In a quiet deal that came to fruition right before the December holidays, Rick Myers and co-owner Kevin Lamb of Total Fitness Equipment in Connecticut sold their four stores to Fitness Holdings International.
The four stores in Connecticut and New York for now are being maintained under the Omni Fitness banner, the eastern arm of FHI's retail outlets; the company may have plans to close one or more, Myers told SNEWS®, although he was uncertain on those details.
Representatives from FHI and Omni did not return calls or emails for comment.
The deal apparently was broached and closed within a few weeks, Myers said. Myers along with Lamb have left the industry and are opening franchises of the Robek's smoothie chain, he said. Most of his staff members, who were all offered a job of some kind, have also now left the stores, he said.
"I'm out of the business," said Myers, who has been in the fitness industry for 20 years and worked for Omni before he left to start the southern stores about 12 years ago.
"It's strange," he said about so suddenly stepping away. "Kinda, 'boom,' one minute I'm in it and one minute I'm out. I'm going to miss it."
After two decades, he had watched the industry's downturn in the fall and decided he wasn't as bullish on it, especially in the short term.
"I hope things in the industry turn around," he said.
In 2005, John Valles, who owned 90 percent of both the northern and southern Total Fitness stores, sold ownership of the north to Gary Catania and Matt Arcata, who had been managing executives there with Arcata having owned the remaining 10 percent with Valles, and sold the south to Myers and Lamb. Click here to read that July 13, 2005, story. Although the branches shared a name and a website, as well as brands, they were separate businesses. In late 2007, they were operated more and more as separate businesses after major supplier Precor pulled out of the chain. At the time of the ownership transition, there were 11 stores (eight north, three south); at the end of 2007, there were 14 (10 north and four south).
SNEWS® View: The retail scene is a bit chaotic currently with most seeing huge downturns in sales and volume that have not rebounded yet. Not many areas can offer the sales necessary in these less-than-surging economic times to feed more than one or two store brands. Omni stores were around the corner from two of the southern branch's Total outlets and not more than a mile or two from the other two. We're honestly still scratching our heads a bit about why FHI would want to buy these four stores since they didn't seem to really need to. Without Precor, sales at all the Total stores were, we expect, quite a bit down, and we fear the northern area is also hanging on by its fingertips. But retailers need to keep up with the times: Retail needs and consumer demands are changing, and unless a retailer can offer the service, brands, products, décor and location that consumers have come to expect, the times will be particularly tough.