Fitness: Did you hear?…

Nautilus vs. Icon state their case at Markman hearing, The Super Show looks to re-invent itself, BodyFlex and Savvier to establish $2.6 million refund program, Leisure Trends reports fitness states, plus much more...
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>> Both parties in the Nautilus vs. Icon patent infringement case are now awaiting a court ruling after the so-called pre-jury-trial Markman hearing on Sept. 14. In that hearing, the judge hears a concise summary of claims and arguments planned by each side. Although it does not affect the jury trial, it can greatly influence the outcome of an infringement case, partly because one side may choose to settle out-of-court based on a judge's ruling. SNEWS® was told the hearing lasted about three hours instead of the five expected, meaning that both sides presented their cases in not more than an hour rather than the weeks a full-blown trial will take. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, in Seattle, in front of Judge Ricardo Martinez. According to a minute entry last week, the "court has reviewed all materials submitted by the parties, and advises (that) counsel motions to strike will be considered by the court at the time of its ruling." The ruling may take up to two to three weeks. A joint status report from the parties is due by Sept. 30 to the court.

>> To celebrate its 20th anniversary, The Super Show is moving to re-invent itself again, this time as "The Great International Sports Product Experience." The experience will include several elements that will supplement The Super Show as it now exists: The centerpiece, according to a management statement Sept. 20, will be the "International Business Intelligence Series," aka IBIS, with 40, one-hour seminars covering topics of interest to the sports community such as color and style, forecasting, aging and other issues. Each session will cost $20, but exhibitors will be given "a limited number" of passes to hand out. The second element will be luncheons: One with a "Manufacturers' View from the Top," and the other with a "Retailers' View from the Top" -- both panel-like discussions. No price was immediately revealed. The third and last new element will be 20 networking parties, 10 each of two nights, all held close enough to allow moving between them "for attendees to work multiple parties." Each of the 20 will represent a different category to draw together those in that area. No cost was given. Said Show Director Peter Haines in the statement, "In our first 19 years, buyers came to The Super Show for the show. In recent years, the impetus for many industry professionals has shifted toward information-gathering and networking. We recognize, support and encourage this trend as part of the show's evolution." SNEWS® View: The show had to do something based on the dismal attendance and reaction at the January 2004 show, its first in Orlando after a run in Las Vegas. We applaud it for realizing it cannot become what it used to be in the late '80s and early '90s. Let's see how the concept develops.

>> Michael Rivard has joined True Fitness as chief operating officer, responsible for executing the company's business plan, evaluating offshore strategic opportunities and coordinating the management team. Rivard has more than 18 years of experience in mareting and management and has worked for Energizer Battery Company and most recently with PlayPower as president and CEO. He is based in St. Louis, Mo., and will report to Frank Trulaske, president and CEO of True Fitness.

>> Held over the weekend, thousands of people in 40 cities gathered to participate in the second annual Walk From Obesity to raise money in the fight against obesity. Sponsored by ASBS Foundation, a non-profit organization formed by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, the walk's focus was to raise money for education and research efforts into the treatment and prevention of obesity and related illnesses. Last year, the event raised $335,000, and had a $1 million goal this year. www.walkfromobesity.com

>> Gold's Gym is continuing its invasion into one of the fattest cities in America -- a title given by an annual Men's Fitness survey. After buying a year ago seven Fitness Connection gyms in San Antonio, Texas, the gym chain said it plans to expand by building facilities from the ground up and is commencing construction on a 40,000-square-foot facility on 3.5 acres at a northeast retail center called Live Oak Crossing. The Live Oak gym will open in spring 2005, with a second facility planned for that summer. Gold's management said San Antonio could easily be a 12-gym market. The Live Oak's location works well with the company's new push to attract families. Despite a legacy of hardcore bodybuilding and elite athletes, a recent survey of 200,000 members by Gold's revealed that 56 percent of its membership is female. Now, the chain is targeting its fitness centers to women and families, even creating a separate workout area for women called Lady's Gold in some facilities, including the Live Oak's location. Accessible through the lady's locker room, Lady's Gold will include cardiovascular, strength and circuit equipment, some of which will be tailored for women. Plus, about 1,500 square feet of the Live Oak's gym has been carved out for a kids' area, with a TV area, arts-and-crafts/homework area, and a play maze and jungle gym, as well as a separate area for infants.

