Fitness: Did you hear?...

Bowflex-branded SelectTech weights hit the airwaves, Icon discontinues JumpKing trampoline, NPD reports number of overweight Americans holds steady, Bally asks "who's the fittest presidential candidate?", plus much more...
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For the week of Oct. 12-18

>> New television spots for the Bowflex-branded SelectTech weight system (identical to the Nautilus version, just with a different name) began Oct. 1 and flashy they are. SNEWS® caught one of the first ones and the apparent simplicity of use demonstrated, not to mention the buff male and female models, will likely help the 1-800 number ring and ring and ring. According to Tim Hawkins, Nautilus chief of customer service and marketing, the company had "very aggressive expectations," which were exceeded by the third day. "We're going, 'Wow,'" Hawkins told SNEWS®. Interestingly, the TV spots that we saw never say how much the cool toy will cost, instead only touting the price as $8 a month. Go onto the website, www.BowflexSelectTech.com, and you'll discover there are various packages of weights, base, bench and mat. Choose the whole meal deal and you'd drop $778. You can also go to www.NautilusSelectTech.com and see the same unit under the Nautilus brand; however, this site comes with a "dealer locator." The package of weights and base -- both Bowflex and Nautilus -- go for the same $480 price.

>> Icon Health & Fitness has discontinued all aspects of its JumpKing trampoline subsidiary. In an 8K statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late September, Icon said it would no longer manufacture, market or distribute JumpKing trampolines "as a result of management's continuing review of its business strategies, plans and operations." The discontinuation means about 415 jobs will be eliminated in the JumpKing plant in Mesquite, Texas, where operations will cease in about a year. "At this time, (Icon) is unable in good faith to make a determination of the costs associated with the discontinuance of trampoline operations or an estimate of the amount or the range of amounts expected to be incurred in connection with the discontinuance of trampoline operations or the amount or the range of amounts that will result in future cash expenditures," Icon stated about the Sept. 17 decision. At the time of the SEC filing, the company said it would file an amended 8K form by Sept. 26; it was filed Oct. 13.

>> You thought infomercials were profitable … and proliferating? You're right. In a story from the Washington Post marking the 20th anniversary of the infomercial (as well as "call-to-action" commercials with 800 numbers), the paper noted that as many as three new ones hit the air every single day and it's a $256 billion-per-year industry, according to the Electronic Retailing Association. The top five all-time products, based on the number of times the infomercial aired, put the Total Gym in fifth overall with 20,931 times on the air. The association said that run over six years it raked in more than $1 billion in sales. Of the top five in 2004 so far, Bowflex comes in third with 3,496 times on the air, behind "Slim in 6" with only 49 more airings, and Carleton H. Sheets, a real estate investment program, with 4,152 times on the air. A spokesperson for the association said infomercials for fitness products often cost more than others and gave as an example a commercial for the Nautilus Treadclimber which probably cost $500,000 to make. The association was formed in the '90s when Congress threatened to crack down on fraud. The promise was made to form an association and for it to police the industry, which it does to this day, reviewing claims and warning companies making fraudulent claims to clean up their acts. If the company does not or refuses, the association turns it in to the Federal Trade Commission. For more on the association, go to www.retailing.org.

>> Recent news from the obesity frontlines was a bit encouraging as NPD Group's annual research report found the number of overweight Americans is holding steady as U.S. consumers become more aware of what they eat. Although the percentage of overweight Americans still tips the scale at 62 percent for the second year in a row, it's the first time since 1995 that it hasn't gone up. "At some point we knew this would happen," said NPD Vice President Harry Balzer, the author of the "The Eating Patterns in America" report. "Americans just couldn't continue to put on weight." Based on 12 months of data collected through February 2004, the report found that 27 percent of U.S. consumers said they are conscious of the number of calories in their meals -- the highest level in five years. The report also found that consumers ate at restaurants less often than they did in 1985, with the number of restaurant take-out meals leveling off after 10 years of increases.

>> Bally Total Fitness took it to the people and asked who they thought was the fittest presidential candidate. Closely resembling current poll numbers, George W. Bush edged out John Kerry 54 percent to 46 percent. The 500 survey respondents also ranked the fitness levels of the presidential and vice presidential candidates: George W was seen as the fittest (40 percent), followed by John Edwards (31 percent) and Kerry (27 percent). Dick Cheney got a meager 2 percent. When comparing the fitness of the presidential tickets, the Democrats won by a 73 percent landslide. When it came to golf partners, 46 percent said they'd like to have Bush, while 24 percent chose Kerry. And, if the Republican and Democratic tickets faced-off in a two-on-two basketball game, 78 percent say Kerry and Edwards would win. Survey respondents also rated John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, as the "Fittest President of All Time." Survey respondents seemed evenly represented with 34 percent classifying themselves as Republicans, 31 percent as Democrats, and 35 percent as independent. SNEWS® View: Forget the debates, let's have a real "run-off" election. We propose the candidates compete in a Presidential Adventure Race -- events could be rock-tossing and javelin-throwing, with no rules about the direction of the projectiles, intermixed with a 10K race and maybe a bit of ice climbing; the first across the finish line wins the White House.

