G&G Fitness acquires The Fitness Store/Ohio

In a move that unites much of Ohio and creates a strong Midwestern specialty fitness retail entity, G&G Fitness has acquired the Sanders' brothers' The Fitness Store five-store chain.
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In a move that unites much of Ohio and creates a strong Midwestern specialty fitness retail entity, G&G Fitness has acquired the Sanders' brothers' The Fitness Store five-store chain.

The move, completed the day before Thanksgiving, turns G&G into a top-eight specialty fitness retailer nationally based on size and creates opportunities for regional growth for employees seeking development and for the possibility of more stores.

"This gives us all a bigger opportunity," G&G marketing director Michael Grant told SNEWS®. "We don't want to sit around. The potential in the market is huge."

For the Sanders, who started their Moraine, Ohio-based, stores in 1985, the acquisition represents a new chapter in their lives: Older brother Bill's last day was Nov. 21 (although he was still at his desk cleaning up loose ends on Nov. 22), while Frank told SNEWS® he is staying on for at least a month, perhaps longer, depending on how the transition goes.

"A new chapter is always fun," Frank Sanders said. "It's been a good time. It's been a good run, and we've got great employees. Part of this is for the staff, too. From their perspective, it gives them more opportunities," for example in regional management.

Now with 17 stores, G&G was started in Williamsville, N.Y., in 1990 by Gordy and Glenn Gronkowski, but became exclusively Gordy's venture a few months later. Before the acquisition, it had 12 stores serving major metropolitan markets in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio (Cleveland and Akron). The Fitness Store has five stores in southwestern Ohio, including Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.

This deal also gives Life Fitness entrée into southern Ohio, meaning the G&G/The Fitness Store group will carry Life Fitness, Precor, Vision Fitness, True Fitness, Landice, PaceMaster, Hoist, Polar and Octane Fitness, as well as Prospot, among other accessory brands.

The talks, which started late summer, came about when G&G (www.livefit.com) began to explore opening stores on The Fitness Store's turf (www.fitness-store.com). Grant said G&G is "hard-core" about moving into areas and competing, even "burying competition," but didn't think it would be an easy task with the Sanders' operation.

"They didn't want to butt heads with us, and we didn't want to butt heads with them," Grant said. "It was an easy transaction" because the stores had similar philosophies, training methods and carried many of the same products.

"We were looking at our options for new stores in southern Ohio and it became clear that The Fitness Store was going to be real tough competition because they are a great retailer and do a lot of stuff similar to us," Gronkowski said. "We decided it was easier to join them than to beat them.”

The acquisition includes all of The Fitness Store's commercial business, which accounts for about 40 percent of its sales, and is expected to increase G&G Fitness' annual sales by more than $10 million.

There will be very little change, including names and organization, Grant said, at least until spring 2007. Even then, little is expected to change -- except the addition of more buying power as a larger group.

"This is a good one," agreed Frank Sanders. "Too many times you see somebody buying out the weakest guy they can, but this is a combination of two great organizations."

SNEWS® View: This was a pretty huge secret. So big that G&G couldn't talk to a lot of people to do initial exploration about changes that may be needed for fear the word would leak out before the deal was done. It is indeed a meshing of two outstanding sales, service and marketing organizations, but SNEWS® will be sad to see the straightforward and approachable Sanders brothers leaving the fitness industry. Meanwhile, we note two things: One, where once there where THREE chains called "The Fitness Store," there will now be none since 2nd Wind bought TFS/Missouri in spring 2006 and Busy Body Home Fitness bought out TFS/Los Angeles in mid-2005. Although simplistic, the name does say it all; we kind of like it. Second, we find it interesting that these two stores were two of the four profiled for their aesthetic appeal in a 2006 GearTrends® magazine story called "Stores with More" (click here to read that if you missed it). We don't expect this will be the last move on G&G's part, although it will take them a few months to work through the logistics, we're sure. 

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