H&F Biz show '04 -- Accessories

Last year, SNEWS® reported that many retailers seemed to be seeing the light about training accessories -- they can improve a retailer's bottom line and bring customers into the store without taking up too much space. That trend continued to burn brightly at this year's Health & Fitness Business Show & Conference Aug. 19-21 in Denver, Colo. Most of the mainstay weight-gloves and training accessory companies had booths to meet with retailers.
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Last year, SNEWS® reported that many retailers seemed to be seeing the light about training accessories -- they can improve a retailer's bottom line and bring customers into the store without taking up too much space. That trend continued to burn brightly at this year's Health & Fitness Business Show & Conference Aug. 19-21 in Denver, Colo. Most of the mainstay weight-gloves and training accessory companies had booths to meet with retailers.

It was all about ergonomics, comfort, correct posture and portable products in the training accessories corner. Dyna-Flex's Gyro, Altus' body-fat analyzer and Accufitness' Myotape body tape measure would both fit in your pocket (well, OK, if it were a big pocket), while Spri's Pilates and travel workout kits and Altus' walking kit would easily fit in a suitcase.

As always, sports nutrition products are lacking. Sports nutrition, such as bars, gels and drinks? Not to be found. A chasm so big it about sucked everybody into it. SNEWS® doesn't understand that gap since reps from all the sporting goods folks are there too, and some specialty folks also carry some nutrition products, which can be huge profit centers.

As we noted last week, Harbinger was MIA here, the first time in years or ever the training accessories and gloves company was not at the show. It instead chose to introduce new outdoor gloves at the Outdoor Retailer show a week earlier. But instead Valeo, Raw Power, Schiek and others gladly took on curious retailers. Products from new company Wergout and SMC Innovations had people on their backs -- literally. We were. If you weren't, you should have been.

Before we take a look at a few product highlights in the training accessories category at the show, we want to remind you that our overall story on news, numbers, events and parties ran Aug. 23 ("HF Biz show buyer numbers steady, exhibitors up") and our story on the stretch/balance/mind-body product also runs in this Aug. 30 News Digest ("Stretching and balancing at the H&F Biz show"). But, wait, there's more (as they say on TV). We still have several category-specific stories coming, including cardio, strength and others! Note that in the next couple of weeks, the SNEWS® team will bring complete show coverage with category reports about products and brands, plus information about seminars, workshops, other events and demos, and market trends, not to mention a few interesting news items or simply entertaining tidbits. As is our tradition, you won't find more complete or more accurate coverage anywhere else.

Accessories anybody?...

Accufitness -- The king of a few products that don't cost a lot and do a few choice things just right, Accufitness introduced the sweat, arm and wristband versions of its Hydryx towel (list: $15 to $33, depending on the package) -- a chamois-like towel that cools as it wicks. Also new were its FatTrack PRO Body Fat system that allows storage of up to 50 individuals and the MyoTape digital tape measure (list: $10).
 
Altus Athletic -- Continuing its expansion from an emphasis on weight belts and gloves, the company introduced the Walking Kit (list: $50), which includes a 2-pound pair of ankle weights, 2-pound pair of hand weights, a 9-foot jump rope, a water-bottle carrier belt and a water bottle. Also new to the company's inventory is a handheld Body Fat Analyzer that can store information for up to eight people. Altus' Pilates products, like Pilates weighted balls and resistance bands, have been in demand, while requests for yoga mats have decreased, we were told. Yes, Altus has stability balls, too.

Dyna-Flex -- A lot of curious attendees were lingering around this booth, new to this show but old hat at sporting goods shows, to hold a Gyro, which looks a little bit like a yo-yo but feels like a wind-up toy on steroids once you get it rotating in your palm. They also were lining up to try the new Omni Massage Roller. The Gyro is a handheld, wrist/grip/coordination-improvement tool (list based on model from $25 to $54). An interior ball spins at up to 9,000 RPMs and although it's a challenge to get the hang of, it seems as though it could become addictive -- not to mention a good wrist and forearm strengthener. The Omni Massage Roller is a simple, hard plastic ball partially enclosed so that it spins freely. It retails for $20, although not about working out, it sure feels good after a long morning of walking the show floor as well as likely after a workout. Nope, no stability balls here.

