Fitness: Did you hear?...

Matthew Johnson new VP at Life Fitness, IHRSA touts large GetActive visit numbers, Rumor: Gym Source buying The Fitness Store, Gold's Gym sold to TRT Holdings, Bally class-action lawsuit turns into feeding frenzy, register for HFB show and win hotel nights, and much more…
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>> Matthew J. Johnson is the new vice president of strategic planning and business development at Life Fitness. Johnson, 32, is responsible for implementing the company's long-term strategic plan, spearheading new market initiatives and driving new business development opportunities. He joined the company June 1 and reports directly to Life Fitness President Kevin Grodzki. He replaces Dave Gibbons, who left the company in November 2003 and is now the president of Peak Pilates. Prior to Life Fitness, Johnson accumulated 10 years of broad-based experience in operations, business development, marketing and finance at Baxter International Inc., a Deerfield, Ill.-based, global health-care company.

>> More than 1,600 health clubs in 50 states nationwide were visited by 150,000 Americans as a part of the IHRSA association's first Get Active America! Program of free club visits for member's guests and non-members, held May 17-23, IHRSA reported. According to IHRSA, more than 68 million "impressions" in broadcast, radio, print and web media have been made and the number is expected to grow as participating clubs share their results and successes. Stories appeared in Reader's Digest and Prevention (together accounting for 35.7 million of the 68 million impressions), while other stories appeared in The Washington Post and The Chicago Sun-Times, as well as on various radio and TV stations. In addition, the mayors of Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., declared the week of May 17, "Get Active 'insert city name' Week."

>> The Consumer Price Index for sporting goods is neutral for May, according to a report by the National Sporting Goods Association. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the Sporting Goods CPI Index at 99.8 for May, flat versus the May 2003 index. After being negative in January and February, the Index turned positive in March and April. With the last three months of 2003, this is the first time in more than five years -- since February 1998 -- that the Index has been positive. The CPI for "All Items" in May 2004 increased 3.1 percent from the same month in 2003.

>> Nike has jumped on the bandwagon and put out a call for daily PE classes for all U.S. schools. In a speech at a so-called "HealthierUS Fitness Festival" held June 16 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Nike called for companies, athletes, coaches and educators to work together to bring P.E. classes taught by P.E. specialists for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to American schools. The company promoted the "new PE" that is a combination of movement, fun and skills.

>> Familiar faces have taken on new roles at Hibbett Sporting Goods. Chuck Adams, formerly vice president of information systems and distribution, is now chief information officer and vice president of distribution. Adams has been with the company for five years and has 16 years of experience in retail systems.
Previously divisional merchandise managers, Jared Briskin was named vice president of apparel and equipment, and Mark Dobbins was promoted to vice president of footwear. CEO Mickey Newsome commented on the staff restructure in a statement: "These moves recognize not only the contributions each individual has made but also the importance we place on each area for the continued growth of our company. They are all outstanding performers, and I am confident they will flourish in their new capacities. We have a proven growth strategy at Hibbett as well as a deep and experienced management team to successfully execute that strategy."

>> TRT Holdings Inc., which owns Omni Hotels and oil interests, announced it has signed a deal to buy Gold's Gym International from private equity firm Brockway Moran & Partners Inc. Terms were not disclosed, although The Los Angeles Times reported the sale was worth $160 million, citing a person familiar with the deal. The transaction is expected to close in late July 2004. Gold's Gym was advised by UBS Securities LLC and Harris Williams & Co. In a statement Gold's President and CEO Gene LaMott said, "Brockway Moran & Partners has been an outstanding partner over the past five years, and Gold's Gym has prospered under their ownership. We are excited to enter the next stage of our growth and believe TRT will be a valuable partner that will help further the Gold's Gym brand and our presence worldwide." Gold's will keep its entire senior management team. Brockway managing partner called Gold's an "iconic brand," which has been a good investment. It now has 2.5 million members around the world in 43 gyms in 25 countries, after starting with one gym in 1965 in Venice Beach, Calif. Terrell Philen, chief financial officer of TRT Holdings, has been quoted as saying the Irving, Texas-based, company plans to build and buy new locations, and that the company has looked for several years at the fitness business, which it believes is growing between 2 percent and 5 percent a year.

>> Sheryl O'Loughlin, 37, has been named CEO of Clif Bar Inc., the first time the privately-held energy and nutrition foods company has had a CEO outside of the original founder. Founder Gary Erickson, 46, who had held variously the co-CEO and CEO post since 1992, will continue his involvement in the company, becoming more active in new product development, package design and acting as a company ambassador. "Succeeding yourself as CEO is one of the most important events for an entrepreneur," Erickson said. "So many founders/owners hang on too tight for too long, and many times that drains the company of its energy. Fortunately, I recognized the time was now." O'Loughlin joined Clif Bar in 1998 and most recently served as executive vice president of brand, where she led marketing, sales, and research and development for the $100 million maker of energy and nutrition bars and gels Erickson founded in 1992. Prior to joining Clif Bar, O'Loughlin held management positions in brand, sales and promotions with the Quaker Oats Company and Kraft Foods.

