Health & Fitness Business Show '07: From swings to spas to apparel, other stuff worth a look too

Five weeks after the 2007 show closed its doors, our coverage is starting to wind down. But we don't want you to lose interest -- not yet. Although we've covered highlights in the main product categories for the specialty retailer (strength, cardio, accessories), that isn't all there was to see. Every year there is a smattering of "other stuff," i.e. not traditional gyms, weights, ellipticals, bikes, bands, boards, tubes and treadmills. This year was no different at the Aug. 2-4 show in Denver.
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Five weeks after the 2007 show closed its doors, our coverage is starting to wind down. But we don't want you to lose interest -- not yet. Although we've covered highlights in the main product categories for the specialty retailer (strength, cardio, accessories), that isn't all there was to see. Every year there is a smattering of "other stuff," i.e. not traditional gyms, weights, ellipticals, bikes, bands, boards, tubes and treadmills. This year was no different at the Aug. 2-4 show in Denver.

Most, not all, of this other stuff is pretty big but perfect to consider for off-season sales or products to offer if you are outfitting a vertical facility or even a complete in-home workout area.

"We don't get the walk-by traffic but the quality is good," said Barry Luke, president of Beachcomber Hot Tubs, which was exhibiting for the second year. "The retailers that get it, really get it. It's a great way to diversify your business…. This year, people are coming and looking for us."

Some, like apparel, is worth an eye also. A small selection of that can help spur impulse sales or bring walk-by traffic in the door if displayed in or near windows. Last year we called out vibration training since two years ago there were no companies on the floor; last year there were a half-dozen or so as a suddenly hot and trendy item most retailers didn't know a thing about; this year, however, it was pretty much a given -- and it won't be included here -- with half as many pieces on the floor as last year, including FreeMotion's iTonic and Power Plate units.

Several weeks of show coverage began Aug. 2, so don't miss any of the reports, podcasts or the two SNEWS® live daily HotSheet newsletters -- all available in archives (if you have a paid, full-access subscription and not a free limited access one). We are covering, will cover, or have covered everything from general attendee information to education reviews to equipment category trend reports. As always, SNEWS® gives you the best and most accurate and detailed show coverage anywhere. If your product or company wasn't mentioned here, that's either because it didn't strike our team as new or different, or perhaps we were totally brain-dead and missed it -- anything's possible! But don't fret: There are still a couple more reports coming in the next couple of weeks.

What we saw:

Swinging along

This isn't the first year that Health in Motion, creators of both Inspire Fitness gyms and Sunset Swings, brought its sturdy and gotta-have swings to the fitness show. But it WAS the biggest showing. Its Patio Set Swing was the perfect setting for in-booth meetings. Imagine a picnic table and bench set big enough for six people but on a swing and under a canopy. We were waiting for the mint juleps to come out but they never did! Although not new, the Dual Recliner Swing (MSRP $2,300) has the beefy tubing and pin adjustments as a home gym but is a swing set with separate seats and adjustments because, of course, each person needs his or her own space. New is the Lounge Swing (MSRP $1,000): a kick-back polyester fabric lounge chair hung to swing freely under a large canopy umbrella. Room enough for two or for one to spread out. Of course, just like the Inspire gyms, you can pick the fabrics, finishes and colors you desire. www.sunsetswings.com

All together now… ahhhhh!

In the company's second year at the show, QCA Spas was once again showing off its patented FAR infrared TheraSauna as an ideal alternative for relaxing and detoxifying after a day of work. While the company brochures, and the VP of sales, Larry Jones, spend about as much sales time pointing out what TheraSauna "copycat saunas" don't do, there does appear to be some truth to the assertions. For one, the company claims its FAR infrared use hits the optimum wavelength level for the duration of a session rather than cycling on and off. For another, the units are constructed of aspen hardwood, which, according to one study TheraSauna touts, is the only wood that has no known adverse health effects associated with it. Whether or not you believe all the FAR infrared hype and hyperbole, this does appear to be one high quality sauna that should do well at a retail store seeking to add some meat to off-season sales. www.therasauna.com

It won't get you wet but it will make you smile. The SolaJet DryWave Massage System by Vescent looks like a large bathtub filled with water with a cover drawn taut over it. You lie on what we described as the cover, which is really a permanent part of the system covering up the water and the water jets that massage you, and wait for the jets to work their magic. These ain't no wimpy jets either, but ones that will pummel your tight muscles into submission. The commercial unit has a list of $9,000, while one designed for home use goes for $6,000. www.solajet.com.

Clothes make the man … or woman

Last year, the one company exhibiting apparel dropped off the floor again (Pearl Izumi, owned by Nautilus), but in its stead came FreeMotion Fitness' technical apparel debut that included stretch wovens, organic fibers and even seamless -- pretty nice-looking stuff if you ask SNEWS®. We were told the line would have a very narrow distribution to keep it special. Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing, noted that the colors and pop could help a retailer stand out a bit and apparel could help "soften" the steel and iron look in most fitness stores to help make them less intimidating for female shoppers. "It's a nice balance to the hard goods," she said.

Take a dip

Lawrence Chang, owner of iPool by Fitmax (iPool stands for Infinity Pool, by the way), upped the ante from his debut at the Health & Fitness Business Show last year by showing off more pool sizes, including one that is 5-feet deep and has the option of a heater -- useful when the temperatures dip, to be sure. What stopped many show-goers in their tracks for a closer look, however, was not the variety of pool sizes, but a new device, an in-pool Gazelle-swing-like walking machine, being demonstrated by a fit female model in a bathing suit. When we asked Chang what the name of the new product was, he said, simply, "'walking machine' is the working name…. We have no official name yet." The device sits on the bottom of any pool, and allows the user to stand on foot platforms, rather like those of an elliptical, and, by holding onto the upright arms, engage in deep-water walking in a secure and stable environment. With an MSRP of $1,200, the walking machine (here's hoping it gets a catchier name, soon) looks ideal for physical therapy, injury recovery, and for those who need a workout, but also require the additional support and hydrotherapy provided by a pool environment. www.fitmax.cc

Of course, for the serious among your customers, there are the water workout accessories from Aquajogger. Deep-water runners (those who indeed will not be able to touch the ground with their feet) can use flotation belts (MSRPs $35-$60) to keep them in place and kicking along vertically, while water walkers can use various resistance devices for their hands and feet made of foam. www.aquajogger.com

Beachcomber Hot Tubs must have had good reason to come back. Its pop-up tent and hot tubs -- empty…darn it -- drew some attention. Yes, they retail for a few thousand bucks to many thousand, but they are high-end, molded, jetted and not your cheap-o spa. President Barry Luke held court and meetings sitting in the tubs. Now, if only they'd fill them and offer an end-of-day happy hour, they'd have quite a crowd. www.beachcomberhottubs.com

Remember, if your product or company wasn't mentioned here, that's either because it didn't strike our team as new or different, or perhaps we were totally brain-dead and missed it. SNEWS® started detailed show reports on Aug. 2 and we will wrap up our show coverage in the next couple of weeks.

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