Fitness: Did you hear?...

SNEWS issues Red Alert warning about bogus email, IHRSA releases prelim attendance numbers, Fitness Management presents Nova7Awards, Discovery Health Channel's National Body Challenge ends with 200,000-plus pounds lost, plus much more....
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>> The SNEWS® team is issuing a Red Alert to all of our subscribers regarding a bogus email scam that attempts to lure you into downloading a harmful virus. A sample email that you might receive looks like it has come from us and appears as follows: "From: support@snewsnet.com Subject: E-mail technical support message. Dear user of e-mail server "Snewsnet.com", We warn you about some attacks on your e-mail account. Your computer may contain viruses, in order to keep your computer and e-mail account safe, please, follow the instructions. For details see the attached file. Sincerely, The Snewsnet.com" Aside from the fact we can actually write and would never use such language as, "We warn you…" the SNEWS® team would never, ever contact you with a support issue containing an attachment, nor would the email come from "support@snewsnet.com," since that email doesn't even exist. If you receive this type of email from us, or any other account you trust, DO NOT open the attachment! To be sure, you can always email the apparent sender for clarification. For your added protection, be sure as always your virus protections are fully up-to-date. They're getting sneakier and sneakier.

>> GERMANY -- Sporting goods stores in Germany didn't have such a great month in March. For the first three months of this year, total sales are now down 3.7 percent compared to last year, according to a monthly survey done of 88 regionally representative stores by the trade news publication sport+mode. What adds insult to injury is that sales for March 2003 were also significantly down.

>> Although not final, IHRSA has released to SNEWS® some preliminary numbers after its annual international show at the end of March. Attendees totaled 10,555 or about 1,500 more than last year, not counting exhibitors and staff. The numbers also show 396 exhibiting companies. The show floor size came to 300,000 square feet in its new venue in the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which means the show extended about 60,000 square feet into the rear section behind the stairs from the front S1 hall. With another 160,000 feet behind that, there is plenty of room to grow, it seems. (In comparison, the San Francisco Moscone Center, which was sold out last year, has just over 260,000 square feet of space, which holds 1,305 10-by-10 booths. Last year's prelim numbers showed "nearly 400" exhibitors. No word on if booths this year were just bigger.)

>> Also on the IHRSA post-show trickle-in coverage: BeBalanced of the Airex balance pad group has announced that the program and product will be carried by Spri Products and Spri, as the company's exclusive fitness industry market, will distribute the Airex balance pads and BeBalanced learning materials. The Magister Corp. will be the main distributor for the personal trainer market.

>> More disturbing stats about obesity, eating and exercise from the United States and United Kingdom. A recent poll by Harris Interactive conducted for The Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition found that 83 percent of Americans polled blame the country's obesity epidemic on the lack of exercise. Only 34 percent of Americans chose caloric consumption as a major reason why obesity has increased. Also, 89 percent of Americans blame TV commercials for encouraging people to eat or drink more than is good for them, while a mere 7 percent say there is no impact at all. "We know that people consume more and more calories but only a third of the public see this as a major cause of obesity," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive. "The data suggests that many people are either in denial, or they are woefully ignorant, that most people just eat too much." Across the Atlantic, research from Moss Pharmacy, the UK's second largest pharmacy chain, showed dangerous levels of ignorance about major risk factors for heart disease including weight, exercise and diet. The study found that one in three only exercise once a week, with one in 10 barely spending a full 20 minutes a week undertaking any form of exercise. Also, 57 percent of the UK population had never heard of the Body Mass Index (BMI).

