Fitness: Did you hear?...

Vision Fitness awards 100K flier miles, Icon's Watterson and Stevenson off on a mission, Bollinger parent picked up by Fenway Partners, New Balance and MSN launch Fit in the City online campaign, Holmes Place plans clubs in central Europe, plus much more...
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>> Vision Fitness awarded 100,000 frequent flier miles at the Health & Fitness Business show to salesperson Trevor LeClair of Fitness Experience Canada, as the company's retail salesperson who scored the highest on a series of tests that culminated in "semi-finals" and "finals" at the Denver trade show. The other five finalists were Troy Smith, Fitness Unlimited; Jenny Parks, Upper Limit Fitness; Chuck Forkell, G & G Fitness; and Dave Erber, The Fitness Experience. The miles will be awarded for the airline of LeClair's choice.

>> SNEWS® steps into the elevator at its hotel in Denver during the Health & Fitness Business show and sees a woman apparently headed to the fitness room. She says she's been there already so we ask what brands there are. Scrunched forehead, a big hmmmm in response, eyes cast pensively upward, then, "Well, I know it's not Precor." SNEWS® View: Interesting that the one brand she seemed to know was Precor. We checked out the room later and found (and we're not kidding here) two ancient tiny "Trotter by Cybex" treadmills, and a stepper and two bikes by Tectrix (no, really). Embarrassing at best for a boutique hotel chain to have such outdated stuff in a workout room. The woman mentioned above and a couple of others SNEWS® talked to all said they were disappointed.

>> HONG KONG -- John Young, vice president of international for Cybex, is relocating to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to head up the company's new Middle East office there. Young has been in Hong Kong for six years. The new Cybex office will allow Young and colleagues there "to more efficiently bridge the time gap and travel distances between USA, Europe and Asia," Young said. His replacement in the Hong Kong office to oversee the Asia Pacific has not yet been named, but that person is expected to join the company in September.

>> In a Securities & Exchange Commission filing from Aug. 19, Icon Health & Fitness Inc. has announced that effective July 1, 2004, Scott Watterson and Gary Stevenson began their leave of absence to accept assignments from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as mission presidents. In their absence, the daily operations of the company are being managed by David J. Watterson, a 23-year Icon veteran who was elected chairman and chief operating officer soon after Scott Watterson (his brother) and Stevenson announced their plans in January. Fred Beck, Icon's chief financial officer for 14 years, will continue in his current role. In addition, Matthew Allen, a 20-year Icon veteran, has moved to the position of president and chief merchandising officer; Joseph Brough, a 14-year Icon executive, has become the chief operating officer; and Jace Jergensen, a nine-year executive is now the senior vice president in addition to his responsibilities as president of Icon's JumpKing subsidiary. Scott Watterson and Stevenson have said they expect to return to Icon in management roles upon completion of their church service. Icon, Scott Watterson and Stevenson are currently in discussions regarding the modification of their existing employment agreements to take into account the leave of absence. These modifications were not complete as of Aug. 19.

>> Bell Sports, owner of Bell and Giro helmet brands and Bollinger Fitness, has been picked up by private equity firm Fenway Partners Inc. for $240 million. Fenway also owns football helmet maker Riddell Sports Group and plans to combine Bell Sports and Riddell into one company, essentially forming the "world's largest protective headgear and related accessories company," according to a statement. Bill Fry, president and CEO of Bell Sports, has been named president and CEO of the new company. Fry was on the road when we tried to reach him for comment about the fate of Bollinger. A spokesperson for the company told SNEWS® that after the recent acquisition announcement, the company made it real clear that there won't be any changes in any of the business units under the new organization, including brands, distribution strategies and product lines. Headcount and business locations are also to remain the same. "In terms of the Bell fitness and/or Bollinger line, they don't anticipate any changes at all to those products or brands," we were told.

>> Here's a political message that could get lost in translation: President Bush supporters are donning T-shirts that say "Run For Bush" and hitting the jogging path and gyms to campaign through exercise for the president's re-election. Hmm, hopefully the message they want actually gets across…if you know what we mean. www.runforbush.com

>> With the Olympics heading into its second week, it's time to note three fitness industry companies taking part: Body Bar Systems supports the women's wrestling team, partly because this is the first games to support that event. Technogym is an equipment partner, supplying exercise equipment in the Olympic Village and 11 Olympic centers for athletes to use during the games, and 24 Hour Fitness has a work program where athletes-in-training are employees and are allowed flexible schedules to accommodate training (and, of course, they get to use the workout facilities, too).

>> Sears.com is getting a little help from GSI Commerce and expanding the variety of sporting goods products on its website. Sears.com will supplement its online fitness and recreation product category by leveraging GSI's inventory of sporting goods and fulfillment infrastructure. The launch is expected in Q3 in time for the holiday season. "GSI Commerce hopes to leverage its expert capabilities and leadership position in the online sports merchandising category to enhance its online business," said Michael Rubin, GSI's chairman and CEO. "As we look to continue to grow this portion of our business, relationships we establish with top brands such as Sears.com differentiates our company in the e-commerce marketplace." Sears (NYSE: S) could use all the help it can lay its hands on after reporting in late July that its second-quarter net income dove 83 percent and its revenue was down 14 percent. SNEWS® View: You think it would be easy to find out how that will affect what fitness brands Sears.com will now carry. A spokesman, however, said he had to get some "internal approvals" to give us the information -- which didn't happen by deadline. We'll keep you posted on what we hear.

