SGMA Spring Market '07: Some intriguing new companies help round out the floor

As we discussed last week, the traffic may not have been strong or what the SGMA had hoped for at its first Spring Market June 11-13, but new companies found a showcase they wouldn't have at many shows, if at all.

As we discussed last week, the traffic may not have been strong or what the SGMA had hoped for at its first Spring Market June 11-13, but new companies found a showcase they wouldn't have at many shows, if at all.

SNEWS® didn't take time to figure out if there were any new or ground-breaking shuffle board sets, licensed bar stool covers, rugby shoes or softball jerseys, but we did take a look at a few newbie companies in the fitness or outdoor segments. (For an insider’s look at a rather wacky – some called it quite frightening – piece of alleged fitness gear, go to the SNEWS® Herd column by clicking here. Be very, very prepared, though, for what may top the list of I-can't-believe-I-saw-that items.)

Accompanying the trade show, of course, was the SGMA's so-called "Satellite Media Tour," where member companies can pay a fee to do live interviews and product demos broadcast on local and regional TV and radio stations around the country. This year, companies that took part in 30 interviews coordinated by SGMA host Mike May were Horizon Fitness (with its new iPod-compatible treadmill, which it did not have at the show), Cybex (with its home Arc Trainer), New Balance, and McDavid as well as Louisville Slugger, Solid Contact Baseball, and Hillerich & Bradsby.

And one community-promoting aspect of the Spring Market was its party. Although off-site and not kicked off until after 9 p.m., we heard there were close to 600 attendees throughout the evening at the Rain Club inside the Palms Casino Resort (it opened early for the special event; it normally doesn't swing open its doors until 11 p.m. but clubbers can dance til dawn).

Reminiscent of The Super Show of yore were the buckets and tables filled to overflowing with Quench gum, touting its new flavors. Every year, we grab one for fun, pop it in our mouth, and get this explosion of saliva, forcing us to spit it back out. You think we'd learned this stuff ain't for trade shows.

A few new ideas for you:

>> Archport – Inventor Matt Potts always had something to carry along when he went to the health club, running or to some other outing, and he wanted to simplify his load. So he dreamed up a basic athletic shoe that had a "port" in the arch area with a little door where he could stick small stuff -- like an ID, key, key card or a couple of bucks. When he started wearing it, all his friends wanted one -- voila, a company is born. He now has the basic athletic shoe and a few simple sandals. Granted, these things aren't what you would call, well, sexy and, no, they aren't the first of their kind. But they seem functional. What about airport security? He sent TSA and other agencies samples of the shoe and, recently, when he got stopped, the agent took one look and said, "Oh, that, ok," and sent him on his way.

>> iXoundwear – Karl Foust got fed up with getting tangled up in wires when he worked out using his iPod so he decided to do something about it. Enter his line of caps, visors and hats (MSRP, about $20-$25) that have a patent-pending system for wrapping the wires and stuffing them in a pocket next to the pocket made to fit iPod Nanos or Shuffles. That means your earbuds or earphones dangle freely and securely from the headwear, leaving you able to take them out without having to tangle and untangle yourself. You could also take off the entire piece and leave it all wrapped up and ready to go again. He's already selling them online and in some airports, he told SNEWS®.

>> Lej Eyewear – President Scott Estrem had his little booth, display and brochures dialed in for a wet-behind-the-ears company. The show's first day was the company's official debut; it's so new, the website wasn't even ready at the show. Estrem spent two years developing an eyeglass (and these things have some fashion flair) with quality lenses and materials that have a couple of differences: a little overhang of sorts at the eyebrow so you don't get that annoying glare in your eyes despite sunglasses and, two, a rubbery gasket-like back to the overhang that bumps up into your forehead to keep sweat from dripping behind your glasses into your eyes. Without taking them on a run or a sweaty adventure, they seemed comfortable, as is the suggested retail of $100.

>> Natural Fitness – Never heard of it? Of course not. This show was also its debut. Founder Chuck Blumenthal has already been in the business of eco-minded products, including supplying some to other companies. But he wanted to do more. The company makes yoga and Pilates gear as well as fitness accessories such as stability balls, all with an environmental flair. The yoga line is already 100-percent environmental with mats that are natural rubber with cotton mesh grids for stability, hemp bags and belts, and bamboo blocks. Stability balls and other products like that are harder to transform into environmental friendly ones, although he has filled weighted Pilates balls with sand and iron, used more pleasant colors for an eco-aesthetic and has 100-percent recycled packaging. His company also walks the line it talks with a "Zero Impact Program" using wind and solar power, carbon offsets and has its website hosted and run totally by solar power.

>> Sportline – The most highly touted product it had -- the ThinQ pedometer -- was fascinating, but will it be used properly so it can function correctly? Think credit card sized pedometer (OK, maybe a tad bit thicker but not much). In bright colors like blue, green and orange. No bulky units that need belt loops to clip on and look dorky in colors like -- yawn -- black and gray. The ThinQ (pronounced "think") pedometer is made to just slip in a pocket to count steps. One problem: Women don't normally have front trouser pockets and they don't advise a rear pocket because of the possibility of breakage. And if women do have front pockets, you don't really want a square thing in it to poke out and look goofy. Plus, the unit must still be vertical for the pendulum to work right. The company is looking at a clip, so it can still be hung on a belt or waistband -- and still not be as bulky or dorky. Suggested retail, $30.

>> Uriel FootCare – Already sold in 35 countries around the globe, Uriel FootCare from Israel was looking for distributors and customers in North America for his foot products with a twist. For example, the company had a footbed that comes with three different levels of snap-in/snap-out arch supports for different endeavors (MSRP, $40), and a metatarsal gel pad that has a removable met pad -- use a simple forefoot cushion or put on the met pad. Some women will love this one: a thong sandal cushion, ie a clear gel that has a little wrap that sticks up so it wraps around the thing that sticks between your toes.

>> ZipFizz – We originally saw this product in January 2005 when it first launched. At that time we wondered how a no-calorie product could call itself an "energy drink mix" and be so sweeeeet. Of course, that was just as the world was on the verge of deciding that caffeine and other natural sources of a buzz were "energy," rather than food being energy. Since then ZipFizz has not only gotten into Costco with its story of high-potassium and vitamin C, but has developed something it calls ImmuneFizz or an Airborne-like immunity powder that also mixes into a drink and is also available at Costco. Some folks may like the story; we still think it's over-the-top sweet. And we really don't like the plastic tube that holds only one serving and then gets tossed.


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