Raw Power -- Responding to a demand from his dealers for women's product, company President Bob Harrison last year launched the Power Diva Body Gear brand with, well, two pairs of gloves -- including the gel-padded Power Diva Fitness gloves (list: $20). While it might not have seemed like much of a debut, Harrison reported sales have been better than he could have hoped, female consumers are asking for more and, as a result, the Power Diva line (with cool woman-power kinda packaging, by the way) will be quickly expanded. "I'm going to add resistance tubing, balls and mats to the Power Diva brand to ensure that Raw Power is serving the women's market in the manner our customers have been asking for," Harrison told SNEWS®. Yup, balls here.

SMC Innovations -- SMC Innovations, a division of Wisconsin-based Scientific Molding Corp. Ltd. (a contract manufacturer of all kinds of things, from electrical hand tools to medical equipment), brought three products: The Lumbar Extender, ForArms, and the Dry-Doc Boot Dryer (not sure who wears boots in this world, but still…). The Lumbar Extender, which is big with the PGA, according to SMC's Craig Rae, is a curved and adjustable piece of white plastic fixed to a flat base that you lay down on and relax. "It's better than the balls," Rae said. "With them, you can't totally relax, so your back doesn't get stretched as well as it does with this." Although not new, it was the Lumbar Extender's first time at the show, but Rae said people were interested (list: $80 to $90). ForArms, which looks a bit like a rubbery bike handle, was introduced in January 2004. It's bendable and various movements allow you to target different areas of your upper body. "It's good for people who are afraid of machines," Rae said. "Plus, it's portable." (Retail prices from $35 for level one resistance to $43 for level five resistance.) The Dry-Doc Boot Dryer (retail: $50) can be used to dry ski boots, hiking boots, golf shoes, and more. But it did seem a bit out of place though among the rest of the products at the show.

Spri Products -- In the last two years, Spri has done a huge turnaround, from being a company that just sold rubber-resistance products to instructors and gyms, to an all-around consumer accessories product company seen at retail all over. The recent move to work with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) hasn't hurt. Not that a consumer would know what "ACE Approved" on the package would mean, but heck it's "approved" and, once inside the box or package, the material describes ACE and its goals as a non-profit fitness entity. At this show, the company began to show its total revamp of branded packaging that would be consistent in look, tell a product's story better and, therefore, sell better, said Steve Lindal, director of retail sales. We can't begin to summarize the plethora of new or revamped products or expanded lines, there are so many (inflatable discs, jump ropes, workout packages, stability balls, Pilates and yoga gear, contour handweights, etc.), but we really liked the "Xpress" packages that bring tubes, balls, instruction and the like all into one neat package for a consumer to grab and go. Xpress 10 has 10-minute segments of mix-and-match workouts for lower body, upper body, cardio, Pilates, yoga, handweights, ball exercises, and resistance tube exercises (list: $50). Pilates education is also a huge offering with DVDs using the rubber bands. "It's hard for people to invest in a reformer, so this allows them to get a similar Pilates workout anywhere," Lindal said. Balls? Oh my, Spri has a lot of balls and rubbers -- oops, to be politically correct, rubberized resistance products. Did we mention Spri has balls?

Wergout -- This Venice Beach, Calif.-based, company was new to the show this year and brought its brand-new product that looked a little like the seat of a sports car -- without the car, of course. It's curved and shaped like the curves and shapes in your lower back to your neck and head so you can place one on a bench when you workout for better comfort and posture, as well as back safety. It has three pieces -- upper for neck and head, middle for back and lower for low back -- that can be detached and used separately too, such as the low back piece on an office chair once you're done working out. Bruce and Colleen Deziel have been working on the product and the concept for 2.5 years, we were told, and Bruce said the reception at the shows was "overwhelming." Said Colleen, "The timing was right for us to bring our product here and show it to so many people." It is a super idea that we think could become a nifty add-on sale for retailers, especially once someone has invested $2,000 or so in a home gym. Three versions, from lighter-weight to denser foams (list: $160 to $200), with an all-leather "Executive" version for the BMW-level enthusiast for $330.

By the way, SNEWS® can guarantee to you that the accessories category is going to become more crowded in the future, too. In private discussions at the show, we know that other name equipment companies are either expanding their lines or looking to add completely new lines to become one-stop shops. Guess they have balls too.

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