Outdoor show attracts fitness companies and growing interest

From yoga props and balance aids to workout gloves and exercise walking, fitness is continuing to seep its way into the outdoor market.
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From yoga props and balance aids to workout gloves and exercise walking, fitness is continuing to seep its way into the outdoor market.

Although considered an oddity a few years ago when a yoga/fitness accessories company showed up, one could turn any number of corners at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market just completed Aug. 15 in Salt Lake City and stumble into what could be called fitness gear or information.

For example, yoga and climbing clothing specialist Prana continues to operate what it calls a "rejuvenation room" in a meeting room in a side hall, a practice it began three years ago. There, attendees can take part in ongoing yoga classes or simply find a moment for their own quiet break from the frenetic nature of a show with some 18,000 attendees. This year, mind-body and fitness company Gaiam not only exhibited for the first time, but also offered yoga classes pre-show on two mornings at a neighboring hotel that were packed.

But that's not all: Fitter International again took its place in a booth with a collection of balance boards, stability balls and other training aids that has become a standard on the outdoor show's floor with retailers and exhibitors alike making the booth a must-stop. A couple of year's ago when Fitter first showed up, it attracted stares and some side glances, President Louis Stack at that time told SNEWS®. Today, he is comfortable enough on the show floor to banter with passers-by and ride through the aisles on odd bounding scooter bikes or the Trikke, which propels forward when the rider/driver rocks side-to-side just right.

Hugger Mugger also offers its collection of yoga mats, fitness training aids and educational videos in its third year at the show. Gaiam, with a broad collection of both accessories and educational CDs and tapes, took a place at the outdoor show for the first time, with new vice president of marketing Byron Freney telling SNEWS® he was going to be piecing together the company's strategy to develop its place in the outdoor and fitness industries and their respective shows.

A newer addition was morning pre-show Nordic walking (fitness walking with poles) classes at the outdoor show by pole companies Leki, Exel and Swix. Turnouts on the four mornings were about 15 to 25, with a mix of retailers, curious manufacturers and reps, and media, there out of both personal and business interests. (If you don't know what Nordic walking is, refer to the 2004 GearTrends fitness magazine, mailed in August 2004 and available soon for free download at www.geartrends.com. Free registration required for members of the trade.)

Also making a hit was fitness accessory and glove company Harbinger, rolling out its adventure glove series with 10 styles of bike, trek and watersports gloves that will ship in late August.

Others tip-toeing along the line between fitness and outdoors -- pedometer companies, with High Gear introducing the first digital sensor pedometers (and look for more high-tech and sleek-looking fitness and training aids by January 2005), heart-rate-monitor company Polar, as well as wrist-top computer company Suunto (another Amer Group company) introducing a heart-rate monitor that not only measured heart rate, but also oxygen consumption, calories and a number of other training parameters.

SNEWS® View: No, we're not likely going to see treadmills and home gyms at the outdoor show, but some retailers and manufacturers in that industry are beginning to see the good sense and economic return of embracing the consumer who may be more interested in fitness and less interested in the hard core. In fact, the outdoor industry, related non-profits, the government and other groups are stepping forward together to promote the fitness and recreation available through outdoor activities as a supplement to other chosen activities as a means for battling obesity and gaining health. For more on those partnerships and promotions, see our story in the Summer Outdoor 2004 GearTrends magazine, available soon for free download (with free registration) to members of the trade at www.geartrends.com.

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