Fitness: Did you hear?...

Leisure Fitness racks up "readers' choice" awards, Bollinger owner Bell Sports for sale, check out IHRSA's line-up for this week's legislative event, treadmill sales still up but ellipticals top growth area, German sporting goods retailers have weak April sales, and much more…
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>> Retailer Leisure Fitness racked up a few "readers' choice" type awards recently: "Best Fitness Equipment Store" by readers of Delaware Today magazine for the second consecutive year, "Best Fitness Equipment Store on the Main Line" by readers of Main Line Life (in Philadelphia) for the third year; and "Best Fitness Equipment Store" by the readers of the Wilmington News Journal for the fourth year. Congrats, Leisure!

>> Bollinger fitness accessories owner since August 2002, Bell Sports, is seeking a new owner. According to a company statement, "Bell Sports is interviewing potential strategic financial partners that can provide us with additional capital to fund our aggressive expansion plans and help us achieve our long-term business goal of leading the next evolution of our industry. The right financial partner will recognize the value of Bell’s existing business, our potential for growth, the strength of our leadership team, and the power of our brands in new and emerging markets. " The company, which introduced its new Bollinger accessory packaging at The Super Show in 2003 and a Savasa brand at the 2004 show, said, "The Bollinger product lines acquired by Bell Sports will not be affected by any changes in Bell’s financial situation." The Savasa line won't be at retail until about July, and none of the accessories line is currently represented on the web or as any way a part of the Bell family. A spokeswoman told SNEWS® a new website is in the works but the company doesn't know when it will surface. After the acquisition sealed July 30, Bell Sports had all rights to manufacture, market and distribute the Bollinger fitness line and use the name. Bell President Bill Fry had told SNEWS at that time Bollinger was "counter-seasonal" to biking and therefore a good fit. Fry has said this is a positive step for the company, but Bell will take as long as it needs in its search for a new owner willing to invest additional money in Bell's growth.

>> PE4Life is looking to raise a little money from eBay auctions May 24 to June 1. The non-profit is looking for products -- it says autographed is always great -- as well as experiences, such as a Master's Golf Package it had last year, from which proceeds will go to PE4Life, which advocates for daily activity in schools. For more information about the process, how to donate and how to link your item to PE4Life, click here. For information, contact Craig Jonas at 720-344-1338, who can also help you price an item.
>> IHRSA has a full lineup of speakers and presenters scheduled for its second annual Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., this week from May 19-21, where it will also present the 2004 Industry Champion Award. With a focus on obesity and health, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, will speak about the importance of industry and government working together to fight obesity; Walter Bortz, clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, will present, "Health Wealth…A Call to Action Improve the Health of Our Nation;" and Dr. Bill Kohl from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will present, "Physical Activity & Inactivity Among Americans: Consequences and Solutions." Also, Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Ill., recipient of IHRSA's 2004 Industry Champion Award, will be IHRSA's featured guest at the Political Action Committee Reception & Dinner on May 20. As chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Manzullo has worked to create jobs and provide small businesses with tax relief. As a co-sponsor of the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act, he has worked to reduce the surging costs of health care for employers and to promote a healthy lifestyle for all Americans. "Our industry shares an urgent concern about the obesity and overweight epidemic in the U.S. with our federal government and we are thrilled that Senator Harkin and Representative Manzullo, both allies in our common fight, will be participating in the Legislative Summit," said John McCarthy, executive director of IHRSA. Other scheduled speakers include: former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., and current CEO and chair of The Washington Group; Chris Matthews, host of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" and "The Chris Matthews Show," who will deliver a keynote presentation; Greg Crister, author of "Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World;" and Melissa Johnson, executive director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness And Sports. The summit will be at the JW Marriott Hotel. Look to SNEWS® to give you the scoop on what happened at the event if you can't actually make it. For more, go to www.ihrsa.org.

>> Bally Total Fitness is partnering with the President's Challenge, a program of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to sponsor the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award at select Bally clubs throughout the United States. Bally is working with the Discovery Network's FitTV for "Family Fitness Days" to offer families a free six-week pass to exercise at Bally clubs, access to special kids class events and participation in the President's Challenge awards program. "Offering families the opportunity to work out for free during these six weeks will give them a taste of the benefits of exercise," said Paul Toback, chairman and CEO of Bally Total Fitness. "We hope to encourage them to make fitness part of their lifestyle and help them realize that once they incorporate exercise into their daily routine, it will improve the way they feel both physically and mentally." The "Fitness Runs in the Family" program was created to encourage Americans to take the President's Challenge and work toward attaining the lifestyle award. From May 15-June 26, families that have signed up for the program, then finish the six-week challenge will be eligible to receive their certificate of completion for the award. To earn the award, participants must engage in regular physical activity for six weeks, five days a week -- adults for 30 minutes, children for 60 minutes. The award is for any kind of movement, such as walking, sweeping the floor, taking the stairs instead of elevators, using a pedometer to accumulate steps or active play.

