Fitness: Did you hear?...

Sporting goods retailers top Business Week list, Nautilus gets low marks, Bruce Kaplan named sales manager of Hoist commercial division, BodyMedia signs alliance with Apex Fitness, plus much more....
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>> In the June 7 issue of Business Week magazine, sporting goods stores were all over the magazine's annual list of "Top 100 Growth Companies" -- what the magazine considers America's fastest-growing small companies. To be considered, a company must be publicly traded, have annual sales of more than $50 million but less than $1.5 billion, have a current market value of more than $25 million, and a current stock price of at least $5. Companies with declining stocks or questions about future performance were not considered. Making the grade then were: Dick's Sporting Goods in 20th, Big 5 Sporting Goods in 62nd, and Hibbett Sporting Goods in 65th.

>> Also as a part of Business Week's annual Top 100 report was a reassessment of its "class of 2002," called "Hot Growth Alumni: Many Happy Returns for the class of 2002," which as you may recall included Nautilus. As the magazine wrote: "The ingredients that go into making a hot growth company can be a combustible mix. Either you get a moon shot that keeps soaring into the stratosphere -- or a bottle rocket that can't handle success and flames out….Each year, BusinessWeek takes a second look at the Hot Growth list from two years before. That is enough time, we feel, to account for any short-term anomalies in a given business and to compare companies fairly with the broad-based market indices. The report card is in for the Class of '02, and it's pretty good: Of the 100 companies in the 2002 rankings, 58 posted positive total returns during the past two years, while 37 suffered negative returns." The problem is, Nautilus (NYSE: NLS) didn't fare as well as some of those rockets. As Business week wrote, "hope springs eternal" at Nautilus, where a 63 percent decline was the third worst of any member of the class. The article mentioned that the company brought in a new management team in 2003 led by ex-Levi Strauss & Co. exec Gregg Hammann and he has "wasted no time in trying to resuscitate Nautilus: After the company was hammered by cheap knockoffs of its popular Bowflex exercise equipment, Hammann boosted the research-and-development budget from $5 million to $13 million to roll out new equipment that has capabilities the competition doesn't…. But only time will tell whether Nautilus Group can light the fuse a second time. To see the article, click here.

>> Bruce Kaplan has been promoted to the newly created position of national sales manager, commercial division, at Hoist Fitness. Kaplan's industry background includes more than 20 years of experience in sales and management in selling fitness equipment. "Bruce's role will be an integral part of our continuing effort to support and expand our dealer distribution and improve our visibility in the commercial sector. His duties will include assisting dealers with large commercial accounts, providing training for dealers' commercial representatives, and keeping the field updated on product developments," CEO Jeff Partrick said. "New products, combined with Bruce's efforts, will help Hoist achieve greater market penetration commercially."

>> As expected, men are more likely to purchase exercise equipment that stresses muscular development, while women are more likely to purchase equipment that focuses on cardiovascular well-being, according to data in the recently released National Sporting Goods Association report, "The Sporting Goods Market in 2004." Males were the dominant purchasers of multi-purpose home gyms (69 percent), weight benches (85 percent) and free weights/weight sets (78 percent). Women led purchases of elliptical/cross trainers (55 percent) and motorized treadmills (55 percent). However, men and women used stationary exercise bicycles equally (45 percent each), with 10 percent of purchases going for "household use." More women (60 percent) purchased hand/wrist/ankle weights. Overall, exercise equipment represented $4.7 billion of the $21.8 billion athletic and sports equipment market reported for 2003. The data in "The Sporting Goods Market in 2004" projects 2003 purchases of sporting goods products based on a survey of 100,000 U.S. households. For additional information, contact Tom Doyle at 847-296-6742 or email info@nsga.org.