>> Heard the rumor that New York, N.Y.-based, Gym Source is buying Northridge, Calif.-based, The Fitness Store. "I'm giggling," President Mike Cirillo told SNEWS®. "Nobody's come to me with the money." Cirillo said that the company is not for sale, but that it certainly wouldn't surprise him if Gym Source, with commercial dealings on the West Coast, wanted to dip into retail also.

>> Sport Chalet (Nasdaq: SPCH) has appointed Donald Howard to its board of directors and Compensation Committee. Howard is a partner and senior vice president of development with Marketplace Properties, a full-service shopping center development company that has completed projects throughout Southern California, Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. Also, Frederick Schneider was named chairman of the Audit Committee. He has served on the company's board of directors and audit committee since May 2000. Al McCready is now chairman of the newly-formed Governance and Nominating Committee and has served on the board and Audit Committee since May 2001. John Attwood continues as chairman of the Compensation Committee and has been on the board and various committees since 1993.

>> The class-action lawsuit against Bally Total Fitness that we reported on June 4 is getting more crowded. In fact, it's turning into a bit of a feeding frenzy as more law firms are announcing they are also representing clients, beginning to look more and more like a circus full of carnie pitchmen. Seems there may be some money for these firms, and only one or two will get chosen by the court to be the firm of record. One even posted a "press release" on a news service saying it was "investigating" Bally when all it had done was file another lawsuit. So, as of June 21, there are some 14 firms vying for the case since four more have anted up since our story. Stockholders have until July 26 to contact one firm or another to take part.

>> The Health & Fitness Business Expo, this year Aug. 19-21 in Denver, Colo., will enter all retail and buyer registrants by June 30 into a drawing for two free nights at a designated hotel. To register online, click here. For additional information about the show or to see an exhibitor floorplan, go to www.healthandfitnessbiz.com.

>> According to the IHRSA club association, lobbying efforts in May nearly doubled the number of co-sponsors for the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP). More than 100 health club operators and fitness industry leaders from 28 states and the District of Columbia attended the second annual Legislative Summit, which was held May 19-21. WHIP would allow for tax treatment of health club memberships as an employee benefit and was introduced in 2003 by Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

>> In a story in the Wall Street Journal this month, author David Wessel noted that getting someone to buy is one thing, but getting someone to use what he or she bought is another. A smarter goal may be to get you to actually use something. A consumer who doesn't consume a product is unlikely to buy it again, John Gourville, a Harvard Business School marketing professor, told the paper. Then it gives health clubs as an example: "Health clubs often offer a price break to those willing to pay for a full year instead of signing up for a month at a time. The idea is to hook you for the whole year and get paid upfront. Is that smart business?" To find out, Gourville examined records of 200 members of a Colorado health club that offered annual, semiannual, quarterly and monthly payment options. Those who paid upfront exercised more frequently early in the year and gradually tapered off, he found. Those who paid quarterly tended to exercise a lot in the first few weeks of the quarter. Those who paid monthly exercised most often during the year, and were much more likely to be exercising in November and December -- when the club was hoping to get them to renew. Then, the paper went on to cite economists Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkeley and Ulrike Malmendier at Stanford University. They found after sifting through three years of records for 7,978 members of three other health clubs. People who chose a monthly contract were 9.5 percent less likely to use the club in the first few months than folks who enrolled for a full year, but those monthly members were 12.5 percent more likely to sign up for another year. Why? The paper asks. "Because people tend to go to the gym when the memory of paying the bill is freshest. The psychological pain of paying the bill declines over time. As it fades, you feel less of a need to justify the cost by going to exercise." The trick for businesses, they said, is to strike a balance between enticing consumers to make that initial purchase, and encouraging them to use a product so they'll buy it again.

>> Everlast Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: EVST) has announced that it had entered into a licensing agreement with Miami, Fla.-based, Belts, Inc. to launch Everlast-branded belts and leather wallets in the United States. The new Everlast products will be launched in the fourth quarter of 2004 and will be available in sporting goods retailers, department stores and mid-tier chains.

>> More than a week after SNEWS® ran a story about the management changes at The Nautilus Group, the company issued a press release, dated June 9. It announced generic shareholder business, board elections, new hires such as Holly Valkama as senior vice president, and promotions such as Pat Warner, but didn't mention former president's Kevin Lamar's resignation until about 600 words down. "In addition, the board of directors accepted the resignation of Kevin Lamar who served the company as chief operations officer. The company thanks Mr. Lamar for the contributions and dedication he brought to Nautilus over the years and wishes him the best in his future endeavors."

>> Got a hidden talent? Maybe you're a closet Oreo stacker? Were you at Wal-Mart's Oreo Stacking contest June 19? The contestants around the country were given 30 seconds to see how many Oreos they could stack. Not only does this win the prize for oddness, but it is compounded by the fact this is the store's eighth year hosting it. Plus, there were international Oreo Stacking Contests in stores in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada and China. No word how you won. Or if you just ate all your cookies instead.

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