>> David Salisbury will be leaving Hoist where he's been heading up marketing and PR for nearly two years. He will be taking on the role of marketing manager/West Coast for the legal firm of Fish & Richardson, working on business development and assisting the national office and marketing director as needed. "This is very unique. It's rare that law firms have marketing departments," he told SNEWS®, but Salisbury says it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up when the company approached him. Not that it was easy to leave Hoist, where he's been heading up marketing since July 2002. "It was a tough decision," he added. "Hoist was a great company to work for, and they taught me a lot." Fish & Richardson has more than 300 attorneys in eight offices around the country (www.fr.com) and was founded in 1878. FR specialized in intellectual property, litigation and corporate law and actually represented Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers! Now, THAT'S intellectual property!
>> GearTrends.com, the sister website of SNEWSnet.com, and one of the family of products owned by SNEWS LLC, is garnering serious attention among trade and consumer visitors. In March, the site saw more than 20,000 unique visitors who, in turn, viewed more than 103,000 pages. One of the site visitors was a New York Times columnist who commented, "I can't believe I didn’t know about your site before; this is fantastic." That columnist found GearTrends® while searching for a product during her story research and, as a result, interviewed site co-publisher Michael Hodgson -- read the full story here by clicking here. Therese Iknoian, co-publisher of GearTrends®, was also quoted recently in a Smart Money article, as well as in a feature story about Nordic walking in the Buffalo News. In addition, GearTrends® will receive a mention in the June issue of Ladies Home Journal.
>> Life Fitness world headquarters in Illinois will move as of April 19, moving from its Franklin Park address to Schiller Park. The new address will be: 5100 River Rd., Ste. 300, Schiller Park, IL 60176. Phone numbers will remain the same, except for those in the marketing department, which had moved previously to downtown Chicago, but will now rejoin the group in Schiller Park. Schiller Park is just east of O'Hare airport and just north of where the company was before. Manufacturing, distribution and engineering will remain in Franklin Park, but all groups will move in stages. The transition should be complete by the end of April.
>> Now we've seen it all. Yoga specialist Hugger Mugger has just introduced the Aroma Mat. It's made from the same materials as its original Tapas mat but with aromatherapy added. The Aroma Mat will have a scent combining the aromas of jasmine, peach, raspberry and coconut and is expected at retail next week. For additional information on the Aroma Mat and other Hugger Mugger products, contact Hugger Mugger, 801-268-9642 or www.huggermugger.com. SNEWS® View: We guess this is better than the scent of well-worn rubber with the ground-in aroma of sweat.
>> UNITED KINGDOM -- According to a recent survey by consumer analyst Mintel, spending on health and fitness clubs in the United Kingdom has grown faster than any other form of entertainment, by 179 percent, over the last 10 years. This supports the findings of a separate study by Barclays, which revealed that would-be entrepreneurs are benefiting from the fitness boom by setting up sports and leisure businesses at a faster rate than ever before. As a result, the total number of start-up companies has reached its highest level since 1988. Overall, 66,300 new keep-fit, cycling, personal training and health clubs were created in 2003 which marked a 50 percent rise from the year before. Mintel also predicts that the leisure sector will continue to be the main beneficiary of the increasing amount of free time and surplus wealth in the country, and that businesses benefiting most from the mounting free time will be those within the fitness and travel sectors.
>> Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said April 2 that its rating on Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. (B+/Negative/--) is not affected by Ernst & Young's resignation as Bally's independent auditor -- for now. Ernst & Young's resignation will be effective no later than the filing of Bally's Form 10-Q with the Securities Exchange Commission for the quarter ended March 31, 2004. Bally recently filed its 2003 Form 10-K, and Ernst & Young also filed a letter indicating that there is no disagreement on accounting issues. Nonetheless, Ernst & Young's resignation does raise investor uncertainties, according to Standard & Poor, and a change in independent auditor could result in further uncertainties. Standard & Poor plans to monitor developments during Bally's selection of a new independent auditor and the audit transition process. The rating could be negatively affected by weak operating trends, financial reporting and accounting issues, or other developments.
>> GERMANY -- The market for fitness walking in Germany is growing strongly, reported that country's trade journal, Sport + Mode. The sale of walking shoes has jumped 43 percent in 2003 over 2002 and now represents 3 percent of the athletic footwear market. Some 80 percent of the shoes were sold at sport-specific stores. Shoe manufacturers there see 2004 as also growing at a similar rate over 2003, if the numbers continue as they are.
>> American Sports Data (ASD) has reported that U.S. health club memberships between Jan. 1, 2003, and Jan. 1, 2004, have grown 8.6 percent from 36.3 million to 39.4 million members, health club association IHRSA reported. This represents the first net increase of more than 3 million members since ASD began tracking this for IHRSA in 1987. Since Jan. 1, 2000, when IHRSA set its sights on 50 million U.S. members by 2010 (and 100 million members worldwide), U.S. membership has increased by 28.8 percent from 30.6 million to 39.4 million -- a compound growth rate of 6.5 percent. To achieve the goal of 50 million U.S. members by 2010, the U.S. industry will need to achieve a compound growth rate over the next six years of 4.1 percent.
