Fitness: Did you hear?…Women prove buying power for equipment, plus German retail gains, IHRSA, Holmes Place, SportsArt Fitness, and more…

NSGA study showcases women's buying power in fitness categories, IHRSA announces details of European Congress, European association developing trainer standards in EU, check out extreme chocolate for extreme chicks, plus much more...
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For the weeks of Aug. 9-22

>> Once again proving women have buying power, particularly when it comes to fitness gear, NSGA's "The Sporting Goods Market in 2005" consumer purchase report found that they are significant purchasers in numerous fitness-related footwear and equipment categories. In 2004, in the equipment segment, women purchased 62 percent of the treadmills, 60 percent of the ellipticals and 45 percent of the heart rate monitors. In 2004, females purchased 54 percent of the $14.8 billion athletic footwear sold at retail. Specifically in the fitness realm, they purchased 85 percent of aerobic footwear, 49 percent of cross training shoes, 55 percent of fitness shoes, 49 percent of running shoes and 64 percent of walking shoes. The report's data projects 2004 purchases of sporting goods products based on a survey of 100,000 U.S. households by National Family Opinion Inc. It's available for $275 for NSGA retailer/dealer members, and free to manufacturer and sustaining members. For non-members, the cost is $325. For additional information, email info@nsga.org, or visit www.nsga.org.

>> GERMANY -- German sporting goods retailers for June have shown an average gain in sales of 1.2 percent. That means that for the first half of the year sales average an overall average gain of 1.3 percent compared to 2004. In 2003, the first half of the year showed a decline of 3.8 percent. But sales went south in July with a decline in sales of 3.9 percent, all according to a monthly survey by Germany's trade paper, sport+mode.

>> Usually known as a transitional month for retail, retail industry sales for July (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a strong 4.6 percent unadjusted over last year and remained unchanged from June, the National Retail Federation said. July retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 1.8 percent seasonally adjusted from June and increased 10.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Automobile and gasoline sales, categories that NRF does not include in its retail industry sales numbers, once again performed well last month. NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.4 percent this year over 2004.

>> Scheduled Oct. 2-5, the Fifth Annual IHRSA European Congress will focus on the continued growth of the European fitness industry and evaluate the dilemmas that face health and fitness businesses. To be held in Rome, Italy, the Congress provides an educational and networking opportunity for health club owners, managers and investors with a full roster of seminars. Sebastian Coe, who developed London's plan to host the 2012 Olympic Games, two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion, and former member of Britain's House of Lords will deliver the event's keynote address, "Working with Government to Promote Healthy Living." Simultaneous translation will be provided for all presentations in Italian, Spanish, German and other languages to be determined. Other special features at this year's Congress will include the so-called sponsor showcase, a Rome Health Club Tour and an evening reception sponsored by Technogym. For more information on seminars, registration and fees, contact IHRSA at 617-951-0055 or www.ihrsa.org/congress.

>> At GSI Commerce, Michael Rubin will no longer share the president role with Robert Blyskal. Blyskal was hired in May 2004 as the company's co-president and COO. Blyskal will now be president and COO. Blyskal will continue to report to Rubin, chairman and CEO of GSI Commerce. Blyskal will continue to oversee the general and specialty and sports business management groups, the technology and information services group, the operations group, the newly added international group and the partner services organization. Additionally, Patrick Vogt has been named executive vice president of GSI, and will head the company's general and specialty organization, which includes all of the company's non-sporting goods partners. Prior to joining GSI, Vogt served as the senior vice president and senior general manager for Sony Corp. of America's Sony eSolutions Company LLC.

>> The European Health and Fitness Association, the group that sets standards for the European health and fitness industry, is developing a regulation system for instructors, teachers and trainers working in the EU. This fall, it also plans to launch the European Register of Exercise Professionals to support the development of national registers in European countries that have signed up to the initiative. The goal is to raise the standards, qualifications and skills of exercise professionals working in Europe. The register will be regulated by EHFA through an agreed-upon set of standards that is managed and reviewed by the EHFA Standards Council. Each national register will have a verification body to determine the technical criteria for what constitutes a fitness qualification within that country following the criteria set by its regulatory board. National training providers in each country will ensure that all awarding bodies are fulfilling the necessary criteria and a social partner organization will map each country's standards to the standards of EHFA.