>> Fitness Management magazine presented its 11th annual Nova7Awards at a reception March 23 at the IHRSA convention. A panel of 14 health club and fitness industry veterans selected the awards to recognize fitness facilities' innovation. New this year was the Supplier Awards division, which honored industry suppliers based on write-in ballot votes. Supplier awards for 2003 went to: best cardio equipment supplier, Life Fitness; best strength equipment supplier, Hammer Strength; best specialized equipment supplier, Power Systems; best computerized technology supplier, BSDI; best flooring and surfacing supplier, Mondo; best entertainment and accessories supplier, Cardio Theater; best product of 2003, Cybex Arc Trainer. Facility winners were: Design, Construction and Decoration, Troy Community Center in Troy, Mich.; Fitness Prescription and Assessment, TELOS Performance Center in Dallas, Texas; Exercise Incentive Programming, TAP Pharmaceuticals Fitness Center in Lake Forest, Ill.; Events, Classes and Community Outreach, Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers in Gainesville, Fla.; Customer Service, FitClub West in Springfield, Ill.; Websites and New Technology, Faster Fitness in Charleston, S.C.; Management, Marketing and Sales, FitClub South in Springfield, Ill. SNEWS® View: What's the air in Illinois have that others don't have? Congrats to all!

>> Today's businesses are getting high marks in the art of delegation. NFI Research (www.nfiresearch.com) found in a recent survey on delegating tasks in the workplace that 84 percent of senior executives and managers say their supervisor delegates very well to them. In organizations with more than 1,000 employees, 61 percent of senior executives and managers feel that their supervisor delegates very well to them; whereas in organizations with less than 1,000 employees, it was 47 percent. When the tables were turned, 98 percent of executives and managers said they delegate well to their subordinates. NFI Research is a U.S.-based research firm that identifies and analyzes trends and attitudes in business, organizational management and information technology. One survey respondent said: "Delegation is perhaps one of the most difficult things a manager or supervisor can do. Many believe that they can do it better and faster with fewer mistakes by handling it themselves. But, it becomes a vicious circle of too much work coupled with not enough time, so, do I delegate and risk errors and time crunches and getting upset or do I do it myself and become more stressed out?"

>> The weight is gone! Or so announced the Discovery Health Channel last week for the conclusion of its National Body Challenge, a 12-week nationwide fitness and weight-loss program (see SNEWS story, Jan. 10, 2004). For the conclusion, more than 55,000 Americans revealed their weight loss -- a total of 200,000-plus pounds. The loss of 100 tons of excess weight, which is equivalent to about 25 elephants, was recorded at special weigh-out events at Discovery Channel Stores and participating Bally Total Fitness locations, as well as the weights self-reported online. The weigh-out events were the culmination of a free, 12-week challenge that kicked off in January. Next up is the Discovery Channel's "reality series" that tracks three men and three women as they took on the challenge. The first two episodes aired April 5, with the remaining four episodes to air April 12 and April 19. The final episode will crown the "Big Loser." SNEWS® View: Reality shows populate prime-time TV these days as thickly as mosquitoes in the bayou so they must be money-makers. But it's just a sad statement that weight loss should be so sensational to warrant sponsors and Gallup ratings.

>> First tabulations from the latest Economic Census show retail trade with sales of $3.2 trillion, one of six industry sectors with sales or receipts of more than $1 trillion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. The preliminary data, "Advance Summary Statistics for the United States: 2002," were collected last year from more than 7 million business locations in more than 1,000 industries. Only wholesale trade ($4.4 trillion) and manufacturing ($3.8 trillion) exceeded the sales/receipts of retail trade. The classification into which sporting goods and fitness stores fall (NAICS 451) includes sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. It showed sales of $78.1 billion in the 2002 census. This represented a 26 percent increase in sales from the $62 billion reported in the previous Economic Census (1997). Reflecting increased concentration across the category, the number of establishments declined 8.8 percent to 63,033 in 2002 versus 69,149 in 1997. The number of paid employees rose 12.8 percent, while the annual payroll rose 26.6 percent. Tabulations in the Advanced Summary report covers only businesses with paid employees. This ain't peanuts, this survey: The Economic Census dates back to 1810, when the census of population included questions on manufacturing. It has been conducted at five-year intervals since the 1950s.

>> Reebok International Ltd. is entering the hockey business by purchasing Toronto's Hockey Co. Holdings, Inc., a maker of hockey equipment and apparel under the CCM, Jofa and Koho brands, for $204 million plus $125 million in debt. Hockey Co. Holdings supplies jerseys for all 30 National Hockey League teams, as well as to the American and Canadian Hockey Leagues. Reebok also has exclusive licensing agreements to make athletic apparel and other products for the National Football League and the National Basketball Association; it signed an agreement in February with Major League Baseball to make footwear carrying the logos of the teams.