>> SNEWS® spent a few minutes speaking to Life Fitness parent Brunswick Corp.'s CEO/Chairman George W. Buckley at the IHRSA show, who was only attending his second such show. Buckley said, among other things, that of course as an industry leader, Life Fitness would be looking at ways to encourage the unfit to become fit. "If companies like Life Fitness don't do something about it, who is?" he asked, pointing to a customer base that is just waiting to be served. He said that indeed the industry has seemingly been run by athletic types for athletic types. Since most people don't want to go to clubs (and he admits he doesn't much either), it's his company's job to come up with equipment that is friendlier and easier so therefore more motivating. "Manufacturers have to be convinced there is a growing need," he added. Consumers need to form the habit, and he says he can relate since he's lucky to squeeze in his own three-times-a-week exercise, although "I know what I should do," and certainly has access to some great equipment, too. In sum, he said, "Life Fitness is a company with much more growth potential."
>> Missed your workout because of that pesky business trip? Take note: JetBlue and Crunch Fitness (a Bally-owned company) are working together to keep passengers in shape while they jet through the wild blue yonder with the newly launched Flying Pilates program. Exclusively for JetBlue, Crunch Fitness has created the Flying Pilates card with four easy-to-assume Pilates moves, all of which can be achieved while sitting in your seat. In early May, the two companies will host a relaxation lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and offer JetBlue customers Flying Pilates demos, massages and gift bags to "encourage customers to relieve stress through exercise." SNEWS® View: Even if it's just a unique marketing ploy for JetBlue to promote the fact that it's added two extra inches of legroom to 65 percent of plane's seats, the Pilates poses may catch on and get some people moving. But we'll still have to see it to believe it. Next thing we know, someone will be doing a back bend in the seat next to you.
>> Go to www.factoryfitness.com and get ready to be baffled. After the schwanky flash intro you get tossed into a screen that asks: "Do you live in Indiana or Kentucky?" Sound easy? The answer choices are: Yes or No. Yikes, now what? There isn't an option for "neither." OK, OK, we suppose the question is asking for a yes or no to whether you live in EITHER one of those states, but think about the fact that it could mean, Do you live in Indiana (yes or no) or Kentucky (yes or no) without an alternative for if you live in neither… We're still staring at the screen.
>> Reebok has stepped up to the plate. Literally.In support of America's fight against heart disease, Reebok will give away $1 million worth of VersaSport DMX Max walking shoes with the launch of the "Wear Your Heart on Your Feet!" campaign. Beginning in May 2004, consumers who make a donation of $25 or more to the American Heart Association via Reebok's new walking website, www.reebok.com/walking, will receive a free pair of Reebok's newest walking shoes, the VersaSport DMX Max. The shoe will be available in June 2004 for a suggested retail price of $70.
>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Following a nationwide study into exercise and weight loss, LA Fitness plans to launch an obesity action plan next month. The company's 12-week study involved 200 participants, most of whom had never been in a gym before. The participants were asked not to alter their food intake, but were given a tailored exercise program for the 12 weeks. They were also assigned a personal trainer for one hour a week to help maintain motivation levels. The average weight loss over the 12 weeks was 6kg (13 pounds) and body mass index was reduced from an average of 33 to 31. The study found that maintaining high motivation levels was key to keeping participants on board as well as offering regular encouragement and support. On the back of this research, LA Fitness is launching a pilot scheme to help overweight people maintain the motivation needed for successful and sustainable weight loss. Starting at select clubs next month, the company will offer a free, weekly drop-in session for GP referrals. The sessions, catering up to 15 people, will offer support and advice on how to incorporate activity into everyday life. Participants that miss two consecutive sessions will be replaced by others. The pilot scheme will run for up to two months and, depending on its success, will be rolled out to clubs throughout the country.
>> PR agency Snapp Norris Group (SNG) has announced the appointment of Cory Maloy to the agency's senior PR team. Most recently of Icon Health & Fitness, Maloy brings more than 15 years experience to SNG, including extensive background in high-tech public relations for Applied Research Technologies, Iomega, Dayna Communications, Plantronics and Maxtor.
>> We keep hearing about how the Men's Fitness annual "fattest cities" article starts campaigns in cities and counties around the country where residents would rather not have that title. A study out of Michigan has said that the state's unhealthy lifestyles are hurting that states economic growth. "We need to educate more of our residents about the direct relationship between their own health, bottom-line health care costs and the number of jobs available," said Don Jakeway, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The state has the highest risk of death from such things as coronary heart disease, and ranks second for obesity and diabetes. The state said it planned to unveil a website and begin programs that would help businesses find ways to help employees get healthier and more fit. Men's Fitness magazine in January had named Detroit the nation's fattest city in terms of population, not pounds. Detroit jumped from No. 3 on the magazine's list in 2003 to bump Houston from the top spot this year due to a spike in TV viewing, a worsening commute time and a scarcity of gyms.
>> In a continuing series of news bits that have nothing to do with fitness (or outdoor): Did you know that April 4 marked the beginning of National Clean Out Your Fridge Week? The folks that care say it's time to lift the lids and peek inside the mystery tubs in the back. The folks from Glad (you know, plastic wrap and storage stuff… hmm, makes you wonder who came up with this national "week") share some tips: "If you can no longer identify the food, throw it out." (Ed: Well, no ----, Sherlock). "Any vegetable or fruit that's softer than Jell-O has to go." (Ed: Oh, yuuu-UCK). "Slime is a bad sign." (?!?!?)