Fitness: Did you hear?...

ACSM focuses on the inactive market, PE tops SGMA's legislative agenda, new retailer Benchmark Fitness opens in Florida, Bowflex airs new commercial -- with real people, fitness in 21 minutes once a week?... and much more…
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>> The eighth annual American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Summit and Exposition is in Orlando, Fla., April 14-17 with a day-long pre-conference workshop on targeting inactive adults. Scheduled for April 14 from noon to 5 p.m. also at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World, it is titled: "From Inactive to Active: Practical Tools to Attract, Motivate and Retain." Registration material or information is available by calling ACSM at 317-637-9200, ext. 135, or at www.acsm.org/meetings/summit.htm.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- AIM-listed fitness club operator, SpringHealth Leisure, has announced that it will continue to "examine all strategic options for the future," according to London's The Times. The company has recently reported full-year losses of GBP 13.3 million (USD $ 24.7 million) on the back of massive write-offs.

>> Saucony Inc. (Nasdaq: SCNYB) reported a net income increase of 83 percent in its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2003, rising from $806,000 in 2002 to $1.5 million in 2003. Net sales for the fourth quarter increased 8 percent to $30.5 million from 2002's quarter of $28.2 million. Saucony attributed its positive fourth-quarter results to ongoing strength in its domestic technical businesses, as well as its Hind apparel and international operations. Net sales for fiscal 2003 also increased by 2.2 percent to $136.1 million compared to 2002's $133.2 million. Domestic net sales went up marginally to $103.6 million from 2002's $103.4 million. International net sales increased 8.7 percent to $32.5 million in fiscal 2003, compared to $29.8 million in 2002. Saucony brand footwear accounted for 83 percent of total sales during fiscal 2003, while a combination of Hind apparel and factory outlet stores net sales accounted for the balance. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html.

>> Physical education tops this year's Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association legislative agenda as it looks to "capitalize on a string of legislative successes in recent years." The sporting goods industry's top priorities will be to secure additional funding for the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) program, obtain dedicated assistance to promote P.E.4LIFE Institutes around the country, and drive funding into the parks, recreation and fitness infrastructure in the form of new fields and refurbished facilities. The legislative agenda was approved by the SGMA International Government Relations Committee in January at The Super Show in Orlando. For example, SGMA established a goal to attain $100 million for the PEP program in FY 2005. PEP (also known as the Carol M. White PEP Program) provides grants to schools and community-based organizations to purchase sports/fitness equipment and to train teachers in innovative physical education applications. The emphasis on PEP reflects the industry's consensus that physical education represents a critical element in the nation's growing battle against obesity by promoting daily physical activity for all children. Quality physical education programs set the foundation for a viable sporting goods industry in the future as well. The PEP program this year will receive $69 million for its fourth consecutive double-digit increase in annual funding. The industry also reaffirmed its commitment to support P.E.4LIFE on Capitol Hill. P.E.4LIFE is the national not-for-profit advocacy organization, founded by the sports industry, dedicated to promoting daily quality PE in America's schools. The third top priority for SGMA International this year is continued funding for parks and recreation. These three items will make up the lobbying done by the group and its attendees (all are invited) at the fourth annual P.E.4Life National PE Day in Washington, D.C., May 4-5. For more information on the National PE Day, email sgmadc@aol.com or call 202-775-1762. For details on the legislative agenda or other legislative action, contact Tom Cove, SGMA's lobbyist in D.C. by emailing tomsgma@aol.com or calling the above number.

>> Florida has another specialty fitness retailer, called Benchmark Fitness, in Stuart, Fla. Opened in November by former Gym Source Manager Eric DeForest, Benchmark has laid claim to an area in the northern part of Martin County on a part of the coast known as Treasure Coast. DeForest tells us it's the fastest-growing area in Florida, with a booming market and "no competition for 40 miles in either direction." Brands he carries in the 2,000-square-foot store include Life Fitness, Bodycraft, Horizon, Landice, Powertec and TKO, among others. DeForest himself says he got started in fitness when he was 6 years old when his father got him doing a bit of weight-lifting. In fact, his father is still supporting his fitness habit as a partner in the new retail endeavor. With median home prices in the nearby area about $5 million plus (ye gawds!), DeForest thinks he has a good market. "The bottom line is, if you have a passion for helping people and pay attention to detail, there's always room for the little guy to flourish," he said. He has worked not only at numerous Gym Source stores, but also at G&G Fitness Equipment, The Fitness Headquarters and Precision Fitness Equipment. You can check it out at www.benchmark-fitness.com.

