Fitness: Did you hear?...

Katina Geralis of Leisure Fitness wins SBA's Entrepreneurial Success award for Delaware, ACE announces instructor/trainer of year, Amer Sports execs wander IHRSA halls for first time, Spirit Fitness' Jay Hurt a daddy, obesity a problem of wealthier societies, do you think you communicate well? and much more….
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>> Katina Geralis, owner and founder of specialty retail group Leisure Fitness based in Delaware, is featured in the February 2004 issue of Delaware Today magazine (www.delawaretoday.com). The story, called "A Perfect Fit," details how the University of Delaware PE major was determined in her quest and now is the only woman-owned company in the fitness equipment industry. Leisure Fitness has grown from one store in 1995, founded with savings and the help of an SBA loan, to an 11-store chain in five states on the mid-Atlantic coast. Growth slated for 2004 calls for four new stores this year. Since the story was published Geralis has also won the SBA's Entrepreneurial Success award for the state of Delaware and she is now in the running for the national award. "She knew where she wanted to go from the beginning," her father was quoted in the story. "She's always been a money-maker." He related how she said after college she wanted to go into business for herself and that he said she needed to be strong. SNEWS View: Geralis has proved herself strong in the fitness industry, which sadly remains mostly a man's world. We wish more women would step into the industry since we think it could help the industry, both manufacturers and retailers, better each the American public and the psyches of both men and women.

>> The American Council on Exercise announced the winners of its 2004 Achievement Awards at IHRSA 2004 in Las Vegas. Awards were presented for Karen Merrill, personal trainer of the year; Stephanie Harris, group fitness instructor of the year; and Debi Pillarella, fitness director of the year. The awards are intended to publicly recognize the contribution these professionals have made to the fitness industry. Each winner receives a $2,500 scholarship toward continuing education in the fitness industry.

>> Heard in the halls at the IHRSA show, one CEO to another: "The idea here is that collaboratively we'll collaborate." SNEWS View: No, really. Do you think we could make this up? All heads in the little group nodded seriously up and down in response. Yikes. I know folks are a bit tired at the show, but really….

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Both men and women in the United Kingdom seem to know more about sports and TV soaps than health and fitness, according to a recent survey there. Women were more likely to know about the lives and loves of their favorite soap characters than their own heart and health, and men were more clued into the highs and lows of the rugby and soccer leagues than their own blood pressure. The results, from a representative sample in the UK, showed that more than 90 percent of the women surveyed were able to answer questions correctly on that country's top TV soaps, but when asked individual questions about chest pains, lumps in the throat, fitness and sleep requirements, only 60 percent answered correctly. Men too answered an average of 98 percent of sports questions correctly, but only scored 40 percent on health questions. "There are three likely reasons for this," said psychologist David Lewis. "The first being pressure of time. It seems men assign developing a healthy lifestyle a far lower priority than many of the other demands made on them. Second is denial of reality, a refusal to face up to the long-term consequences of failures to safeguard their well-being. Finally, the current cult for young super good looking celebrities may be discouraging some from attempting to become slimmer and fitter. Their argument seems to be that since they will never achieve a similar level of attractiveness there is no point in trying." SNEWS View: Maybe clubs, retailers and suppliers can think about using these interests in advertisements, too. We're sure it's pretty similar in the United States.

>> Amer Sports executives came to the IHRSA show for the first time last week to visit with its company Precor. Amer CEO Roger Talermo told SNEWS the first thing he noticed was that they were all definitely wearing the wrong clothes with their sport coats and slacks. Also, it struck them how high the energy was in the show halls. In addition, he said that he's never seen people at shows get hands-on with the equipment as much as they did on the IHRSA show floor where attendees typically leap on ellipticals and home gyms. Talermo said you just don't see that at golf or other sporting goods shows, and he was quite impressed. In other business news: Amer has slowed down on the acquisition front, but with several hundred million Euros ready to be spent on more acquisitions, you never know what's next. But, Talermo said, they won't do it haphazardly but will always be sure the company chooses carefully to ensure an acquisition fits its needs and Amer can "unleash" its potential by acquiring it, as he said Amer was able to do with Precor. In an earlier briefing with European journalists at the show, Precor President Paul Byrne said the company has already been able to cut down lead time for CardioTheater products to five weeks from about 14 weeks and Icarian lead time has been cut in half.