>> At the upcoming IDEA association's "World Fitness" show for fitness professionals premium exhibitors (aka sponsors) include a wide range of equipment companies. They include: Nautilus, Stott Pilates, Dosho Design, Dynamix Music, efi sports medicine, Bosu (Fitness Quest), FreeMotion Fitness, National Academy of Sports Medicine, New Balance, NikeGoddess, Peak Pilates, Power Music, Propel fitness water by Gatorade, Reebok, Spri Products, the Ramp, and X-Biking by Trixter. The IDEA show takes place this year from July 7-11 in San Diego, Calif. For more, go to www.ideafit.com.

>> In addition to finalizing its acquisition of Exercise Equipment of Nevada (see story, dated June 3), Busy Body has also put the final stamp on its deal acquiring All About Fitness as of June 3. Said President Chip Hunnings, "Feels very strange here in my office tonight without any end-of-the-day phone calls to managers nor any faxes with sales numbers." Talk is that All About Fitness staff has been impressed with the transition and Busy Body's handling of it. The Denver-based chain's stores were closed June 3 to do inventory and switch over POS systems.

>> Have it your way, eh? Burger King Corp. has named 207 schools from across the United States to receive President's Challenge -- the physical activity and fitness awards program of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports -- sponsorships. Through the sponsorships, the company will bring the presidential awards program to at least one school in each of its districts, reaching approximately 82,500 students who have not previously participated in the physical activity and fitness awards program. The President's Challenge program consists of a series of physical activity and fitness criteria for which a child can earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) for 60 minutes of daily activity five days a week for six weeks or an award for their performance on a physical fitness test. In January 2004, Burger King Corp.'s restaurant tray liners, kids meal bags, birthday mailers and Adventures newsletters featured the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, giving kids fitness tips, encouraging them to get involved in the President's Challenge and talking about the Presidential Physical Fitness Award patch and Certificate. For more information on the challenge, go to: www.presidentschallenge.org. The program is free to all participants, but there is a nominal charge to purchase the awards, which include patches, certificates and lapel pins.

>> Mike Hibner has been named national accounts manager at FreeMotion Fitness. Hibner, the former territory manager for California, Nevada and Hawaii, will now be handling sales for all national accounts including GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) and national, health club chains. "Mike's continued success and valuable relationships with these customers have made him the perfect fit for this position," said Chris McGill, vice president of sales for the United States and Canada. Replacing Hibner as territory manager for these three states are Patrik Jimison and Ryan Andersen. Jimison will now be responsible for Northern California and Northern Nevada. Andersen joins FreeMotion Fitness after five years with Life Fitness and will cover Southern California, Las Vegas and Hawaii. Hibner has been with FreeMotion Fitness for nearly four years and has 17 years of experience in the industry. Prior to joining FreeMotion Fitness, he was a body-builder and also worked in sales for Cybex.

>> The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association has joined the Americans Saving American Places (ASAP) campaign to support full federal funding for America's parks, playgrounds, ball fields, and running and biking trails. Americans Saving American Places (www.ASAP2004.org) begins its "Sign It This Summer" campaign on Earth Day. Its goal: To use the 140 days between Earth Day and Labor Day to rally Americans who love the great outdoors and gather the signatures of more than one million Americans on the ASAP petition. To access the petition, click here. When completed, it will go to President Bush.

>> BodyMedia, Inc., a developer and provider of body-monitoring applications for clinical and consumer health-care markets, has signed a multi-year strategic alliance and distribution arrangement with Apex Fitness Group, a provider of weight-loss and fitness programs to the health club industry. Under the terms of the agreement, Apex will have worldwide exclusive rights to sell BodyMedia's fitness and weight loss products in health clubs. The first product, the Apex Web-based Weight Loss Program, will be piloted beginning in July in clubs around the country, and then rolled out nationally late in 2004 to several hundred clubs that currently offer Apex programs to their members. The product combines Apex's experience in health club-based fitness and weight loss programs with BodyMedia's body-monitoring technologies. "BodyMedia is excited to have Apex as our exclusive health club partner," said Astro Teller, chairman and CEO of BodyMedia, in a statement. One of the many functions of the BodyMedia Armband is the ability to accurately measure a person's total calories burned in any timeframe allowing the wearer to view the result and adjust their food intake. For more, go to: www.bodymedia.com or www.apexfitness.com.