>> The marketers of the BodyFlex+ System, including Savvier Inc., Savvier LP and BodyFlex Inc., reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission about deceptive advertising with the BodyFlex product. In addition to ceasing the false claims, the defendants are also required in the Sept. 1 settlement to establish a $2.6 million consumer refund program. BodyFlex is an 18-minute routine involving stretching, deep breathing and exercises with the BodyFlex Gym Bar -- a plastic exercise bar with a resistance band -- that claimed in an infomercial and on the web that users could lose 4 to 14 inches in the first seven days of use. The FTC's complaint, filed in federal district court in November 2003, and amended in January 2004, charged that these claims were false and unsubstantiated. Savvier LP will establish and administer the $2.6 million consumer refund program, pay the administrative costs of the refund program, and contact BodyFlex purchasers about how to get a refund. The order also contains a $36 million "avalanche clause," which would make this entire amount immediately due if the court finds that the defendants misrepresented their financial condition. The FTC's consumer hotline number for BodyFlex is 202-326-2935.

>> Foot Locker is teaming up with Everlast as the official retailer for the upcoming NBC series, "The Contender," a new hour-long reality series following the lives of 16 boxers as they live together in a compound and duke it out every week, vying for a $1 million grand prize. During the series, the boxing hopefuls will be outfitted in several apparel collections -- thermals, hoodies, long- and short-sleeved T-shirts and hats -- set to debut in Foot Locker stores in October. Also, as part of the agreement, a special collection of Everlast apparel and equipment featured on the show will be sold exclusively at select Foot Locker stores. A "Contender" hangtag will mark the assortment of active wear, T-shirts, hats and shoes.

>> It's that time of year again as ispo and DuPont send out the call for entrees in the 11th ispo BrandNew Awards for the ispo winter 2005 trade show -- the international sporting goods trade show held in Munich, Germany, twice each year. The awards have become a good forum for newer companies to get brand exposure in the European marketplace. To qualify for the BrandNew Awards a company or brand must not be older than four years old, never been a registered exhibitor at ispo and must present "innovative products, designs or marketing concepts." A jury composed of international representatives of the sports industry will select the winners in the following categories: Hardware Winter, Hardware Summer, Boarder, Sportswear, Style, Accessories and Hardware Accessories. Winners will each receive a completely equipped booth of 20 square meters in the "BrandNew Village," honors during the official award ceremony, and PR support including a press conference. An additional 32 selected finalists will receive a 10-square-meter booth in the village. Application deadline for the 11th ispo BrandNew Awards is Nov. 5, 2004. Send written applications along with a product sample, a short video self-presentation and relevant marketing material to Hansen+Heinz GmbH SportsMarketing, Siegmund-Riefler-Bogen 2, D-81829 Munich, Germany. Or email info@ispo-brandnew.com, or telephone (+49, 89) 9441960. For further information and to submit applications, go to www.ispo-brandnew.com. The ispo winter trade show is Feb. 6-9, 2005.

>> IHRSA has formed an alliance with the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), in which IHRSA will promote the CBBB's resources to its clubs and the CBBB will serve as an objective source on ethical business practices for IHRSA. The association teamed with the CBBB so that its members may better access the vast and readily available resources of the Better Business Bureau network throughout North America. To kick off the new relationship, IHRSA will work with the CBBB to produce a guide to choosing a quality club that IHRSA members may use in their local markets. On an ongoing basis, IHRSA will also work with the CBBB to develop a grassroots effort to promote ethical business practices by encouraging IHRSA member clubs to join their local Better Business Bureau. IHRSA also plans to tap the CBBB for assistance in developing club industry specific tools and guides for best practices on subjects like employee customer service training, dispute resolution and ethical advertising practices.

