Fitness: Did you hear?...

Mad Dogg gives free Spinning passes to clubs, IHRSA plans talk on combining clubs and the health insurer, Nautilus featured in Denver Business Journal article, ispo looking for entrants to BrandNew award competition, Bally Total Fitness delays its 10K filing due to a change in its accounting procedure in '03, and much more…
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>> Mad Dogg Athletics has recently launched a program to get new consumers into clubs and onto its Spinning bikes. The program is called "Ticket to Ride," and allows consumers to try a class for free at participating clubs when they go to www.spinning.com and download a free ticket. Several hundred clubs are already enrolled. At the Spinning website, when consumers enter their zip code to find a club close to them, they are given the following click here to view. If they are interested in trying a class, they click on the "Ticket to Ride" icon, complete the requested information and print a free pass.

>> Stephen Thornton, CEO of Virgin/Body IQ, will give a talk at the IHRSA show about what positions a health club has as an access channel for "health transformation" that brings together the consumer, the insurer and the club. "The Virgin Solution" is operational in Virgin's 76 health clubs in South Africa and has over 100,000 participating members. The talk will be on Wed., March 24, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

>> In an article in the Denver Business Journal on March 12, author Paula Moore talks to Kevin Lamar, Nautilus group president, about the company and tours a testing facility with robotics that drop dumbbells and poke buttons on panels. The fitness company's commercial/retail component, which Lamar oversees, accounts for more than half its total business, or 55 percent to 60 percent -- and is expected to get even bigger, he told the journal. The facility employs 132 people. "My idea is to create a human-innovation laboratory, to develop the neatest fitness equipment and drive new thinking," Lamar told the Journal. "A lot of fitness trends start here because of Boulder. ... This is a health-crazy area, a cycling Shangri-La. Here people have a couple of bikes and one car in the garage, where most places people have a couple of cars and one bike."

>> Iron Grip Barbell Company has recently released an updated version of the eWeight Planner program. The latest version, 2.0, now features 14 participating fitness equipment manufacturers, as well as improved functional and time-saving features. The eWeight Planner currently includes equipment from Life Fitness, Nautilus, Cybex, Hoist, Paramount, Strive, Flex, Body Masters, Muscle Dynamics, Technogym, Magnum, Matrix and MedX, and recently added Atlantis Fitness Equipment. Iron Grip provides the tool to its customers and dealers at no charge. Version 2.0 of Iron Grip's eWeight Planner is available for download at the company's website, www.irongrip.com, or customers can request to have the program mailed to them on CD.

>> The Munich, Germany-based, sporting goods trade show ispo is accepting entries for this summer's ispo BrandNew Award, with a deadline of April 2. Winners in seven categories will receive all-expense-paid booths and other benefits at ispo summer, July 4-6, in Munich -- ispo values the award at $125,000 when free promotion, free advertising, free booth space and other perks are added in. Since this award marks the 10th staging of the BrandNew Award, ispo also announced that the 1,000th registrant (in the award's history) will receive a $1,000 Euro travel voucher to attend ispo summer 04. Just under 150 companies from 22 countries entered the winter awards. An international jury of sports business professionals judge the entries for design, marketing and innovation. To qualify, companies must be no older than four years old and a first-time exhibitor at ispo. Entries must be received by April 2. Companies, brands or individuals worldwide with a new, and what they consider "ingenious product," can go online to www.ispo-brandnew.com to download an entry form or get more information for mailing entries. Questions can be emailed to: info@ispo-brandnew.com.

