Fitness: Did you hear?… Ruffer leaves LA Gym, Lifestyle expands to Oklahoma, plus ACE yoga study, IHRSA stats, Finish Line, PowerBar, Nautilus, Everlast and more…

Ruffer leaves LA Gym after 12 years, Hunnings and Wagner ramp up Oklahoma City store, study says three in 10 Americans belong to gym, PowerBar enters into international sponsorship deal, plus much more...
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For the week of Oct 11-17

>> After a dozen years with LA Gym, Greg Ruffer has resigned from the company, now under FHI Inc. ownership since LA Gym was acquired by that Hancock company in August. Ruffer started with LA Gym straight out of college in 1993 and worked his way up the ranks to become director of retail operations. His departure is effective Oct. 20. In a note sent to colleagues and industry acquaintances, Ruffer wrote: "It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from FHI Inc…. I have learned a lot over the past decade and truly enjoyed my tenure with LA Gym. The relationships I have made will last a lifetime and the friendships an eternity. I am very proud of all that we have accomplished in my twelve years and take great comfort in knowing true professionals and honest-good people. I proved to myself that a team could have a lot of fun and still produce at the highest level. I am happy to have shared in your lives and the lives of your families. We have reaped the rewards of hard work and persevered through difficult times. I am grateful to have been able to play a small part in your careers. The sky is the limit in what you can accomplish and I wish you all the best of luck with your aspirations and dreams. With the high amount of quality resources and large market share, you will do terrific things with FHI Inc."

>> Wasting no time with the budding specialty retail venture called Lifestyle Fitness Equipment, Chip Hunnings and partner Bill Wagner have opened a storefront in Oklahoma City, with plans for more soon in the area. Todd Schlepp, who worked for Hunnings and Wagner in Colorado from 1993-98 before moving to Oklahoma, will manage the store there. In addition, the first under the Lifestyle banner -- a store in Charlotte opened a year ago -- will become a group of four in the Southeast in the next few weeks. In addition to a second one that opened earlier this year, the group will add two new ones, including one in Greensboro.

>> According to a new study, three in 10 Americans belong to a gym or health club, and about 15 percent of the population says they plan to join a gym or health club in the next six months. Socratic Technologies, a market research consultancy, examined the use of and spending on an assortment of health and fitness services among U.S. households in the "U.S. Consumer Luxury Services Outlook" study. It also reported that 12 percent use or plan to start using a personal trainer, and men tend to use personal trainers in larger numbers than women. While rates of gym membership are fairly constant across the United States, those living in the West or the Northeast are more likely to take the additional steps of using personal trainers or nutritionists. Men and women are equally likely to consider starting a gym membership, but women are more likely to see it through and actually use the health club. Most are paying under $100 per month for their gym membership, while those using additional services like personal trainers spend quite a bit more -- on average, about $330 per month. Among national chains, Bally's has the greatest proportion of gym-going Americans as members. Curves, the women-only workout chain, shares the leading brand status among female gym members with Bally. Socratic Technologies (www.sotech.com) is a full-service, market research consultancy, specializing in research and consulting using state-of-the art, online methodologies and technology.

>> In celebration of its 25th anniversary, IHRSA launched a new website, www.IHRSA25.org, earlier this month. The site includes an interactive timeline that traces key events in IHRSA's history, and encourages visitors to share their memories from the past 25 years and discuss the future of the industry. It will also serve as the primary source of information for IHRSA's 25th Anniversary Convention & Trade Show, which will be held March 20-23, 2006, in Las Vegas, Nev.

>> Nowadays, it seems like the lion's share of media and product attention is targeted at those 35 and way under. But the real money is with the fastest-growing crowd in the United States -- Baby Boomers age 45 and older. You can't ignore the numbers: People older than 50 spend $1.7 trillion annually on goods and services -- that's more than 30 percent of the United States' total household spending. People ages 55 to 64 have a median net worth of $112,000, compared with the $7,240 median of people younger than 35, according to the latest government data. Hints for success with shoppers over 50: make time stand still by selling products that make these shoppers feel 20 years younger, calling them "seniors" or "older adults" is a no-no, and reward sales people for showing these customers the extra time and service they expect.

