War effort means stepped-up sales for fitness cos. - SNEWS

War effort means stepped-up sales for fitness cos.

As U.S. military personnel around the country began to step-up training early this year for the possibility of a war with Iraq, fitness equipment companies with government contracts were shipping to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other army bases, Navy ships and submarines.

As U.S. military personnel around the country began to step-up training early this year for the possibility of a war with Iraq, fitness equipment companies with government contracts were shipping to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other army bases, Navy ships and submarines.

"Staying fit is a part of the job," representatives of several companies told SNEWS when asked about government contracts and sales to military bases and ships, known to be a competitive market.

Unless military personnel are on the front line, they are lifting Iron Grip or Nautilus weights, pumping iron on Hoist gyms, training on Precor ellipticals, running on Life Fitness trainers, or climbing to the heavens on StairMaster climbers.

"I have been told that 'fitness' and 'MRE' are at the top of most of the lists when they do surveys as to what is important to the troops," Mike Schopp, director of government sales for The Nautilus Group, told SNEWS. (MRE is military jargon for 'Meals Ready to Eat.')

Schopp says the last few orders from his company went to Bahrain Navy Base and Riyadh Army Base in Saudi Arabia, and Camp Doha Marine Base in Kuwait, and is used "24 hours a day." He also said that the company saw a slight increase in sales the first quarter of this year in contrast to steady sales in previous years. Iron Grip concurred with sales increases to the military, showing nearly a 100-percent increase in that category over first quarter last year.

Life Fitness equipment is also scattered at bases around the Middle East, said Bruce Wicks, a company military sales representative who is a retired colonel and member of the Green Berets after 29 years in the U.S. Army.

The army's Camp Doha, the air force's Ali Ali Salem and the Al Jaber air base, all in Kuwait, have the company's equipment, including treadmills, cross-trainers, bikes, stairclimbers and "a great deal of Hammer Strength equipment," Wicks said. Others with equipment include Camp As Sayliyah and Camp Snoopy in Qatar, the U.S. naval base in Bahrain, and many air bases in Afghanistan.

"The bases are interested in fitness in general," said Wicks, who was the former director of the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School at Fort Ben Harrison in Indiana. "When the troops are back at the base, they are often confined to the base and have little to do but work out in their spare time.

"In the hot desert in the summertime, they especially enjoy working out in the air conditioning on our treadmills," he said. "It is a great morale booster for the troops to use new, workable equipment."

Iron Grip, which sells its equipment through Life Fitness' government contract, is particularly popular on ships and submarines since its urethane plates "don't rust and don't roll," said Marketing Director Liz Bianchi, naming the Kitty Hawk, Shreveport and Dubuque as three ships with its equipment.

Not all equipment can fit down hatches of ships and submarines as easily as bars and weights. Precor modified the design on its elliptical trainer for a military version so the piece could fit through the hatches.

Hoist sends its equipment to the ships at the yard in San Diego -- its headquarters city -- with a team from Hoist, which then dissembles the pieces on site, takes the pieces through the hatches, and reassembles them onboard, said spokesman David Salisbury. The company also altered the design on its selectorized equipment slightly so it could mount to the ships better.

"If there's an established base or facility or ship," said one company spokesman, "it's likely to include a fitness center."


Liz Claiborne's new long-term plan means Prana's on the sales block

When Liz Claiborne CEO William L. McComb announced that in the face of a flat to slightly down revenue year for the company he would be implementing cost-cutting measures and restructuring, Prana was one of 16 brands singled out for possible divestiture, discontinuation or ...read more

LeMond Fitness Revs Up

When StairMaster was bought by then-Direct Focus in bankruptcy auction in January, left without a dance partner was the bankrupt company's indoor-group-cycling branch, the LeMond RevMaster bike and program. Direct Focus (now The Nautilus Group) had its own Schwinn program and ...read more


Health & Fitness Business '09: Cardio sticks mostly to freshening up, but still takes steps forward

With the economy still trying to rev up again, this wasn't the year for big news and innovative introductions from cardio manufacturers. Add to the economic hiccup a smaller Health & Fitness Business Show, some extra inventory still lingering here and there, and cautious buyers ...read more

Fitness holiday sales outcome up for grabs

With somewhat conflicting reports about Black Friday and holiday sales, SNEWS recently caught up with some specialty fitness equipment retailers across the country to get their take. Seems that many are hedging their bets. "The customer is tentative, and sales this season have ...read more

Lean, mean, grilling machine's George Foreman as a face of fitness?

For the past 50 years some of the most recognizable faces of fitness have included Jack LaLanne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Suzanne Summers, Kathy Smith, George Foreman,… wait… George Foreman? As odd as it may sound, the former heavyweight boxing champ and current heavyweight ...read more


Polartec CEO to step down; brand contemplates sale

Changes are ahead for fabric/insulation brand Polartec as the company announced Monday that its president and CEO Andrew Vecchione plans to step down, also hinting the business will go up for sale. Vecchione, who has been with Lawrence, Mass.-based Polartec for eight years, the ...read more


Rethinking Retail: Stand-up paddleboarding a means to retail, gym partnerships

The buzz over stand-up paddleboarding has grown louder over the past three years, and Rutabaga, an outdoor specialty store in Monona, Wis., has found that the sport especially appeals to fitness-oriented consumers -- and could be a path to partnerships with gyms and fitness ...read more

Keys Fitness taking big steps to grow business, says to expect more

With Keys Fitness' purchase last month for $6.6 million of Icon Health & Fitness' Image Spa division (now the cornerstone of Keys' backyard division), Keys joined the elite ranks of the $100 million revenue club. But the company doesn't plan to stop there, SNEWS® was told, and ...read more

Americans turn to the outdoors for comfort during war -- sort of

From April 17 to 21, an online survey of 2,153 American adults age 18 and older revealed that while 30 percent did nothing to avoid the war coverage, 70 percent took action to escape. Of the 70 percent who did something, fewer than 25 percent (less than 400 of those surveyed) ...read more