Wellness/balance specialty debuts at ispo show fitness area

As a sub-set of Germany's ispo sports trade show last week, a small area catering to what was called "wellness and balance" debuted in the fitness area.
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As a sub-set of Germany's ispo sports trade show last week, a small area catering to what was called "wellness and balance" showcased Europe's growing trend in fitness that goes beyond performance and sports training.

Coming from a suggestion by Michael Ertl, president of a new Germany-based company called Chung Shi that is focusing specifically on women's interests in wellness, the small area had everything from balance boards and massage chairs, to exercise bikes and hand lotion. Chung Shi's setup dominated the area.

"For several years, tummy, legs and glutes have been the big theme in the fitness world," Ertl told SNEWS, then added with a sweeping look around his wellness-focused booth, "Now, this is it."

Ertl founded Chung Shi -- which means "to become someone," he says -- about a year and a half ago, leaving his job as general manager of Ciclo Sport in Germany (makers of heart rate monitors and other technical electronic devices) to take on one company that would encompass the entire realm of wellness and balance in life and exercise.

Balance doesn't necessarily mean sitting and relaxing, although it can, said Ertl, who obviously has moved fast in the last 18 months to assemble a list of licensed companies, find his own products to label as Chung Shi, and to establish the brand in leading retailers in 10 countries, including 350 stores in Germany.

"Balance means to take on the things that are important to you," which he says may mean yoga and Tai Chi, but may also mean sports performance. That's why the Chung Shi brand (www.chung-shi.com) incorporates heart rate monitors, clothing and hand lotions, for example, with the likes of sunscreen and a fitness book planned for summer.

"This isn't about one product," he said, which is why the area was also bordered by companies with exercise bikes and workout balls. The trend has three key elements -- Asian influence, wellness and women.

Ertl said he believes that too many products are simply too technical and he has strived to find or license a collection of products that are straightforward -- things that don't need a ton of explanation and can simply feel right to use or make someone feel good. His target market is women, and his target theme is lifestyle improvement.

SNEWS View: Interesting theme with a good intent. Ertl is obviously a savvy entrepreneur who saw a wave coming and jumped on it to ride it as it grew. It was interesting to see wellness and Feng Shui books in store windows in Munich, where the ispo show takes place, as well as health stores with balance boards in windows. The European market is growing and maturing, and now's the time for companies to think like Ertl's has and to jump on in while the jumping is good. As we know, the wave in North America in fitness was purely cardiovascular and strength before softer practices and a mind-body influence entered. This is what is now happening in Germany and other European countries.

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