>> The Sports Club Company Inc. (AMEX: SCY) announced today that three of its principal shareholders have agreed to purchase $6.5 million of a newly created class of Series D Convertible Preferred Stock in a private placement offering. Definitive agreements are being drafted and it is anticipated that a closing will take place on March 1. The proceeds will be used to provide working capital and to pay the March 15 interest payment on the company's Senior Secured Notes.

>> True Fitness has been selected as IHRSA's "associate member of the year" for 2004. The company will be honored on March 24 at the association's 23rd Annual Convention & Trade Show, which will be held March 22-25 in Las Vegas. Founded in 1981 by its president, Frank Trulaske, True Fitness has been an associate member of IHRSA since 1990. In other show news, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and current chairman and CEO of Giuliani Partners, has been selected as this year's recipient of the IHRSA "Person of the Year Award." The award presentation will also take place at the convention. Giuliani is scheduled to give the group's keynote on March 23.

>> Icon Health & Fitness PR manager A. Cory Maloy has left the company to start his own PR agency. He replaced long-time public relations contact Jayme Shepard in early summer 2003.

>> Females continue to lead males as purchasers of sports footwear and increased that lead slightly in 2003, according to data released by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA). For 2003, females purchased 53.4 percent of all sport footwear compared to 53.1 percent in 2002. Female place-of-purchase also shifted, with a higher percentage of women purchasing shoes in sporting goods stores (41.4 percent in 2003 versus 40 percent in 2002) and specialty athletic footwear stores (47.5 percent in 2003 versus 46.7 percent in 2002). Women increased their purchases versus men in all channels except family footwear stores and Internet purchases. The average prices females pay for sports footwear remains below that of males, $36.94 versus $42.11. In 2002, the average price paid by females was $38.53, versus $42.48 for males. For more information about the report, contact www.nsga.org.

>> We at SNEWS have been around long-enough to recall two- and three-hour aerobics classes -- the longer, the better was the credo. But now it seems the credo is "the shorter, the better." A new company called "21 Minute Fitness & Weight Loss center" has recently opened in Walnut Creek, Calif., a well-to-do area east of San Francisco. So, if 30 minutes (think Curves) is good, why not 21 (sic)? As the company's website says, "Why spend three hours a week exercising when you can achieve fitness and health in just 21 minutes per week? Say goodbye to your father's old-fashioned health club and say hello to your nearby 21 Minute Fitness & Weight Loss center where it takes just 21 minutes a week to reach and maintain lifetime physical fitness." OK, we're not overwhelmed. But the description on the website, which is quite convincing in its design and testimonials, seems to imply it uses something similar to a "Super Slo" strength-training circuit technique. It says it uses "patented MedX rehabilitation equipment that is typically not found in gyms or health clubs." In addition, the space is the size of a coffee shop, the site says, and workouts are done only 3 to 5 people at a time and under guidance. Its motto? "The leader in convenience fitness." Wow, if that won't tap into all those folks looking for the magic bullet…. Want to see for yourself? www.21minutefitness.com

>> Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) reported record earnings and sales for the quarter ended Jan. 31, 2004. Net sales were $74.5 billion, an increase of 12.2 percent over the similar prior year quarter. Income from continuing operations after minority interest and taxes for the quarter was $2.7 billion, an 11.0 percent increase from the $2.5 billion in the similar prior year quarter. Earnings per share from continuing operations were $0.63 up from $0.56 per share in the same prior year quarter. Net sales for the 12 months ended Jan. 31, 2004, were a record $256.3 billion, an increase of 11.6 percent over net sales of the similar prior year period. Income from continuing operations after minority interest and taxes for the 12 months increased 13.3 percent to a record $8.9 billion or $2.03 earnings per share, up from $7.8 billion or $1.76 earnings per share in the same prior year period. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> Winmark Corp. (Nasdaq: WINA) announced net income for the year ended Dec. 27, 2003, of $4,013,100 or $.63 per share diluted, compared to net income of $3,828,900 or $.63 per share, in 2002. The fourth quarter 2003 net income was $1,030,400, or $.16 per share diluted, compared to net income of $970,300, or $.16 per share diluted, for the same period last year. Revenues for the year were $31,243,400, down from $33,425,100 in 2002. Winmark is the parent company of Play It Again Sports. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> A new Bowflex ad has debuted as of last week -- one with real people. OK, they still have some great bods, but they are real and all stemmed from the Bowflex Challenge fitness contest begun last year. The company was flooded with hundreds of before and after pictures, said CEO Gregg Hammann, and testimonials about how they used the Bowflex product. The prize was a week-long trip to Miami, Fla., which was all just fun for the group except the one day they spent filming. Resulting footage was used in this commercial and, we expect, more to come. SNEWS View: Although we certainly liked the bodies in the ads (the ones that stop conversation and turn heads), it had gotten a bit much really. This has a hint of similar music to the last commercials, is just as inspiring we think for the public, and the reality throws a great punch.

>> Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. (Nasdaq: BGFV) reported increases in financial results for the fiscal 2003 fourth quarter and full year that ended on Dec. 28, 2003. For the 2003 fourth quarter, net sales increased 8.5 percent to $191.8 million from $176.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2002. Same store sales increased 3.6 percent versus the fourth quarter last year, representing the company's 32nd consecutive quarterly increase in same store sales over comparable prior periods. Net income available to common stockholders for the 2003 fourth quarter increased to $9.9 million, or $0.43 per diluted share, compared with net income available to common stockholders of $8.8 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, in the same period last year. For fiscal 2003, net sales increased by $42.2 million, or 6.3 percent, to $709.7 million from $667.5 million for fiscal year 2002. Same store sales for fiscal 2003 increased 2.2 percent versus fiscal 2002. Net income available to common stockholders for fiscal 2003 increased to $26.3 million, or $1.16 per diluted share, compared with $11.1 million, or $0.57 per diluted share in the same period last year. "The fourth quarter was our strongest comp store quarterly performance of the year and represented our 32nd consecutive quarterly increase in same store sales," said Steven Miller, chairman, president and CEO of Big 5. "Our comp store performance was solid in each of our five geographic regions and for each of our three major merchandise categories -- footwear, apparel and hardgoods." The company opened 18 stores in 2003 and plans another 15 to 20 stores in 2004. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> INDIA -- The first Nautilus Academy has opened in India. Located in Mumbai, the club is the sixth Nautilus Academy in the world and offers a full range of Nautilus equipment. Owner Deepak Lalvani says he plans to open five more such clubs in the main cities of India, and expects to launch the next one in Bangalore. The site in Mumbai includes a spa and beauty salon and offers a range of fitness programs for seniors, children and weight management.

>> As reported in the Chicago Sun Times, Sears has failed to gain shoppers' confidence despite a surge in nationwide consumer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a yearly survey that ranks how consumers rate companies ranging from banks to hotels to fast-food restaurants. Results for Hoffman Estates-based Sears have fluctuated over the years, but no overriding theme has emerged to explain why, said Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan. Sears' highest score was 76 on a 100-point scale in 2001. This holiday season, from October through December, customers rated Sears a 73, down 2.7 percent from the same period in 2002. "Sears seems to get it right, then it falls back," said Fornell, a business professor at the University of Michigan. "You can't pin it on any specific thing Sears has done," Fornell said. "Maybe it's an image factor." The index survey queries 30,000 people nationwide every three months, and is conducted by a partnership among the University of Michigan, the American Society for Quality and consulting firm CFI Group. Nationwide, customer satisfaction reached a nine-year high in the latest survey.

>> And so what about that b---- Barbie dumping Ken for some Aussie surfer dude, boy toy named Blaine? How COULD she? Maybe her pearl earrings, tight blonde ponytail and high-heel-shaped feet pinched her brain. She's been a lot of things since she was born nearly 50 years ago (ice skater, flight attendant, aerobics princess and presidential candidate), but as Business Week said in a recent report, "a disloyal, man-eating, round-heeled hussy? Never." Perhaps Ken wasn't working out enough….

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