In a move intended to restore goodwill in the Southeastern specialty fitness market, Superior Fitness has returned two URLs that are the name of a direct competitor to Superior. Superior had bought the URLs apparently after discovering the retailer's plans to move into the area and designed them to forward unaware visitors to the Superior Fitness site.
The URLS -- LifestyleFitnessEquipment.com and LifestyleFitnessEquipment.net -- were returned earlier this month to Chip Hunnings and Bill Wagner, owners of Lifestyle Fitness Equipment, which moved into the Superior Fitness-dominated area nearly a year ago. Network Solutions records discovered in a regular SNEWSÂ® investigation of Internet sites had shown that a Superior representative had purchased the URLs only days after Lifestyle opened its doors in late 2004. (See SNEWSÂ® story, April 18, 2005,"Superior Fitness buys up potential competitors' web URLs.")
However, URLs with the name of another direct competitor in the area, Charlotte Fitness, have not been returned and Superior management has not spoken to Charlotte Fitness owners about them, SNEWSÂ® was told. Those URLs -- CharlotteFitnessEquipment.com, CharlotteFitnessEquipmenet.net and CharlotteFitness.com -- still redirect those who type them in to the Superior Fitness website without any warning.
Hunnings said Superior co-owner Paul Harwood had approached him at the Health & Fitness Business Show in late August, apologized and offered to return them.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Hunnings told SNEWSÂ®. "For me, the whole thing made me angry, but you have to move on with your business."
He said the move has helped smooth the long-standing relationship between the two retailers that had become silently adversarial since the action, although they had all known each other for upward of two decades.
In the case of Charlotte Fitness, opened by John Ward and Dan Wilkins of Charleston Fitness last year, everything still stands as it was, with Superior in possession of the retailer's namesake URLs.
"Business is good, and our business model and integrity speak for itself," Ward said. "I'm really not that concerned."
The company now has a website at www.charlottefit.com (Ed. Note: And it's one of the best by fitness specialty retail anywhere, so take a look).
Superior Fitness' Harwood and executive vice president Clay Peddycord, whose name is on the Internet records, did not return multiple phone calls for comment.
SNEWSÂ® View: We at SNEWSÂ® have found this entire affair rather petty. Sure, as was pointed out by Peddycord previously, anyone can buy or sell a URL. But our industry is too small to pretend you didn't know a name belonged to somebody else and to buy it without at least the appearance of being a bit under-handed. We applaud Superior for returning Lifestyle's namesake URLs, but aren't sure why the same action didn't apply to Charlotte or if other issues apply that only they are aware of. Since our calls weren't returned, it's impossible to know.
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