>> As reported in the St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch, big-box stores and enclosed shopping malls are battling for customers today, but the future belongs to another breed of commercial center, says one influential design futurist. Some people increasingly want enriching, cultural experiences when they go shopping, said Jay Valgora, a design principal at Walker Group/CNI Inc. in New York City. His remarks were part of a seminar, "Where Culture Meets Commerce: The New Trend of Urban Mixed-Use Centers," which was part of GlobalShop 2004, which is the world's largest visual merchandising and store design conference. "If we're going to impose commercial standards in public spaces, we are obligated to give people an authentic experience," Valgora told the audience. Nowadays, he said, "Retail is everything, and everything is retail."

>> A March 2004 study, the UCLA Anderson Forecast, named the best medium-sized metro areas for doing business, and fitness suppliers have done pretty well in getting there. No. 2 is Madison, Wis., the home of Johnson Health Tech's Vision and Horizon fitness companies; Fresno, Calif., in No. 4 is the home of Keiser; Matrix Fitness calls No. 7, Albuquerque, N.M., its headquarters; and No. 9 (Napa, Calif., and area) is the home of Harbinger Fitness. No. 1? Green Bay, Wis.

>> FitBiz by GearTrends retailer additions, Part II, for our story "Big, Bigger … Best?" -- We love knowing you read us and you care. Additions to our list were noted last week (See SNEWS March 22, Did You Hear section). Another VIG (Very Important Group) somehow slipping through the cracks was Leisure Fitness, with 11 stores in the northeast (VA, MD, DE, PA, NJ). We greatly appreciate the calls and additions! OK, alert readers, I'll ask again: Who else did we leave off? Email therese@snewsnet.com with any others that have five or more storefronts or those who will have five or more by the end of this year so we can be sure to let you know AND to get them all listed next year. And if you didn't receive the publication, the entire business journal FitBiz pub will be downloadable in PDF by early April at www.geartrends.com (click on the magazine icon at upper right).

>> Jay Hurt of Spirit Fitness is the proud daddy of a baby boy, born March 22 at 7:45 a.m. Seth Williams Hurt weighed in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces. We are told everyone is happy and healthy.

>> If you live in the area of a Home Depot and get its seasonal mailers, look to page 16 in its "early spring 2004" issue for a surprise: fitness equipment. Yup. No brand is obvious on the two-page spread that features weight benches and treadmills that fold out of classy-looking furniture, unless you can read the words on the bench (Image, which is an Icon brand, of course). If you go to www.homedepot.com/fitness, you are directed to the Hidden Grove website, which is the furniture/fitness product by Image/Icon that Costco is also selling. "The future of fitness," the site says, with links to its "bed/living room collection" and to its "home office collection." A tag adds "in partnership with Home Depot." It IS nice the way it folds up and hides away in beautiful wood furniture. One boo-boo: the site is tagged "Hidden Groove" (two oo's) so that's what you see on your start bar or when you minimize the site. Ouch of a typo. Yes, Hidden Groove furniture is still available at Costco.com for $2,300 for the treadmill armoire, as is Powerhouse, Kettler, Marcy, Healthrider, Impex, and a Schwinn treadmill ($950) and a Schwinn elliptical ($1,000). The selection varies but a search using the keyword "fitness" brings up what's there at the time.

>> Bankrupt shoe retailer Footstar Inc. (Other OTC: FTSTQ.PK) announced on March 25 it will sell its remaining athletic shoe stores as quickly as possible after failing to extend a supply agreement with Nike, its biggest supplier. Previously, when it filed for Chapter 11 protection earlier this month, it had only planned to close 165 stores -- all 88 of its money-losing Just For Feet stores and 77 of its 429 Footaction locations. Now, Footstar said it would sell all or part of its remaining 353 Footaction stores, partly because Nike has not agreed to supply merchandise beyond the end of May at the same terms it did before Footstar filed for bankruptcy. The sale will be conducted through a court-supervised auction by Credit Suisse First Boston, the company said -- although an earlier attempt in late December failed. Footstar said ridding itself of the stores will allow it to focus on its Meldisco division, which operates about 2,496 licensed footwear sections in department stores such as Kmart Holdings Corp. Meldisco also offers its own Thom McAn brand and private labels through Kmart, Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers. The following day, Footstar announced that Shawn Neville, president and CEO of its athletic segment, has left the company, and a team of executives has assumed his responsibilities.