>> Nike is voluntarily recalling about 9,000 pairs of the Get-Go and Little Get-Go children's athletic shoes, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A rubber tab measuring 1.5 to 1.75 inches on the shoe's heel can detach from the shoe and pose a choking hazard to children. Nike has received three reports of the heel tab coming off but no injuries have been reported. The shoes come in various color combinations and were sold in toddler and preschool sizes 2C through 3Y. The recalled shoes have one of the following six-digit numbers on a label inside the shoe just above the UPC code: 308638, 308639, 308642 and 308647 (only these style numbers are included in this recall). The shoes were sold from June 2004 through August 2004. Consumers can contact Nike for a refund voucher at 800-344-6453 or www.nikebiz.com.

>> Iron Grip has promoted Donna McCallum to vice president of sales and Shawna Healy to senior account executive. McCallum joined the company in 1999 as an account executive and quickly rose to several supervisory and management positions. In her new position, she will continue to develop new business opportunities, managing Iron Grip's national and international accounts, and supervising its in-house account executive team. Healy has been with the company since 2000, and will now be responsible for managing sales in a territory comprised of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. In addition, she is responsible for all vertical market accounts and will lead the account executive team.

>> Champion Fitness of Salt Lake City, Utah, will open its second store in September. The store will be approximately 2,000 square feet and will be in Layton, a suburb on the north side of Salt Lake City.

>> New Balance has teamed up with MSN and launched a "Fit in the City" online campaign for consumers that offers information about activities that promote an active healthy lifestyle. Different site sections feature national and city editorials focusing on fitness, hiking, health, family, performance and active lifestyles; a fitness calendar and eShop module; and retailer information. "New Balance is always looking for innovative ways to be seen as a resource to everyday athletes and to help them achieve their best," said New Balance's Christine Madigan. "Through MSN and the Fit in the City campaign, we can reach millions of people daily to bring them the New Balance brand experience and also support our local and national retailers." In addition to the general fitness content, the site focuses on 10 metropolitan areas: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington D.C. The site also has information on more than 800 health and fitness activities and events across the United States. The campaign targets active men and women, ages 25-54, who are interested in running, walking, hiking, fitness, family activities, yoga and cross-training. It'll be available for six months at http://newbalance.msn.com.

>> ProSpot Fitness' new P-600 home gym was named Best Overall Home Gym by Men's Health magazine. Considered the flagship of ProSpot's equipment line, the P-600 combines free weights with its patented "Grab & Go" technology with dual-feature cable crossover system. The design allows the cable crossover to be used in the traditional way to perform a variety of cable exercises. The crossover stacks also can be used to add resistance to the barbell, eliminating the need to add weight plates to the barbell.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Aludel, operator of the ladies-only health and fitness club chain Reviva, has been placed in administrative receivership. The chain's failure has been attributed to having insufficient capital to allow it to refurbish its sites and be able to compete in the highly competitive private health club sector. Aludel was incorporated in December 2000, acquiring 16 women-only health clubs from Lady in Leisure a year later with the new brand, Reviva, being launched in 2002.

>> Body Flex Sports has named Howard Frost executive vice president of sales. A subsidiary of Hupa International, Body Flex markets and distributes fitness and direct response products under several trademarks including X-Max. Formerly with TKO Sports Group, Frost is starting his new position by restructuring the sales and marketing group.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Holmes Place has unveiled plans to open clubs in key cities in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as part of a central European rollout plan. A 2,000-square-foot club in Prague will mark the company’s entrance to the Czech Republic and the start of the expansion program when it opens in November. Regional manager for Central Europe, Roni Almagor, said the city's health and fitness offer is currently defined by hotel clubs and male-dominated, body-building gyms. "Our research shows that the Czechs are willing to pay for a premium club," he has said in reports. "They want high-quality facilities and equipment and the best in service." The Prague club will be followed by two sites in Hungary in late 2005 and early 2006, and two to three clubs in Poland. "The strategy will be to open one or two clubs in each capital city in the first few years before rolling out to smaller cities," said Almagor. The company also plans to launch its mid-market brand, Ozone, in central Europe, following its success in Israel and Greece. Holmes Place operates seven Ozone clubs in Israel and one in Greece, where another site is currently under construction. Holmes Place Central Europe, a separate company to Holmes Place UK, controls development of the brand in Israel, Greece and also has the rights for Cyprus, Turkey and Italy.

>> Yoga has moved beyond old hippies and earth-mamas (and papas) and is now mainstream, according to an article in a recent San Jose /Silicon Valley Business Journal. The once grassroots niche publication Yoga Journal magazine, of Berkeley, has launched a redesign of its 310,000-circulation national magazine with its September issue. The magazine, which is published seven times a year, has brought more mainstream advertisers onboard, including the likes of Target Stores, the Ford Motor Co. and General Mills, with a goal to attract more. The redesign is also intended to appeal to a younger group of women practicing yoga -- many at home or in health clubs -- without alienating its original audience. The magazine will have more stories about the broader lifestyle of people who practice yoga, as well as more fitness and wellness stories such as travel, avoiding overeating, alleviating stress and dealing spiritually with relationship issues. When John Abbott bought Yoga Journal in 1998 from the trade group California Yoga Teachers Association, the average age of a yogi was 47 and circulation was 90,000. Today, it is 38, with many 20-somethings picking up the practice too, with subscribers having an annual average annual household income of $93,500.

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