>> GERMANYBusiness for sporting goods retailers in Germany was a bit off in April, according to a monthly survey of geographically spread retailers done by the trade magazine sport+mode. On average, retailers polled -- 88 responded for this month's poll -- had an average loss in sales of 1.7 percent. That means that sporting goods retail sales are down by 4.6 percent for the first third of this year compared to last year. In 2003, the first third of the year showed a gain of 3.1 percent over 2002.

>> With continued demand for home merchandise but a slight drop in the clothing sector, retailers saw uneven sales growth last month. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF, www.nrf.com), April retail sales in the GAFS category (general merchandise stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliances stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores) rose 9.3 percent over last year, though GAFS sales decreased 0.5 percent adjusted over March. "March sales were strong in almost every sector, but April sales were a mixed bag," said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. "Although stores continue to see strong year-over-year gains, some retailers saw spending dip last month on clothing and general merchandise."

>> Pacemaster has hired Mark Lutz, formerly of Omni Fitness, as a new sales rep.

>> While treadmills continue to drive the home fitness equipment market, the growth of their sales may be slowing, according to preliminary data in the National Sporting Goods Association's annual report "The Sporting Goods Market in 2004," which will be published this month. In 2003, Americans spent nearly $2.7 billion on treadmills, an increase of 6 percent over 2002's $2.5 billion. That is the lowest dollar increase in five years. Sales in 2002 represented an increase that was just over double that, or 13 percent, which was preceded by percent increases of 8 percent in 2001 and 12 percent in 2000. Don't immediately assume the cause is lower prices though: Unit sales also grew at a slower rate, up 5 percent compared to 2002, while previous years' unit sales showed growth rates of 9 percent in 2002, 5 percent in 2001, and 7 percent in 2000. The NSGA data shows that consumer purchases of home exercise equipment overall totaled $4.7 billion in 2003, an increase of 8 percent compared to $4.3 billion in 2002. The greatest growth is now shown by elliptical trainers -- up 41 percent in 2003, while unit sales rose 34 percent. Also showing double-digit growth were multi-purpose home gyms, which increased 13 percent in 2003, with unit sales up 11 percent. The complete report includes 17 home fitness products. For more information, contact the association at info@nsga.org or go to www.nsga.org.

>> SGMA International's 21st Annual Study of Financial Performance found that U.S. sporting goods manufacturers maintained a healthy rate of sales growth, while controlling costs and managing assets well, but a reduction in gross margin attributable to pricing pressure resulted in weaker bottom line results in 2003 compared to 2002. "The industry proved resilient considering the consolidation and pricing pressures which manufacturers have been experiencing," said Sebastian DiCasoli, SGMA's director of market intelligence. "There are signs that the pressure on prices are easing somewhat and, hopefully, an interest rate increase is not imminent." A few highlights from the 55-page report include: Sporting goods manufacturers' sales growth (+6.8 percent) was strong and on par with that of 2002, but lagged behind the sales growth rate of all non-durable goods manufacturers in 2003. Productivity growth (sales/employee) improved in 2003 (+3.7 percent) indicating good utilization of human resources. Return on sales (5.2 percent), return on assets (8 percent), and return on equity (13.1 percent) all declined in 2003 caused by a decline in gross margin from 38.6 percent in 2002 to 35.5 percent in 2003. Manufacturers controlled assets well as the fixed assets by total assets ratio and liquid asset turnover ratio both improved. Advertising spending increased in 2003, while R&D spending went down. There is a high degree of leverage of assets given the current healthy sales rate and the prospect of interest rate increase, which the report said was concerning. The 2004 report is based on actual results reported by 61 manufacturers (publicly and privately held) in the athletic footwear, sports apparel and sport equipment segments, having combined sales of $31.1 billion in wholesale value in 2003. For a copy of the report, click here.

>> Iron Grip Barbell Company has increased its presence in international markets with the addition of six new dealers to its global distributor network. Recently approved as authorized Iron Grip dealers are Big Fitness based in Venezuela; Life Fitness Australia; Body Trading, covering France and the French islands of Reunión and the Caribbean; Fitness Concepts of Ireland; Kinetic Systems handling eastern Canada; and Spartacus Fitness handling western Canada. Iron Grip now has 46 authorized dealers in 45 countries outside the United States.

>> The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) is looking for individuals or organizations that "lead the way" by setting new standards and making a difference in the lives of active older adults. Information and applications for the 2004 ICAA Industry Innovator Award are available by clicking here. The application form can be faxed to 604-708-4464 or mailed to 3307 Trutch St., Vancouver, BC, V6L 2T3, Canada, attention: Julie McNeney. Applications are due June 1.

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