>> An update on the untimely and sad passing of PowerBar founder Brian Maxwell at the age of 51. Jeff Kletter, founder of sunscreen and skincare company KINeSYS, on whose board Maxwell sat, pointed out that Maxwell had six children, not five as news stories have cited. His youngest, Andrew, was only 7 months only. Added Kletter, "As you know, Brian Maxwell was our partner, mentor, confidant and friend. He will be dearly missed…. We only get to meet a rare few people in this world who are truly good; he was one of the good guys. I'll miss him and know my life is better for having been blessed enough to spend whatever time we were able to spend together." SNEWS View: We at SNEWS are still shocked and stunned by his sudden passing just over a week ago, as we sure others are.

>> The health club group IHRSA has announced that both the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the California Strawberry Commission (CSC) will participate in its public campaign, Get Active America! (May 17 to 23). The California Strawberry Commission has been named the premiere sponsor of Get Active America! and the American Cancer Society has been chosen as the campaign's "charitable partner." Others sponsors of different levels include Cybex, Life Fitness, Matrix, Technogym, Nautilus, Star Trac, FreeMotion Fitness, Precor, True and the American Council on Exercise. www.getactiveamerica.com

>> Obesity isn't only about appearances or heart disease, but also about cancer risk. In a survey conducted by the American Cancer Society in 2002, only one percent of respondents identified "maintaining a healthy weight" as a way to reduce cancer risk. The society points out that a third of annual cancer deaths could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity, a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

>> Don't think your supervisors do so well at the communication thang? You aren't alone, although they think they do a pretty good job. NFI Research, a U.S.-based research firm that identifies and analyzes trends and attitudes in business, recently released survey results about how executives and managers feel they receive and give communication. In general, executives and managers say that only 24 percent of their supervisors communicate "very well" the roles of projects and tasks in the context of the organization's long-term strategy and direction. After that, whoa, boy, it trickles down quickly with only 35 percent saying it's "somewhat well," 27 percent noting "not very well," and 11 percent saying "not at all well." Now, from their standpoint, the executives and managers give themselves very high marks on how well they communicate to their subordinates. A whooping 91 percent of executives and managers feel that they communicate well to their subordinates. One respondent said: "In general, executives are better at communicating downward (i.e., talking and directing) than in hearing and understanding what their subordinates are trying to tell them through words, actions, and body language. There's a good reason why we have been designed with two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth." Ouch.

>> Life Fitness has filled the exercise rooms of the largest cruise ship in the world, Cunard Line's new Queen Mary 2. The 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub on board the Queen Mary 2 is outfitted with more than 55 pieces of Life Fitness cardiovascular and strength-training equipment. Even some passenger suites have Life Fitness equipment, and more Life Fitness pieces are available on the crew deck for use by the ship's approximately 1,250 personnel. Life equipment is on 160 cruise ships floating the globe.

>> On March 26, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its corporate credit and senior unsecured debt ratings on Reebok International (NYSE: RBK) to "BBB" from "BBB-." The ratings are removed from CreditWatch, where they were placed Oct. 24, 2003. Standard & Poor said the outlook is stable. "The upgrade reflects Reebok's improved financial profile and Standard & Poor's belief that management will maintain financial policies and credit protection measures consistent with its new rating," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Jean Stout. According to Standard & Poor, the ratings on Reebok reflect its well-recognized brand name, improved product portfolio, and good cash flows and liquidity position. These factors are somewhat offset by the high degree of fashion risk in the athletic footwear market and significant competition in Reebok's core segments. Reebok had about $360 million in debt outstanding as of Dec. 31, 2003.

>> Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson in an editorial in the March 22 issue notes that obesity is a problem of wealthier societies in the column titled, "What do obesity, the 'time crunch' and buyer's remorse all have in common?" Writes Samuelson, "It may seem a bit unnatural, but more and more of our social problems and complaints stem from our affluence, not our poverty. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson made that point last week -- unintentionally, to be sure -- when he announced that obesity now rivals smoking as the largest cause of premature death. The Centers for Disease Control reckons that obesity contributes to about 400,000 deaths annually, just behind tobacco (435,000) and ahead of alcohol (85,000), car accidents (43,000) and guns (29,000). Obesity and its complications -- more diabetes and heart disease, for instance -- now account for an estimated 9 percent of U.S. health spending. When we were poorer, obesity was not a big problem." See the entire column by clicking here.

>> Athletic shoe retailer Finish Line Inc. (NasdaqNM: FINL) on March 25 reported higher quarterly income and raised its forecast for the current year. Finish Line said that for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28, 2004, it earned $21.0 million, or 86 cents per diluted share compared with $15.4 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier. The company, which operates 531 stores, said net sales in the quarter rose 30 percent to $305.3 million. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 19 percent. Net sales increased 30 percent to $985.9 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 28, 2004 (FY 2004), compared to $757.2 million for the 52 weeks ended March 1, 2003 (FY 2003). Comparable store net sales increased 20 percent for FY 2004 on top of a 3 percent increase for FY 2003. 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.

>> Everlast Worldwide Inc. (Nasdaq: EVST) announced on March 26 its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended Dec. 31, 2003, which reflected an emphasis on brand building through licensing arrangements. For the fourth quarter, net sales were $16.7 million as compared to 2002's $18.2 million. Net sales in the fourth quarter of 2003 would have been 3 percent higher than reported 2002 net sales after reflecting a change in revenue sources for 2003, as certain customers became licensees in 2003. Net licensing revenues rose 40.6 percent to $1.8 million vs. $1.3 million in the 2002 period. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2003, net sales were $58.0 million as compared to $65.6 million in 2002. According to the company, approximately one-half of this decline results from customers who became licensees this year; the remaining decline is the result of soft sales from the first-half of the year caused by unfavorable economic conditions. Net licensing revenues increased 21.2 percent to $6.7 million as compared to 2002's $5.5 million. The company also said it was impacted by one-time costs and charges associated with the consolidation of its Bronx, N.Y., facility into its Moberly, Mo., facility during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003. "2003 was a transition year for us. While we achieved record licensing revenues, our results were impacted in the first half of the year by economic and political events beyond our control. Our results were also impacted by various one-time costs and charges associated with our Bronx, N.Y., facility closure," said George Horowitz, chairman and CEO of Everlast Worldwide. 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 group out of England wants to stomp out clichés, especially rampant in business use. The Plain English Campaign says "at the end of the day" is the most irritating one in the English language today. This abused and overused phrase "won" first place in a poll of most annoying clichés, according to this group. Second place went to "at this moment in time," and third place was given to "like," used as if it were a form of punctuation. "With all due respect" came in fourth. "When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message -- assuming there is one," said John Lister, spokesman for Plain English Campaign, which was founded in 1979 (www.plainenglish.co.uk). "Using these terms in daily business is about as professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ring-tone on your phone." Take a look at these other terms that received multiple nominations to see if you sprinkle your talk with them: 24/7, absolutely, address the issue, around (in place of about), awesome, ballpark figure, basically, basis ("on a weekly basis" in place of "weekly" and so on), bear with me, between a rock and a hard place, bottom line, crack troops, glass half full (or half empty), I hear what you're saying, in terms of, it's not rocket science, literally, move the goal-posts, ongoing, prioritize, pushing the envelope, singing from the same hymn sheet, the fact of the matter is, thinking outside the box, to be honest/to be honest with you/to be perfectly honest and touch base. SNEWS View: Absolutely, at the end of the day, we find ourselves like caught between a rock and a hard place at this moment in time, which like despite being an awesome experience 24/7 is basically like not rocket science, but literally can move the goal-posts on an ongoing basis so we can continue to push the envelope -- something we do with all due respect, to be perfectly honest. Like we hear you. (!)

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