Griner leaves Omni; Life to more closely integrate retailer

Rick Griner, president of Omni Fitness since April 2001, has resigned his position, effective June 15. Chris Clawson, most recently vice president of sales and marketing for the Life Fitness consumer division, has been named to head Omni as "general manager." At the same time, Life Fitness will more closely integrate the retailer owned by its own parent Brunswick Corp., making it more of a showcase for Life products and brands.
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Rick Griner, president of Omni Fitness since April 2001, has resigned his position, effective June 15. Chris Clawson, most recently vice president of sales and marketing for the Life Fitness consumer division, has been named to head Omni as "general manager."

At the same time, Life Fitness will more closely integrate the retailer owned by its own parent Brunswick Corp., making it more of a showcase for Life products and brands, Kevin Grodzki, Life Fitness president, told SNEWS. For that reason, Clawson is a general manager and not a president, he added, and for now will remain in the main Life Fitness Franklin Park, Ill., offices where he will oversee day-to-day operations when he is not traveling to stores.

"We want to integrate Omni and make it part of the family," Grodzki said, "and not treat it as a stepchild, as it has been in the past."

The Stamford, Conn.-based, retailer will still carry product that is "complementary" to Life products and that makes it a well-rounded retailer and therefore successful, he said. Omni will not, however, carry direct competitors or products that have many of the same features as Life's, he added.

Griner, who came from a non-fitness retail background, had no comment about the reasons for his departure, where he might be headed, or if he would remain in the fitness industry.

"It's been a wonderful two years with great people," he told SNEWS. "I've enjoyed working with all the associates in the Brunswick organization. I've thoroughly enjoyed my two years in the industry."

Prior to taking over the helm at Omni, Griner was president and COO for Trend-Lines; before that he was senior vice president of operations at Family Dollar Stores Inc.

Before taking over as vice president of sales and marketing for Life Fitness' consumer cardiovascular and strength-training products, Clawson was responsible for sales and marketing. He has also been senior director of product management for commercial cardiovascular products. Before joining Life in 1995, he worked at DP Fitness, and spent six years in retail management with Oshman's, starting there working during off-seasons while playing professional baseball with the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros in the mid-1980s.

"This is an opportunity that arose to run a business, and I'm very excited," Clawson said. "It's an opportunity to learn retail and an opportunity to learn general management skills."

SNEWS View: Griner's mission when he came to Omni was, we are told, to stabilize the retailer. Certainly, the retailer is also struggling to meet its numbers, as are many, but we're not sure that Brunswick is the type of corporation that will put up with losses for very long. Although we are also told there are no "current plans" to sell the retailer, we expect that if numbers don't go up again, Brunswick may re-consider, like any corporation that doesn't want to lose money. Still, having a nationwide chain of retail Life Fitness product showcases gives the manufacturer a certain clout that other brands will lack.

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