>> In a March 10 earnings conference call, adidas-Salomon announced that for 2003, currency-neutral sales for the company grew 5 percent; however, in euro terms, sales declined 4 percent to Euro 6.267 billion in 2003 compared to 2002's Euro 6.523 billion. The adidas brand posted the most substantial gains with sales up 5 percent on a currency-neutral basis, but currency effects from a strong euro versus the weak U.S. dollar negatively impacted sales in euro terms. Sales for the adidas brand in euro terms declined 3 percent to Euro 4.950 billion in 2003 from Euro 5.105 billion in 2002. In the fourth quarter of 2003, adidas-Salomon sales declined by 4 percent. In euro terms, sales decreased 10 percent to Euro 1.354 billion in 2003 from Euro 1.511 billion in 2002. Herbert Hainer, CEO and chairman of adidas-Salomon, admitted in the conference call that the major internal challenges of 2003 were a competitive North American market that the company adapted to slowly to, oversupplying of retail channels and the slowing growth of the adidas Sport Heritage business. "We've decided that we are changing our emphasis somewhat in North America," Hainer said. "Instead of focusing nearly exclusively on market share gains, we believe that profitability must be the key metric by which our business success should be measured. This means that -- while we definitely plan to continue to expand our top line in the U.S. and Canada over the next few years -- as I have said on more than one occasion, our highest priority as a group is to drive bottom-line profitability and that's exactly what we plan to do in North America. " Among the actions taken to achieve that goal is the hiring of Joe Fields as the commercial director responsible for all sales and retail activities in North America. He has worked with Speedo and the Pentland Group and will start April 1. On a sad note, Hainer announced to the media and analysts before reviewing the company's fourth quarter and full-year results that John Ross McMullin, formerly CEO of adidas America, lost his two-year battle with cancer on March 8 among family and friends at his home in Portland. He was 47. McMullin worked at adidas from July 2000 until fall 2003 after more than 20 years in the packaged goods business. He is survived by his wife Cheryl and daughters, Julia and Kristina. The family requests that contributions be sent to: Cancer Care Resources, 439 N. Broadway, Portland, OR 97227.

>> Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS) reported sales and earnings results for the fourth quarter and year ended Jan. 31, 2004. Net income for the fourth quarter increased 36 percent to $26 million and earnings per share increased 22 percent to $1.00 per diluted share as compared to net income of $19.1 million and earnings per share of $0.82 per diluted share for the quarter ended Feb. 1, 2003. Total sales for the quarter increased 20 percent to $474.4 million from 2002's $395.2 million. Same-store sales climbed 4.6 percent in the quarter. Net income for full year 2003 increased 38 percent to $52.8 million and earnings per share increased 12 percent to $2.10 per diluted share as compared to net income of $38.3 million and earnings per share of $1.87 per diluted share for previous year. Total sales for 2003 increased 16 percent to $1,470.8 million. Comparable store sales increased 2.1 percent. Estimates for Q1 2004 show that comparable store sales are expected to increase approximately 4 percent to 5 percent. Dick's expects to open six new stores during the first quarter in Youngstown, Ohio; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Indianapolis, Ind. (three stores); and Hartford, Conn. (its third store in that area). It opened 22 new stores in 2003 and plans a total of 25 for 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.

>> Hibbett Sporting Goods Inc. (NasdaqNM: HIBB) not only announced its fourth quarter and 2003 year-end results, but also the appointment of Mickey Newsome, president and CEO of the company, as the chairman of the board. John Megrue Jr. is relinquishing his role as chairman and retiring from the board to devote more attention to Saunders, Karp & Megrue's growing roster of investments. Megrue had been chairman since 1995, when Saunders, Karp & Megrue, L.P. acquired a controlling interest in Hibbett. The company's net sales for the 13-week period ended Jan. 31, 2004, increased 20.8 percent to $91.2 million compared with $75.5 million for the 13-week period ended Feb. 1, 2003. Comparable store sales increased 8.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Net sales for the 52-week period ended Jan. 31, 2004, increased 15.0 percent to $321.0 million compared with $279.2 million for the 52-week period ended Feb. 1, 2003. Comparable store sales increased 5.3 percent. Net income for the year increased 38.1 percent to $20.3 million compared with $14.7 million in the previous year. Diluted earnings per share increased 34.4 percent to $1.29 from $0.96 in the prior year. Newsome said all three of Hibbett's merchandise categories -- athletic apparel, footwear and equipment -- performed well. Hibbett will conduct a 3-for-2 stock split in April in the form of a 50 percent stock dividend, paid to shareholders of record as of April 1. The split will bring total shares outstanding to about 23.3 million, the company said. The company opened 24 stores during the quarter, bringing fiscal 2004 net openings to 57 stores and total stores open to 428. 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.

