Fitness: Did you hear?… At Home Fitness celebrates first anniversary, plus Apex's bodybugg, Gold's Gym, Fitness DK, Yoga Journal, 24 Hour Fitness and more...

Apex Fitness' bodybugg calorie counter lands Popular Science award, Gold's Gym Franchisee Association picks new ED, Denmark's Fitness DK and Hard Work merge, 24 Hour Fitness lawsuit over fees looking for class-action status, plus much more...
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For the week of Nov. 8-14

>> You know we're approaching the holiday season when … a news service that puts out press releases to journalists on one day alone has four, count 'em four, stories about fitness and pieces of equipment.

>> At Home Fitness, celebrating its first anniversary, has done a series of TV ads in its Phoenix, Ariz., market that will begin to air this week. Says co-owner Greg Feeder, "I can't believe it has been a year since we have been open already. Time Flies!" The footage for the commercial was shot at the company's second and newest store in Chandler, Ariz., with co-owner Bryan Dorksen hamming it up a bit in the opening shot. Congrats, At Home Fitness!

>>Apex Fitness Group's bodybugg calorie management system received top honors in Popular Science magazine's What's New award in the personal health category. The bodybugg allows users to measure actual calories burned, giving them the information needed to manage weight loss without guesswork, according to the company. The two components of the bodybugg system -- the bodybugg armband, a small device worn on the upper arm, and the bodybugg web interface -- work in tandem to track exactly how many calories an individual has burned and consumed every day. The awards are featured in the December issue of Popular Science magazine, which will be on newsstands Nov. 15.  

>> Members of the Gold's Gym Franchisee Association selected Ginger Collins, former Gold's Gym franchisee, as the first executive director of the organization. In her new position, Collins will oversee all membership activities and drive the organization's future growth. The association was founded in 2001 to act as the official voice of Gold's Gym international franchisees.

>> DENMARK -- Denmark's largest and third largest fitness chains, Fitness DK and Hard Work, are merging into one powerhouse with 36 clubs throughout the country. They will move forward under the name Fitness DK with 1,800 employees and 85,000 members -- triple its closest competitor. The new company expects sales of Euro 53.7 million (USD $63 million) and has said it is preparing to go public in early 2007, helmed by Rasmus Ingerslev. This is the second merger this year for Fitness DK, which merged with the Fin Form chain in May. All Hard Work gyms will switch to the Fitness DK name and the founders of the family-owned chain will continue in the new company setup in development positions. The merger should be complete by Jan. 1, 2006. Fitness DK said it plans to have 40 clubs and approximately 100,000 members in 2006.

>> Yoga Journal recently won the gold "Folio Editorial Excellence Award" in the category of Consumer Health/Fitness. The awards recognize magazines that attain excellence in their editorial content, design and production, and also how well each title fulfills its mission. More than 1,600 magazines competed in this year's competition.

>> A San Francisco woman is suing 24 Hour Fitness in a lawsuit that could potentially affect tens of thousands of Californians. Seeking class-action status, the lawsuit contends that the health club chain illegally charges customers up to two full months of membership fees when they quit. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in San Francisco on behalf of Jennifer Pickering, a 25-year-old legal assistant in the city. In the suit, Pickering, who became a member in 2001, alleges that 24 Hour Fitness continued to charge her a monthly membership fee for two months -- amounting to $48 -- after she canceled her membership at a San Francisco branch in late August. Patrick Kitchin, Pickering's attorney, objects to a provision in the firm's contract requiring that users canceling their membership give the company 30 business days notice, arguing it does not take a month to terminate such a contract. In this case, the suit says, it took the San Ramon firm 63 days to cancel Pickering's membership. The strategy represents illegal profit taking and an unfair business practice under California's Contracts for Health Studio Services Act, Kitchin said. Pickering's lawsuit also claims the company collects illegal fees by requiring that prepaid personal fitness sessions be used in six months. Pickering said 24 Hour Fitness refused to return $239 for four sessions she bought in March 2005 but did not use before canceling her membership five months later. The suit seeks discontinuation of the practices, punitive damages and reimbursement for members who have been charged for the prepaid fitness sessions and the post-cancellation membership fees during the past four years.

