Veteran retailer Superior Fitness files for bankruptcy liquidation

After 13 years, specialty fitness retailer Superior Fitness is no more. After downsizing dramatically in the spring and early summer, industry veterans Wayne McCarty and Paul Harwood filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation on Sept. 8 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina.
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After 13 years, specialty fitness retailer Superior Fitness is no more.

After downsizing dramatically in the spring and early summer, industry veterans Wayne McCarty and Paul Harwood filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation on Sept. 8 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina.

Most creditors received notices of the bankruptcy and the Oct. 14 creditors meeting late last week, SNEWS learned.

As of Sept. 21, however, the filing was still considered deficient by the court since none of the required schedules and financial statements had been filed. The original filing claimed assets of less than $50,000 and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million. Creditors names typed on a long list without amounts owed included several dozen in the industry, from Trixter and Torque, Life Fitness and Precor, to Fitness Master and Quantum.

Fitness Master president Eric Dick told SNEWS his company had no warning but it had been watching Superior for the last year -- as it had been doing with most retailers considering the economy. That lookout stepped up this summer as the company pared back sharply, he said.

“They stopped talking to us in the last four weeks or so,” Dick said, noting suddenly no calls or emails were returned. “We were trying to work out something.”

The website and URL are dead, while a spot check by SNEWS to several company phone numbers found they were being answered by voicemail as if it were business-as-usual as of Sept. 21. Several staff cell phone numbers were out-of-service.

In March, then-COO Clay Peddycord told SNEWS the company had closed several stores to partner with Conte’s Bicycles and Fitness in Virginia. Then, in June 2009, a SNEWS reporter happened by a Superior store in Greenville, N.C., and found it closed as of June 18, 2009, with a small sign in the window that read, in part:

“Due to the economic climate, Superior Fitness regrets having to close this store location. We are scaling back our business to a size to weather these economic times and what appears to be a long and slow economic recovery,” the sign read. It noted six retail locations still operating (Raleigh/Cary, Greensboro and Charlotte, N.C.; and Columbia, S.C.), and several telephone numbers to contact plus the company website.

“We apologize we must scale back for now,” the sign concluded. “Our goal is to return to the area in the future to give you more locally convenient showrooms.” 

In July 2009, SNEWS learned, the company let go its commercial rep force after having told suppliers it was cutting back on storefronts to cut overhead and to focus on commercial sales. In late summer, Superior had pared back to three stores in Cary and Charlotte, according to its website and other SNEWS sources.

Messages left for McCarty over the summer and Harwood on Sept. 21 were not returned for comment.

In the southeastern states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, Superior had hit a high in 2006 and 2007 of 13 locations, only dropping to 12 as late as the end of 2008.

--Therese Iknoian

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