>> 180s Inc. is taking another company to task for patent infringement. The company filed a complaint March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Northern Division) against Walgreen Co. for patent infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition over its Ear Warmer product. 180s charges that Walgreen is selling a similar ear covering under the name "Ear Band" in multiple New York and Connecticut stores. 180s has held its Ear Warmer patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,835,609 (the '609 patent), since November 1998. In court documents, 180s also said Walgreen has used photos in its marketing materials that are the property of 180s and used in its own promotional materials. Among its various requests for relief, 180s is asking the court for a permanent injunction to stop the infringement on its '609 patent, to cease the sale of the offending product and compensation. This follows on the heels of two January patent infringement filings against Starcrest of California, a California-based mail-order company, and Liter Boutique, a distributor of consumer products. Recently, the company settled an infringement suit that it filed in Japan for its Japanese equivalent of the '609 patent.

>> Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. (NYSE: BFT) told U.S. regulators on March 12 it needed to delay filing its Form 10-K annual report due to a change in its accounting method in 2003. The company has adopted a cash basis of accounting for its membership revenues, instead of its prior estimation-based deferral accounting system. CEO Paul Toback initiated the accounting change. During a conference call on Friday, the company gave details about the new way of reporting revenue. In the past, Bally had been recording revenue for long-term memberships, such as three years, within a shorter period of time, such as 22 months, to reflect its estimate of the average time a member stayed with the club. However, this meant Bally was often recording revenue before it received payments from the member. If members defaulted on their commitments to belong for a certain period, then the company would have to take write-offs. Under the new system, Bally will only record the revenue when it is received, giving investors a clearer picture of the company's finances. The change resulted in non-cash charges of $675 million, it said in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Bally said it expects the Form 10-K to be completed and filed within 15 days of its March 15 SEC filing deadline.

>> The American Council for Fitness and Nutrition (ACFN) has called on the Senate and other policy makers to focus on ways to build healthier communities through nutrition education and increased physical activity. ACFN has submitted a written statement to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competition, Infrastructure, and Foreign Commerce in response to its hearing, "The Rise of Obesity in Children." "ACFN believes that solving the obesity problem is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and achieving the proper energy balance between calories consumed and calories burned," testified ACFN Chair Susan Finn. "The rise in obesity is the result of many complex factors. What we should keep in mind is the fact that, just as there is no single cause of obesity, there is no simple solution or one-size fits all answer." According to ACFN, the key to reversing current obesity trends is to give children and parents the necessary tools to develop a lifetime of healthy habits. Programs highlighted in ACFN's testimony include the PEP grants and other nationwide and community based programs such as America On The Move (www.americaonthemove.org). Finn's statement is at www.acfn.org.

>> And then we have Oreos. How do YOU eat an Oreo cookie? The folks at Nabisco decided they needed to know what America did with its sandwich cookies. With more than 2,000 respondents to its online survey and after "extensive analysis," according to the Oreo management team, the company found that 20 percent are dunkers, 32 percent twist apart the cookie, and the rest are pop-'em-in-the-mouth biters. Wooooo, scientific stuff there. But here comes the best part: A character analysis based on whether you're a dunker, twister or biter. Dunkers are, the Oreo folks say, the life of the party, high-energy, athletic types and very social. Twisters are warm, fuzzy and emotional; they love animals and cry at movies and tend to be more artistic and averse to sports. Biters are, yes, carefree, easy-going, predictable and family oriented with strong values.

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