>> Current World Mountain Bike Champions Filip Meirhaeghe and Greg Minnaar have signed endorsement agreements with Trixter indoor cycling, joining world-class athletes including Motocross superstar Ricky Carmichael, Superbike phenom Nicky Hayden, and the Renault Formula 1 Development Centre and former World Downhill Mountain Bike champion Missy Giove. Meirhaeghe, the World Cross-Country champion, was introduced to the full-body workout Trixter indoor cycle at this year's Sea Otter Classic. In addition, X-Bikes are now available to the public and come with a music CD that guides riders in interval training sessions. Buyers can also sign up for monthly workout updates to keep current with new cutting-edge training programs and exciting original workout music. Go to www.X-Biking.com.

>> Body Bar Systems of Boulder, Colo., has introduced two new lines of Body Bars and a new storage unit for its Mini Bars. The new Mini Bar is 2 feet long and comes in weight increments of two, four and six pounds. The Light Body Bar is 3 feet long and comes in weight increments of three, six and nine pounds; it is long enough to be used for balance and alignment and heavy enough for strength gains. The new Mini Bar storage unit holds approximately 40 bars. For more, go to www.bodybars.com.

>> In the ever-ongoing Nautilus vs. Icon patent-infringement case involving Icon's Crossbow and its alleged infringement of the Bowflex, dates have been set by the court (although they could change again at any time). A jury trial IS set for March 15, 2005, and is expected to last 10 days. A Markman hearing is set for Sept. 10, 2004. A settlement conference is set for Jan. 14, 2005 (who are we kidding here?), with a settlement report due by Feb. 13, 2005.

>> At the 2004 Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego, PowerBar Inc. announced that it has entered into an agreement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to be the exclusive energy bar and gel category sponsor for Team In Training (TNT), the world's largest endurance sports training program. Over the next three years, PowerBar will sponsor a fund-raising incentive program and provide nutritional resources to the organization's 30,000 coaches and participants who take part in TNT each year. PowerBar and TNT also will collaborate on advertising campaigns, consumer promotions and educational initiatives in an effort to raise cancer awareness and increase participation in the TNT program. Founded in 1988, Team In Training provides personalized coaching, training clinics and the support of a team, to help novice and experienced athletes train for endurance sports events. In exchange, TNT participants raise money toward cures for blood cancers such as leukemia.

>> Driving much lately? Putting on pounds lately? Hm, maybe they are related, according to a survey of 10,500 metro-area Atlanta residents. The survey found that for every extra 30 minutes commuters drove each day, they had a 3 percent greater chance of being obese than their peers who drove less. The survey also found that people who lived within walking distance of shops -- less than a half mile -- were 7 percent less likely to be obese than their counterparts who had to drive. "The more driving you do, means you're going to weigh more -- the more walking means you're going to weigh less," said Lawrence Frank, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, who oversaw the study when he worked at Georgia Tech. Researchers were surprised to find that how much time a person spent driving had a greater impact on whether a person was obese than did other factors such as income, education, gender or ethnicity. The study is one of the first to look at the link between the environment and obesity, said Kelly Brownell, chairman of Yale University's psychology department and director of its Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. "Studies of this type are very important because they show factors in our environment that can either help or hurt our waistline," said Brownell, who was not involved in the study. "These results show that the environment, affecting our physical activity, is quite influential." For the study, which is expected to appear in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers tracked participants' travel behavior and measured their height and weight from 2000 to 2002. The study focused on Atlanta, but Frank said the city is not alone. The study was promoted at the Time Summit on obesity last weekend in Virginia. SNEWS® View: Maybe we need a slogan for society that says, "Got feet?"

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