>> Ever expanding its Everlast global empire, Everlast Worldwide has entered into a licensing agreement with Image & Craft Planning Co., Ltd. of Seoul, South Korea, for the launch of Everlast-branded apparel and footwear in South Korea. The new Everlast products, which will include men's, women's and children's active and sports apparel and footwear (excluding pro boxing shoes), will be launched in the fall of 2004 and sold through sporting goods retailers, athletic shoe stores and department stores. "One of our top worldwide licensing focuses this year is in Asian expansion," said George Horowitz, chairman and CEO of Everlast, in a statement. "Our agreement with Image & Craft Planning follows our recent announcements of new licensees covering Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. We continue to explore other ventures for Asia in high growth categories."

>> Discounters had a mixed month of March. The month proved to be a strong money-maker for Wal-Mart and Costco, while Sears was more conservative, although it named fitness equipment as one of its best-selling categories. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) said U.S. same-store sales, a key retail gauge measuring sales at stores open at least a year, climbed 6 percent in March. The retailer had forecast a 4 percent to 6 percent increase, and analysts on average had expected 5.7 percent, according to research firm Thomson First Call. Total sales were $25.13 billion, up 14 percent from $22.05 billion. Last week, Wal-Mart did hit a stumbling block in Los Angeles County when residents of Inglewood, Calif., voted against allowing the retailer to obtain building permits without a public hearing or environmental impact study for a proposed Supercenter, the county's first. Wal-Mart hopes to break into California's grocery business by opening 40 Supercenters statewide. No stumbling blocks for Costco, (NasdaqNM: COST), however, as sales jumped 11 percent in March at stores open at least a year, with total sales for the five-week period ended April 4 reaching $4.41 billion, up 14 percent from a year earlier. The company also said sales results were helped by stronger foreign currencies. Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE:S) posted a slim 0.1 percent gain in March sales at stores open at least a year, while total sales for the five-week period ended April 3 reached $2.37 billion, down 1.3 percent from a year earlier. Analysts, on average, expected Sears to show a 0.3 percent same-store sales gain for March.

>> What do women really want? REI, the outdoor gear specialist, set about finding out in a telephone survey conducted in February. The answers confirmed what the SNEWS® team has been talking about for years: a majority of women who enjoy the outdoors want gender-specific gear. Thirty-six percent believe gear designed specifically for them can enhance their performance, with 14 percent saying that gender-specific gear would likely increase their frequency of doing an outdoor activity. Even though 90 percent of both men and women polled were aware that bicycle designs are gender-specific, a much lower number knew about gender-specific designs for sleeping bags, hydration packs and other outdoor equipment. And, men seem to be more aware that gender-specific gear exists -- 33 percent knew about sleeping pads for women, but only 27 percent of women knew of them. Fifty-six percent of men describe themselves as "very confident" when making outdoor gear purchases, while 44 percent of women feel this way. The survey also found that 49 percent of the women reported they have tried yoga within the last two years and are likely to try yoga again within the next 12 months, and 70 percent see yoga as a way to improve performance in other activities. The nationwide telephone survey was conducted by Western WATS Market Research on behalf of REI and included 832 American adults, 18 years of age or older, including 500 women, who participated in outdoor activities at least four times in the last year. The margin of error is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. SNEWS® View: Don't discount these results since they focus on things like packs and sleeping bags. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Or however that silly cliché goes. You know that women think the same thing about fitness equipment and related gear, clothing and accessories. We will forecast gender-specific gear as an up-and-coming area in fitness.

>> One last note: Part of the SNEWS® editorial team took a little vacation to New Orleans last week. Whoa, we aren't in California anymore. No wonder Louisiana has some of the highest obesity rates in the country with a beige-brown-saucy-fried theme pervasive at meals and alcohol considered a food group. We decided that a dill pickle or a parsley leaf had to be counted as veggies there to meet your allotment. Oh, and the hotel room came equipped with a high-tech scale. Was that some kind of sick joke in the Big Easy?

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