Panasonic's Fitness Innovations kicks off with Core Trainer, but just you wait…

Panasonic, a well-known name worldwide for electronics and high-tech gear, has jumped into the fitness arena with its spin-off corporation, Fitness Innovations, which debuted with the Core Trainer at the recent IHRSA show.
Author:
Publish date:

Panasonic, a well-known name worldwide for electronics and high-tech gear, has jumped into the fitness arena with its spin-off corporation, Fitness Innovations, which debuted with the Core Trainer at the recent IHRSA show.

But don't call the company a subsidiary of Panasonic. Although it is funded by the Japanese technology giant and has the rights to use the name and logo, Fitness Innovations is a separate corporation run by a separate management team, including long-time fitness industry veteran Steve Payne as its vice president of sales. And it has its sights set on more than the Core Trainer.

"We're entering the fitness market, and we're serious, and we're staying," Payne told SNEWS®. "We have a product and we'll have more."

Although the Core Trainer debuted formally at the IHRSA show in March in Las Vegas, you may have seen its earlier iteration at the Health & Fitness Business Show in Denver in August 2005. No, the company doesn't really want to talk about it since it was just an experiment and the current management group hadn't completely come aboard yet. Basically, Panasonic saw potential for the piece -- since it had been selling gang-busters in Japan for four years -- but wasn't really sure how to mine it in the United States, let alone what to call the product here, how to market it or to whom. Click here for our Sept. 12, 2005, SNEWS® story, "H&F Biz show '05: Kickboxing … and the vibrating Equus." Yes, this is the piece that looks like a saddle that's about chair-height that you sit on, like on a horse, as it rocks and gyrates to challenge your core muscles, balance and stability. Unfortunately, at that time, they talked about toning and fat loss, which left folks mostly snickering and cracking off-color jokes.

"Panasonic didn't understand the U.S. fitness market," Payne said. "I went by and chuckled like everybody else, and then I started going by again and again to look at it."

Although it drew giggles and jokes in Denver and even at IHRSA too (ride 'em, cowboy, and the like), it does have strength and balance benefits, depending on how it's used. In Japan, it was originally developed for use by children who have some handicap or coordination challenge, for example, someone with Down's syndrome, autism or cerebral palsy. In the United States, it turns out there is actually a non-profit association called North American Riding for the Handicap (www.narha.org) for groups that use horses for therapy for both adults and children with physical, emotional and learning disabilities, so the horse thing isn't so far-fetched. In Japan, these days, Panasonic is turning out about 2,000 a month.

Forget toning and fat loss, as the prior version pitched, this is about the core.

"The core thing is just really hot," said Payne, who came on with the company in February from SportsArt Fitness. He has also worked with Life Fitness and Technogym. David Hughes, president, and Mark Skolnik, vice president, both come from a technology background and a company called Technology Sourcing that has worked with Panasonic on product development and patents.

At this point, this is the only product offered by Fitness Innovations (retail, $2,400), although it is also selling Panasonic's massage lounge chairs. But Payne promised more is in the works.

"We're not going to come out with another treadmill. We're not going to come out with another elliptical. We're not going to come out with another me-too product," he said, declining comment about what direction the company is going or even in which category.

Panasonic, for its part, is serious, putting the Core Trainer on its home page next to its digital cameras and printers at www.panasonic.com because of all the attention it's gotten.

"They're watching this really carefully, watching how it does in the United States," he said. "We're just scratching the surface in the United States. We're just barely getting off the ground."

Payne can be reached at spayne@panasoniccoretrainer.com.

SNEWS® View: We giggled with the best of them in Denver last year. But with a schtick that talked about toning and fat-burning showing women having a good time while sitting in the saddle, what else could you do? No, this ain't going to be for everybody, but it definitely has its demographic, which if properly reached with a smart message could turn the product into the real deal. Will it be The Next New Thing? Nope. It doesn't and won't have broad enough interest for all exercisers to be that. But thanks for playing. Nevertheless, it has potential with a good marketing and sales campaign and image development that is based on the U.S. mindset about fitness and training, not the Japanese one.

Related

coreperfbook.jpg

Core Performance

By: Mark Verstegen and Pete WilliamsPublisher: Rodale Books, 2004ISBN: 1-59486-168-4Mark Verstegen has long been known as a trainer to national and international-class athletes (think Mia Hamm and the German national soccer team!), but what he knows and creates can help us ...read more

Fitness: Did you hear?...

>> Katina Geralis, owner and founder of specialty retail group Leisure Fitness based in Delaware, is featured in the February 2004 issue of Delaware Today magazine (www.delawaretoday.com). The story, called "A Perfect Fit," details how the University of Delaware PE major was ...read more

Fitness: Did you hear?...

>> Super cool way to recycle athletic shoes:The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) and Nike have announced they are re-lacing their partnership to recycle used athletic shoes, expanding the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program to every state in the continental United States. In the second ...read more

Fitness: Did you hear?...

>> More on the rather convoluted case that SNEWS® wrote about on June 18 concerning Nautilus suing two unrelated companies in one legal action charging trademark infringement. Those companies are Savvier (marketers of the so-called Body Flex breathing program) and Impex (owners ...read more

Fitness: Did you hear?...

>> Landice has introduced a new treadmill -- one that has a reverse mode and a remote control unit. With a list of $3,500, the treadmill -- now called informally the Rehabilitation Treadmill -- could go beyond rehab and even into the home or light commercial. Introduced at Club ...read more