‘New’ StairMaster takes front row at IHRSA in coming-out party

Just over two months after leaving Nautilus to stand on its own feet with a new owner, StairMaster has new offices, new executives, new systems -- and it will take the front row at the IHRSA show to re-introduce itself to the industry. We get the scoop on its impending plans.

Just over two months after leaving Nautilus to stand on its own feet with a new owner, StairMaster has new offices, new executives, new systems -- and it will take the front row at the IHRSA show to re-introduce itself to the industry.

“By the end of March we will be 100 percent separated from Nautilus,” new CEO and president, Dustin Grosz, told SNEWS®. “This is a new company.

“IHRSA is, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re ready to take orders,” he added, gloating just a bit about the front row booth snagged at the last minute by the company still taking its first steps. “We did pretty well, didn’t we?”

But having all the new directors and offices in place doesn’t mean the company has already moved from walking to running. Grosz said the company dba Stairmaster (www.stairmaster.com), which will also oversee Schwinn commercial product sales, will focus on continued stabilization for the first six months.

The acquisition of certain StairMaster and Schwinn commercial assets by Xiamen World Gear Sports Goods (www.laxiamen.com), which is an affiliate of Land America, was announced in early December by former owner Nautilus, although the deal didn’t close until Dec. 29, 2009. Initially, the acquisition from Nautilus was announced to be by a company called Fit Dragon, which is also an affiliate of Land America (click here to see a Dec. 18, 2009, SNEWS story “Fit Dragon unveiled as Land America taking over Nautilus commercial as Core Fitness,”and click here to see a Jan. 11, 2010, story, “New StairMaster/Schwinn commercial team ready to take orders -- for now still in Nautilus HQ.”) 

“Our whole basis for the next six months is stabilization and quality of the product,” Grosz said. “We want to make sure the customers’ expectations are met.”

Since December, the company has been reliant on Nautilus for office space as well as for customer service -- a joint transition process that officially ended March 1. As of this week, StairMaster has its own service, parts and warranty fulfillment in place, as well as its own call center, all in a Vancouver, Wash., office. It harks back to before 2002 when StairMaster was its own company in Kirkland, Wash. Click here to see a Jan. 18, 2002, SNEWS story about the January 2002 acquisition of StairMaster Sports/Medical by Nautilus, then known as Direct Focus, for about $25 million in a bankruptcy court auction.

Other executives and directors now on the job at the new StairMaster who have transitioned from Nautilus are Les Wiehe, director of U.S. dealer accounts and a former StairMaster employee; Travis Vaughan, marketing; Ean Reves, CFO; and Gary Pendleton, field service.

“Our goal is to take the products Nautilus had and (where they were) less focused because of all the other products they had,” he added, “we have to gain market share back.”

For now, the company will focus on its current products, such as the StairMaster, the Schwinn indoor cycle and the Stepmill. But it will be open to other niche products, although Grosz said with the stabilizing needed now, it will be 2011 at the earliest before anything new is likely introduced. One of the first things on his list, however, is a much-needed update to the Stepmill that will take a closer look at aesthetics and not just function.

“We have an opportunity here” with the Stepmill, he said. “There should be a Stepmill in every club -- or two or three….”

Other opportunities, he said, include expanding the dealer network, as well as increasing global sales of all products.

With the sales of its Nautilus brand commercial business to Med-Fit Systems announced on Feb. 19, 2010, the company will return to its retail and direct roots. Click here to see a Feb. 24, 2010, SNEWS story, “Med-Fit acquires ‘iconic’ Nautilus commercial assets, to expand dealer network.”

Still, Nautilus will continue to face some financial challenges. The company (NYSE: NLS) will hold its quarterly call with analysts and media on March 1.

“I wish them the best,” Grosz said. But, he didn’t hesitate to add, “StairMaster is back.”

--Therese Iknoian



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