>> Lee Hillman, former CEO of Bally Total Fitness, and Allan Fisher, former CEO of Holmes Place, now own a controlling interest in entities with exclusive distribution rights for the Power Plate and its Advanced Vibration Technology in North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Japan and China. Power Plate International B.V. has been used as a health and fitness and physical rehabilitation alternative in Western Europe by sports medicine and strength and conditioning professionals. Hillman and Fisher said they plan to make the Power Plate the latest mainstream fitness trend. "It's no secret there is a rapidly increasing focus and demand in the health and fitness industry on healthy aging and modalities that offer the preventative medical benefits to improve quality of lives," Hillman said in a statement. "The Power Plate is the ideal product for club operators to respond to this opportunity with its unique ability to provide health and fitness benefits to everyone from young, fitness-focused individuals, to the most de-conditioned individuals and seniors, for whom conventional fitness methods are often not an option. This could be the most significant product to reach the industry since the treadmill." www.powerplateusa.com

>> The U.S. Census Bureau's Monthly Retail Trade Survey reported sales in sporting goods stores of $2.55 billion for the most recent reporting month (June), up from the $2.31 billion in June 2003. The 10.3 percent increase was the strongest since November 2001. Year-to-date sales through June were $13.17 billion, up 7.5 percent from the first six months of 2003. Sporting goods store sales for all of 2003 were $26.82 billion, a 1.5 percent decline versus 2002. In May, sales in sporting goods stores reached $2.32 billion, up 6.8 percent from the year before.

>> Here's some good information to kick off your week: Fifty-six percent of Americans participated in sports, recreation or fitness, up from 50 percent the year prior, according to the most recent LeisureTrak report from the Leisure Trends Group. Participation in sports, recreational, and fitness activities, which began to grow in the second quarter of 2003, has continued in that direction, in the first quarter of 2004. This is the highest winter reading in the last five years, as well as the greatest year-over-year increase. Fitness sports were at an all-time high last fall and winter, the report said, and indoor sports (which include many fitness activities) were also strong. More and more, Americans are pursuing fitness for its own sake, not just as a winter tune-up for their favorite pastimes. Exercising in general (which has doubled since 2000/2001), and bodybuilding, yoga and kickboxing specifically, made big leaps. Exercise is especially strong with women, 29 percent versus 14 percent of men. It's also 29 percent for those with $80,000 or more household income, and 28 percent for Americans age 45 and older. Walking is up from 18 percent a year earlier, with 16 percent naming it their favorite activity. Overall, participation was widespread, including 62 percent of men and 51 percent of women, 63 percent of Americans with incomes of $40,000 to $80,000, and 71 percent with incomes of $80,000 or more. Sports, fitness and recreation participants aren't just for the young: 61 percent of those ages 16-44 and 50 percent of those age 45 and older participate. www.leisuretrends.com

>> If you thought triathlons were tough, wait til you hear about New York's Octathlon. Called the Survival of the Shawangunks -- S.O.S. for short -- it's more of an endurance race on steroids. As we all know a traditional triathlon involves three stages: a swim, a bike and a run. The "S.O.S." takes a few stages further, much further, and requires a bike, a run, a swim, a run, a swim, a run, a swim, and a run -- with your shoes. The rules dictate that competitors must carry their shoes with them while they swim, and each is allowed just one assistant. Past competitors actually describe the eight-stage race as having "the emotional warmth of a family holiday with the physical comfort of a charley horse," and the event, in fact, was created by Don Davis, who was in training for the Ironman. That didn't stop 138 men and women -- ranging in age from 20 to 65 -- from gathering recently near the Shawangunk Mountains, outside of Manhattan, to give it a go. The event starts with a 30-mile bike ride, the last five miles of which is "a thousand foot incline." Then, "for the next 20 miles, they" run "from one mountain lake to another, swimming the length of each one until, after the third lake, they climbed to the finish line set up at the base of a stone observation tower with a panoramic view of the Shawangunks. The prize? Besides a great view, T-shirts for all the competitors and bragging right for the winner, who, this year, was Erik Grimm -- his seventh win. Although the S.O.S. has grown in popularity since founder Davis first ran it in 1983, Grimm doubts it will ever enter the mainstream. "I think this race with its twists and turns doesn't appeal to the standard run-of-the-mill competitors," adding: "I don't know, I guess that's what I like about it."

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