>> The Monterey County District Attorney's Office in California filed a consumer protection, civil action lawsuit against Terry's Total Fitness health club in Salinas, Calif., and the club's owners, Terry and Blane Commercial. The district attorney's office also obtained a cease-and-desist court order against the health club, ordering it to shut down its fee collection against as many as 4,400 people. The district attorney's office claims that over the last five years, the club has promoted special offerings such as $99 one-year memberships, high school memberships and no-cost memberships. The district attorney's office said it has received over 100 complaints from people who say the one-year memberships they agreed to unknowingly rolled over into multi-year memberships. Others claim they were routinely unable to cancel their contracts. The lawsuit alleges Terry's Total Fitness deliberately delayed sending contracts to collections agencies by as much as two years without ever notifying the clients that their accounts were being sent to collection. The restraining order compels the defendants to mail letters to 4,400 people, advising them of their right to dispute the debt.

>> UK's health club group LA Fitness said it's on the look out for acquisitions, despite its forecast that the rest of the health club sector is heading for a period of consolidation, according to a report out of the UK. LA Fitness said that while tough economic conditions and fierce competition will mean many operators won't have the scale necessary to gain maximum returns, it would be a "prime mover" and apply its acquisition criteria to clubs and businesses as their existing owners looked for exits. LA Fitness, which has 68 gyms, was taken private in July by CEO Fred Turok and his management team with the backing of private equity firm MidOcean Partners. The group also said it planned to roll out a new concept of gyms aimed at ordinary people who simply wanted to keep fit, rather than those who wanted to be body beautiful. It has already opened two of its new Promise gyms in Kingston and Bedford and plans more for the future.

>> Everlast is at it again, this time with apparel. Fashion designer Norma Kamali and Everlast women's apparel licensee Jacques Moret Inc. have entered into an agreement to design and manufacture a contemporary sportswear/lifestyle collection under the Norma Kamali and Everlast brands. The collection will debut at the Coterie Show and will be sold to better department and specialty stores commencing in the spring 2006 season.

>> Life Time Fitness is getting ready to party as it readies for the grand openings of two health and fitness centers. The first is set to open on Sept. 2 in Austin, Texas, and the second in Romeoville, Ill., on Sept. 9. Both 110,000 square feet, the Austin club will be its ninth in Texas, and the Romeoville its eighth in the Chicago market. They bring Life Time's club count up to 44 nationally.

>> Holmes Place, a UK-based health club operator, has sold its clubs in Spain and Portugal to a local consortium made up of Nmas1, Mercapital and Explorer Investments for 110 million euro (USD $133.8 million). A spokesperson for Holmes Place said the revenue from the transaction will enable the company to reduce its bank debt and help it focus on attempting to improve its UK businesses. Holmes Place (www.holmesplace.co.uk) currently operates 45 health and fitness clubs in the UK and reported a 20 percent increase in pre-tax profits for the first half of 2005. It also owns 14 clubs in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

>> In the Summer 2005 GearTrends® magazine, just out, we got so excited about all the elliptical and wanna-be new things for the elliptical story (page 28) that we blew the list price of the XTrainer by SportsArt Fitness. On page 29, in the sidebar, "Elliptical wanna-be?" the XTrainer should show a list price of $5,500. Sigh, it happens to the best of us. Don't miss the XTrainer at the Health & Fitness Business Show in Denver, Aug. 25-27.

>> Guys, if you truly want to impress the "chick" in your life -- or if you "extreme chicks" want to treat yourself -- click here to read all about Chick Chocolates' Extreme Chick collection of sweets. The company profiles your personality to help you decide whether you are a Strong Chick (calcium-fortified milk chocolate), Nutty Chick (milk chocolate with nuts) or Extreme Chick (dark chocolate). Pssst: We here are definitely Extreme Chicks…. Hint…hint….

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