Club Industry '05: Dancing faster to stay even

Hanging in steadily the last few years, Club Industry has neither truly grown, nor truly shrunk, leaving it with all the major players still taking advantage of a fall show to unveil a new product or concept or meet with customers in the Midwest or East.

Hanging in steadily the last few years, Club Industry has neither truly grown, nor truly shrunk, leaving it with all the major players still taking advantage of a fall show to unveil a new product or concept or meet with customers in the Midwest or East.

Traffic was low-key at the Nov. 3-5 show at McCormick Place in Chicago, both exhibitors and attendees told SNEW®, with buzz going on selectively in certain booths. However, no final attendee numbers were available as of Nov. 7. Exhibitor numbers were mostly status quo, per Herb Greenebaum, marketing director for show owner Primedia. This year's count shows about 237, compared to last year's 245, with this year hitting about 90,000 square feet, just as last year did.

"The show, by all accounts, has been particularly strong," Greenebaum said. "Both exhibitors and attendees have been extremely pleased."

The top five new products selected by Club Industry and announced at a press conference on opening day were: BioStep semi-recumbent elliptical cross trainer, Biodex; heat therapy mat, Body Mat; web-based software for personal training management, BodyWorkz CMS; Fitmate metabolic and fitness Assessment System, Cosmed; and the Element strength line, TechnoGym. Products were selected based on new and original thought or design, its time on the market, and its uniqueness. Aside from the Biodex piece, which SNEWS® wrote about when it was introduced at the 2003 Club Industry show, the others seem to be new -- at least to the U.S. market. (The Element line from Technogym was introduced at the FIBO show in Germany in May as a value-priced line.) At least a dozen other companies' products were considered.

"We're very pleased and excited to premiere these exciting new products at our 20th show," said Zari Stahl, show director. "The latest developments in commercial fitness have always been the focus of Club Industry events and we try to give our suppliers maximum visibility for their innovations."

On the exhibit floor, very little seemed to be THE buzz of the show, according to a number of attendees and exhibitors. Nevertheless a few things caught some attention as new, including Matrix Fitness' concept bike, the H6x Hybrid Cycle, which in design was a cross between a walk-through recumbent bike and an upright. So new, the bike doesn't even have a suggested list price pegged yet, but the company has said it expects it to be somewhere close to a recumbent in price when it is released in 2006. If anything could be selected as THE different and eye-catching new thing at the show, this may have been it.

What else? SportsArt Fitness' workouts on its Xtrainer -- that cross between an elliptical and a bike -- continue to pack 'em in, and its sleek selectorized strength stations with a Euro look are attracting continued attention. Star Trac has continued its tip-toe forward in trade show halls the last few years, this year at Club Industry nabbing a front-row space that was also the largest of any other booth, bar none. Following up on its conceptual back-room showing of two new low-profile, BMW-designed ellipticals, the company put both the Elite and Elite ellipticals on the floor. As a reminder, the Elite allows the user to disengage the arms.

Cybex, with the show's second-largest booth, rolled out its long-expected, and slightly overdue, VR3 strength line, replacing the VR2 and expected the line to beef up sales again since some customers had been waiting to order. Life Fitness focused on the core -- the body's core that is -- with a new back extension and a new leg extension (a.k.a. Roman chair). The leg extension had an adjustable pad, which was round, now what a concept, that could move up and down to better accommodate users of different sizes.

A no-show among products was a "new thing" that Technogym introduced in Europe in the summer called the Wave, that was yet another hybrid -- think elliptical crossed with an in-line skate trainer. Click here to see a SNEWS® story, Aug. 29, 2005, "'New Thing' introduced by Technogym in Europe"). Technogym did, however, have its new more value-priced Element strength line on the floor.

Among total newbies was a company called Pantometrics, with an electronic user tracking and motivational product that founder and President Mark Martens told SNEWS® will finally allow exercisers to know what they did and determine what they need to do to improve. Although a piece of hardware (a liquid crystal, touch-screen equipment console) with software (interactive visuals, among other things), the true use is in the piece's name: FitClub. Martens said the point is for clubs to replace their equipments' consoles with these (currently at no cost) and for all its members to then pay $10 a month to join the Pantometrics' FitClub to be able to track themselves and save workouts, analyze what they've done in real time, decide what they need to do to get better, gain motivation to workout and, eventually, improve. The company's slogan? "Kick your own ass... Not just our slogan...our philosophy." For more, go to

In receiving the show's Lifetime Achievement Award, Judi Sheppard Missett, CEO and founder of Jazzercise, paid homage to the lifetime achievements of Rosa Parks and noted the amazing growth of the industry over her 35 years in it.