>> The Finish Line is launching a multi-channel premium athletic specialty store for women this spring, starting with five stores with potential to grow into as many as 200. Still awaiting trademark approval, the as yet unnamed stores will be 70 percent softgoods and 30 percent footwear, and include national brands as well as private-label and athletic-fashion basics. The primarily mall-based stores will target women ages 25-40 who exercise at least once a week and have a household income of $80,000-plus. Jeff Pofsky, former senior women's apparel buyer for Target, will head the operation as vice president and general merchandising manager.

>> PowerBar and the World Triathlon Corp., owners of the Ironman brand, have entered into an exclusive, three-year global sponsorship agreement. The deal designates PowerBar as the Official Global Energy Bar and Energy Gel Sponsor from 2006 through 2008 for all international Ironman qualifying events, the Ironman 70.3 series, and the Ford Ironman World Championship. This is PowerBar's first international sports marketing deal.

>> Nautilus is kicking off the holiday season early, releasing its "Holiday 2005 Home Health and Fitness Catalog" featuring more than 200 gift ideas. The 56-page catalog and accompanying website, www.nautiluscatalog.com , features more than 80 new products. This is only the second catalog ever issued by the company.

>> Everlast Worldwide has expanded its relationship with Slace, S.A. de C.V. of Anahuac, Mexico, by signing a licensing agreement for the launch of Everlast-branded watches in Mexico. Slace currently serves as Everlast's licensee for athletic and casual footwear and men's and women's underwear in Mexico. Watches produced by Slace will be sold through department, watch and jewelry stores.

>> In the first half of 2005, Internet advertising revenue in the United States hit the $5.8 billion mark, a 26 percent increase over the first six months of 2004, according to figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Revenue totaled almost $3 billion for the second quarter of 2005, also a 26 percent increase over the same period in 2004 and a 6.6 percent increase over first quarter of 2005. PricewaterhouseCoopers noted that the consistent growth in overall revenues shows that marketers may be shifting more of their total advertising budgets to online -- a natural development as research shows that more consumers are spending a larger percentage of their media time online. The fastest growth was recorded for ad campaigns in search and rich media. Search advertising increased 27 percent, while rich media increased 26 percent year to year. Stats also showed that 74 percent of the revenue is controlled by the top 10 websites, 89 percent by the top 25 and 97 percent by the top 50. These figures have changed little year to year.

>> SNEWS® Reports Research:With more than 11 million Americans doing yoga, the American Council on Exercise examined the aerobic benefits and calorie expenditure of Hatha yoga, considered the most beginner-friendly and widespread practice. Lead researchers Dawn Boehde and John Porcari, Ph.D., FACSM, from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse recruited 34 healthy but sedentary women (average age of 33) for the study. Subjects were divided into two groups: a yoga group and a non-yoga control group. The yoga group participated in 55-minute Hatha yoga classes three times a week during the eight-week study period, while the non-yoga group was barred from any form of exercise. The study concluded that while the yoga group showed numerous improvements in strength and endurance as well as improved balance and flexibility, they did not burn a significant amount of calories. In fact, the study found that one 50-minute session of Hatha yoga burns just 144 calories, similar to a slow walk. Yoga group participants showed the following improvements: total body flexibility improved by 13 percent, with significant results in shoulder and trunk flexibility; muscular fitness improved enabling participants to do an average of six more push-ups and 14 more curl-ups; and they experienced a 17-second increase in their one-legged stand time. Complete study results are in the September/October 2005 edition of ACE Fitness Matters magazine or at http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/yoga.aspx.

>> SNEWS® Reports Research:The amount of exercise a person engages in per week may be more important than the intensity of the exercise, according to the October issue of the CHEST journal. A study in the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians shows that adults who participate in mild exercise, such as walking briskly for 12 miles or exercising for 125 to 200 minutes a week at moderate intensity, can significantly improve their aerobic fitness and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Unlike most exercise interventions, this finding suggests that amount may be equally or more important as exercise intensity. For more details from the study, visit www.chestjournal.org/.

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