Life Fitness takes on new category with Stretchmate license

Taking yet another step toward being a one-stop fitness shop, Life Fitness has entered the stretching category with a newly announced exclusive licensing agreement with Stretchmate flexibility systems.
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Taking yet another step toward being a one-stop fitness shop, Life Fitness has entered the stretching category with a newly announced exclusive licensing agreement with Stretchmate flexibility systems.

Under the agreement, which the companies began discussing in late summer, Life Fitness has the exclusive distribution rights for the Stretchmate in its commercial club market, all vertical markets and distributor channels worldwide. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"There is some convincing to be done about stretching, but people are accepting that flexibility is one of the three components of fitness," Stretchmate founder Fred Dolan, told SNEWS. "We expect to lead the category of flexibility. We'll sell flexibility, and that's important. Although you can stretch anytime without equipment, the Stretchmate make it easier" and more effective.

Stretchmate -- a 78-inch-high web-like structure with inner bands made of thick bungee cords -- was introduced in March 1990 by Dolan and is now sold in 46 states and 14 countries from its offices near Boston, Mass. Dolan said the "give" of the cords is what makes the Stretchmate structure (www.stretchmate.net) different from others since the "forgiveness" of the cords means a safer stretch, Dolan says. A 4-foot-wide unit lists for $1,295 and a 6-foot-wide one, $1,695.

"The products are very unique looking but are very effective tools," said David Gibbons, Life Fitness vice president of business development and strategic planning. "All too often exercisers do not stretch, primarily because of time and a lack of education about the tremendous value stretching can bring to a successful fitness program. More and more research is being published that proves the benefits of stretching and Life Fitness is hoping to leverage our resources, including the Life Fitness Academy, to promote this important element to the marketplace."

In addition to Dolan's indication of workshops at trade shows and conferences, Gibbons told SNEWS that the two companies will team up offer the likes of reference manuals and other workshops for fitness professionals through its Life Fitness Academy. "Just as the strength training programs are designed to enhance performance in activities of daily living, so can stretching," Gibbons added.

In the last eight months, Life Fitness has added group cycling through a licensing agreement with LeMond Fitness, a lower price line of equipment called Essential or Sport, and now stretching. Stretchmate will exhibit with Life Fitness at the IHRSA trade show in San Francisco, Feb. 27-March 1.

SNEWS View: It seems to be turning into a race among the largest companies to become the one-stop shop for cardiovascular, strength, and stretch products and education addressing a range of price points with some group class programming. In the battle are True, Precor, Life, Star Trac and, of course, Nautilus. Nautilus is the last-man-standing without stretch. Guess that'll come this year yet too. True lacks group education, although it has shown off its treadmills in a class format at shows. Precor has put on stretch classes, but more to demonstrate its product at shows. Star Trac lacks lower-priced home products, but guess what -- that's coming too. No one has a TKO. Yet.

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