>> The keynote speaker lineup for IHRSA's 24th annual International Convention and Trade Show, March 16-19, 2005, features General Tommy Franks and NFL football player Joe Theismann. Actor Christopher Reeve was also scheduled to speak about overcoming adversity, but due to his untimely and unfortunate death, IHRSA is working to replace him as a keynote speaker. Also speaking is Dr. Dean Ornish, president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, as part of the Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference, which the American Journal of Health Promotion will host in conjunction with IHRSA's annual convention and trade show.

>> SportHill founder and president Jim Hill was honored at his alma mater with the Leo Harris Award during the University of Oregon's homecoming game. The university presents the award annually to an alumnus letterman who has demonstrated continued service and leadership to the school and been out of college for 20 years. Hill was a letterman in both track (1980-1984) and cross-country (1980-1983) and represented the United States at the World Track and Field Championships in 1983. Following graduation, Hill remained in Eugene, ran professionally, and went on to found SportHill in 1985. Also, congratulations to Liz Wilson, SportHill's national and international sales manager, for finishing seventh among women at the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 3. She finished third in her division of 469, with a time of 2:38:15.

>> From Jan. 10 to Mar. 2, 2005, Life Fitness is sponsoring IHRSA's new eight-week motivational weight-loss program "I Lost It at the Club" to kick-start the exercise programs of existing club members after the holidays. Encouraged to use it as a member-retention tool, participating health clubs can use the campaign to reinvigorate existing programs, introduce new programs and offer special educational seminars. Participating clubs will also be rewarded by program sponsor Life Fitness with a coupon for one free Attachable LCD Entertainment System with the purchase of five Life Fitness commercial cardio units. Also, clubs that meet the enrollment criteria of at least 10 participating members will be eligible for one of four Life Fitness cross-trainers that will be given away. The first three will be given to the three clubs that lose the greatest average weight per participating member. The fourth will be given to one wild card club that will be drawn at random from all participating clubs. Fore more details and a downloadable program manual with activity cards, member newsletters and tracking sheets, check out www.ihrsa.org.

>> The Super Show's new International Business Intelligence Series (IBIS), described as a "data-rich executive conference program," will feature 40 hours of research, market analysis and insight from a wide array of industry experts, and will be open to all trade show attendees. As we reported (see SNEWS® story, Sept. 24, 2004, "The what and whys of the new Super Show structure"), show management has been working to restructure the Super Show to add more reasons for retailers to attend and manufacturers to exhibit. IBIS is made up of two separate tracks: the Sports Executive Series geared toward senior management strategic planning issues, and the FasTrax Series for buyers and manufacturers in a number of different categories. Both tracks will offer the latest research and feature experts to analyze and lend perspective to this data. Among the featured presenters are Doug Morton, president and CEO, The Sports Authority; Robert Corliss, president and CEO, The Athlete's Foot; Kevin Plank, president, Under Armour; and Richard Heckmann, chairman and CEO, K2. Recent additions to the seminar lineup are Kim Blair of M.I.T., Dennis Collins of Jefferson Pilot, Keith Storey of Sports Marketing Surveys, and Fernando Castillo of the Pavlik Design Team. Blair will highlight how trends in technology and innovation impact and influence future sports products. Collins will discuss the 35-plus "master consumer." Storey will talk about specialty store retailing trends and geo-demographic marketing. IBIS and The Super Show will be in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 17-19, 2005. www.thesupershow.com

 >> IHRSA will host the third annual Asia-Pacific Forum Oct. 28-30, 2004, at the Westin Sydney hotel in Sydney, Australia. Keynote speakers include John McCarthy, executive director of IHRSA, talking about " The Industry in 2005: Advances and Challenges," and Michael Gerber, entrepreneur, author and revolutionary, presenting "The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to do About It."

>> With the holiday season fast approaching, researchers are sharing ways to relieve some of the tension and stress that inevitably seems to come with them. Topping the list of stress relievers is exercise, followed by taking a walk, getting a massage and meditation. Exercise offers the double benefit of taking the weight of your shoulders as well as around your middle, they noted. "Sometimes we can get off schedule and have little time during the holidays," one expert noted. "But exercise is one of the very best ways to reduce stress, so it is helpful to keep it up during this time." 

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