>> With more independent bike dealers looking at and adding fitness equipment to their assortment to pump up winter sales, Winterbike 2006, part of the sixth annual Bicycle Leadership Conference, could be an ideal event for fitness manufacturers to consider. Returning for a second year of new product introductions and networking opportunities, Winterbike is produced by Interbike in partnership with the National Bicycle Dealers Association and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. After the first full day of business-building conferences, conference attendees are treated to a dinner reception followed by an evening of casual, but focused, one-on-one interactions with Winterbike exhibitors in a resort suite setting. Held at the Four-Diamond Pointe South Mountain Resort, these mid-season product discussions between manufacturers and retailers are a convenient and cost-efficient forum for key buyers and sellers to meet in one central location. Exhibitors will be able to spend significant quality time with their most important customers to launch new products, programs and campaigns, garner feedback and information about trends, and rub elbows with bicycle retailer decision makers. Winterbike will take place on Jan. 30, 2006 in conjunction with the Bicycle Leadership Conference, Jan. 29-31, 2006, in Tempe/Phoenix, Ariz. For more details on Winterbike or to exhibit, contact 949-376-6161. For details on the conference, visit www.bicycleconference.org or contact Ray Keener at 866-442-2466 or Gary Coffrin at 408-225-1040.

>> Here's your chance to be a winner. The "Sports Product of the Year" awards is ramping up, looking for the best and brightest in the following categories: athletic footwear, indoor games, sports apparel, extreme sports, licensed products, team sports, fitness, outdoors, and water sports. This month, the Sports Edge retail advisory board will evaluate all product entries and narrow the group to 25 semifinalists. Five finalists will be presented in 2006, with the winner announced in spring 2006. In eight years of the competition, Hoist and the Chameleon Gym have been the only two fitness products to win. Many fitness companies have also made it to the finals, including Gaiam, Keys Fitness, Oregon Scientific, Spri Products, Tanita, Wergout and Xvest. For more information or to download an entry form, visit www.sportsedgemag.com or email jasonwright@sportingkid.com

>> Expanding on the concepts developed at the 2005 athletic footwear workshop, NSGA is offering it again at the 42nd Annual NSGA Management Conference and Eighth Annual Team Dealer Summit next year. The 2005 workshop examined ways to grow the athletic footwear business. For 2006, it will seek ideas to help retailers and manufacturers be more successful. Scheduled for May 23, attendees will be divided into table groups headed by industry discussion leaders and create a list of ideas. The table leaders will then share the table's ideas with the group for further discussion among attendees. The session will be facilitated by Dr. Robert Blattberg, professor of retailing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, who will help stimulate fresh thought and "out-of-the-box" ideas. For a list of table leaders, visit www.nsga.org. The conference will be held May 21-24, 2006, at the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, Texas.

>> Atlas Institute's "2004-2005 Online Holiday Shopping" report says Monday is the day when most online shoppers make their purchases, with noon to 3 p.m. getting the most traffic. Tuesday, with the same time slot, also gets a lot of hits. Researchers came up with three recommendations based on the data in the study: marketers should recognize the pattern and target shoppers with messaging that acknowledges the trend; e-tailers should work to make the transition from offline to online more seamless; marketers should further take advantage by tailoring e-mail campaigns and advertising messages to people in the workplace. In the five years since the report was first published, the peak of the online holiday shopping season delved further into December. The report places the busiest shopping day of the 2005 holiday season to occur on Monday, Dec. 12, though high traffic will continue as late as Dec. 19. Post-holiday shopping is expected to remain high in January. It was exceptionally strong in 2005, and e-tailers should see a repeat in early 2006. Atlas anonymously analyzed holiday shopping behavior from Nov. 22, 2004, to Jan. 31, 2005, across 96 e-commerce clients.

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