during the 2002 holiday season. December GAFS sales rose 5.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.3 percent adjusted month-to-month. November GAFS sales increased 4.3 percent unadjusted for the year and 0.4 percent over October.

>> Hosiery and glove manufacturer, Fox River Mills Inc., has named Joel Anderson divisional president for Fox River brands.He was formerly Fox River's national sales manager. Anderson was initially hired by Fox River in 1999.

>> Brunswick Corp. (NYSE: BC) has announced it will report on Jan. 29 earnings estimated to be between $0.40 and $0.43 per diluted share for the fourth quarter of 2003 and between $1.62 and $1.65 per diluted share for the year. Previously, the company had estimated diluted earnings per share in the range of $0.28 to $0.33 for the fourth quarter and $1.50 to $1.55 for the year. The full-year estimates exclude a $0.18 per diluted share litigation charge taken in the first quarter of 2003 (from a settlement with Precor, as SNEWS has reported). The company said that continued strong sales and earnings growth from its Marine Engine, Boat, Fitness and Bowling & Billiards segments, along with the foreign exchange impact of the weakening U.S. dollar and a lower effective tax rate, were the primary drivers behind the better-than-expected results for the quarter.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- According to Christie & Co.'s new Business Outlook, there will be a further softening of property values in the UK health and fitness sector and it will remain a buyers' market in 2004. The property agent also claimed that, while 2003 was "a tough year," in 2004, the health and fitness sector will experience further acquisitions and disposals by private equity firms. The Business Outlook also predicted that, following a number of recent administrations in 2003 -- such as Hunters and Topnotch -- further new entrants will come into the health and fitness market through acquiring the fall-out from distress sales and any churning of portfolios. Details at www.christie.com.

>> Lawson Products Inc. (NASDAQ:LAWS) has announced the election of Lee S. Hillman to its board of directors. Hillman is president of Liberation Investment Advisory Group. He is the former chairman of the board and CEO of Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. and former executive vice president and chief financial officer of Bally Entertainment Corp., which merged with Hilton Hotels Corp. in December 1996. Prior to his career in the Bally organization, Hillman was an audit partner with Ernst & Young.

>> According to a headline on CNN last week: "Tae-Bo out, Capoiera in." Capoiera has actually been "in" for a number of years now, so we're not sure what's up with that -- unless the discovery of the Brazilian movement art that combines dance and martial arts by large health clubs has sparked the "discovery." Reminds us of "overnight stars" who worked hard at bit and supporting parts for a decade or more.

>> In contrast to the past few years, Americans have refocused their priorities. The 2004 national Roper Poll commissioned by Bankrate.com found that although Americans are divided on whether they are more focused on fiscal or physical fitness, concern about physical well-being has increased over the last year. Thirty-five percent of Americans named physical fitness their priority in 2004 versus 29 percent among last year's respondents. Fiscal fitness held steady at 37 percent for both years. The 2004 study also found that people with children under 18 are more likely to be concerned about fiscal issues than physical. People were also quizzed about how many pounds they'd like to peel off in 2004. Those wanting to reduce their weight want to shed an average of 21 pounds -- a pound less than their New Year's resolution target of last year.

>> Together with Blimpie International, Inc., the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has announced the launch of a consumer promotion in support of the Blimpie Carb-Counter Menu, which offers a wide variety of low-carbohydrate menu options at Blimpie restaurants in the United States. As part of the promotion, which will run until Feb. 29, consumers will qualify for a 15-day free guest membership with proof-of-purchase of Blimpie Carb-Counter Menu items at participating IHRSA member health clubs. The promotion will run in markets that include locations in Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina, Indiana, New York, Connecticut, Iowa and Nebraska.

>> PowerBar Inc. has announced that it will make a donation in the amount of $26,000 to the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF), the charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and fitness. The company's contribution results from the success of the "Empowering Tomorrow" program conducted in fall 2003 by PowerBar Pria, the company's line of nutritional snack bars for women.

>> FINLAND -- Amer Tobacco Ltd. has concluded the employer/employee negotiations initiated in late November 2003, following the announcement of Amer Group's intention to withdraw from its tobacco business. Due to production being discontinued, 250 employees will be made redundant, as the company called it in a news release. Production itself is expected to end on March 26. Negotiations with Philip Morris continue about terminating the license agreement prematurely as well as in respect of Philip Morris taking over Amer Tobacco's own trademarks, sales and marketing functions, stocks, machinery and equipment. Functions that are under consideration to be transferred to Philip Morris employ 70 persons.

>> Do you fit the travel norm? Over the next 12 months, 72 percent of senior executives and managers polled by the Net Future Institute say they plan to travel either the same amount or more than during the previous 12 months. Of the 28 percent who plan to travel less, the last reason is concern for personal safety, with the leading reasons being cost and increased use of technology. Over the next 12 months, the number of senior executives and managers traveling internationally is going to increase while the number of business executives and managers traveling domestically will remain the same. Over the next 12 months, 56 percent of executives and managers plan to travel internationally compared to 47 percent traveling internationally last year. Said one respondent: "The current TSA-generated morass of waiting lines, idiotic and non-profiled searches (as well as a new government bureaucracy that frustrates everyone -- and we're paying for this abuse?) that is now created at most airports is worse than dealing with the threat of terrorism. Add airport facilities (food, etc.) that are often inadequate for the traveler -- restaurants closing at 9 p.m. when planes not leaving until 11 p.m. or no open facilities at 5:30 a.m. when travelers departing." SNEWS View: Oooo, one angry traveler

>> The Discovery Health National Body Challenge, which provides personalized weight loss and fitness programs to participants, got underway Saturday when more than 152,000 men and women enrolled at nearly 100 Discovery Channel Stores and Bally Total Fitness health club locations nationwide. Meanwhile, thousands more logged onto discovery.com/health to join the challenge. Among participants was Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.

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