IHRSA 2010: Smaller show welcomes unexpectedly upbeat mood

The 2010 IHRSA show, albeit a touch smaller, seemed to reveal more energy and more of an upbeat mood than last year. No one product or company stole the show…but perhaps that’s not what the industry needed this year. SNEWS has more.
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Despite a smaller footprint, the IHRSA 2010 trade show in San Diego, Calif., this month brought in attendees, introduced (or re-introduced) some companies to the industry, and generally had what a few called a surprisingly positive, energetic vibe.

Not as if buzz about any one new product or trend was busting down the doors; it wasn’t. But even without the economy fully into recovery, SNEWS® was told the show did what it was supposed to do -- brought together suppliers with distributors, buyers and dealers for meetings, sales planning and handshakes on deals.

“The IHRSA show this year was the busiest show we’ve done in several years,” said Michael Rojas, president of Iron Grip. “The traffic was strong and consistent, even through the third day, and the overall feel of the show was very positive.”

IHRSA reported to SNEWS that there were 315 exhibitors. Although that was a mere seven off from a year ago at the show in San Francisco, the number was a rather shocking 25 percent less than the 413 at the show two years ago that was also in San Diego. SNEWS is checking on the reported square footage since initial numbers reporting a significantly smaller size didn’t seem to be correct. Bottomline: Despite the upbeat mood experienced by many, the industry has indeed not bounced back, and suppliers have cut back on expenses such as those for trade shows -- either choosing not to attend or downsizing.

Attendance figures were not finalized or released. The first day didn’t have a throng 10-deep waiting at the door, as was the case until last year, but the first day held strong throughout. The second day also was well-trafficked, but seemed to come and go with surges happening at different times, in different booths. The third and last day, ending at noon instead of 2 p.m. was a hectic tumble of a few trying to squeeze in their last appointments before the earlier close.

“Overall, I would say IHRSA was positive,” said dealer David Kutler of Body Basics Nebraska. “Vendors seemed pleased and appeared more upbeat than last year.”

Re-introduced at the show were two former Nautilus holdings:

>> StairMaster, now also the parent of the commercial division of Schwinn indoor cycles. The company quickly patched together a small booth to be able to meet with distributors, President Dustin Grosz told SNEWS.

“Every time I came out of a meeting, there were many people in our booth,” said Grosz after the show. “There were countless number of new and old distributors and dealers that were asking to do business with us. We are very excited.”

Click here to see a March 1, 2010, story, “New StairMaster takes front row at IHRSA coming-out party.” 

>> Med-Fit also introduced itself as the new parent of commercial Nautilus equipment, including the popular One selectorized equipment. Since the deal was inked just days before the show, President Dean Sbragia decided to hold court in an accompanying hotel room rather than spend the time and money on a booth.

Click here to see a Feb. 24, 2010, SNEWS story, “Med-Fit acquires ‘iconic’ Nautilus commercial assets, to expand dealer network.” 

Nautilus, now focused exclusively on the retail and direct-to-consumer segments, was not exhibiting at the show.

Other re-introductions and introductions:

>> Greg Waters, heading up his new Waters Fitness endeavor, attended the show for the first time under that brand. He showed not only his indoor bike but also a new piece called the Ripwave (MSRP $399; photo - left) that allows for assisted bent-knee raises for ab toning and strengthening. Click here to see an Oct. 23, 2009, story, “Greg Waters back in the biz.” 

RipWave.jpg

>> IF Holdings, the new (by name although not by executive leadership) parent of Expresso Fitness, was at IHRSA to reassure the industry knew its product was still around.

Click here to see a March 5, 2010, SNEWS update on the developments there since Expresso as a corporation shut its doors claiming a financial wrinkle -- “Expresso Fitness’ parent sticks with original vision, plans to expand globally.” 

>> Strive Fit, formerly Strive Smart Strength, had a small 10-by-20 booth after it declared bankruptcy in October 2009. SNEWS reported in January it had requested an extension, per court documents, to seek an auction of some assets. Reportedly, Strive ownership is also moving in the direction of interactive fitness. Click here to see the latest Strive news from a Feb. 5, 2010, SNEWS issue.

>> Back at the show for the first time in four years in an executive position was Gregg Hammann, former CEO and president of Nautilus. He left Nautilus in August 2007 but has returned to the industry as the new CEO of Power Plate, a position he took over in September 2009. Coincidentally, Power Plate was just diagonally behind StairMaster’s booth. The company did introduce a plate that incorporated cables to do strength exercises.

Not the time to make big product splashes

Although most companies stuck to what they had with a few re-tweaks, there was talk of two new cross-over categories -- but ones that aren’t in the “big splash” stage yet.

>> Bike-like devices that are powered by elliptical-like mechanics in stepping motion and upper-body mechanics for outdoor transport and exercise. At IHRSA was the Elliptigo (www.elliptigo.com; photo - left); SNEWS has seen other variations on the concept at the ispo trade show in Germany, including the Street Stepper (www.streetstepper.com); the Street Strider (www.streetstrider.com) was at the 2009 Health & Fitness show in Denver, and the Randy Ross Stepper was at the 2008 show in Denver. (Click here to see a 2009 SNEWS story.)

The concept could have legs -- no pun intended, of course.

>> Ellipticals powered by indoor cycle flywheels were first seen a couple of years ago and now there are more. Last year, Spirit introduced its E-Glide -- an elliptical-like piece that replaced the traditional front drive system with a heavy indoor cycle flywheel. Keiser already had its M5 Strider. Now BH Fitness at this show introduced its SE4 (photo - right). MSRPs seem to hover around $2,000 to $2,500 for a piece that has a small footprint and a solid base -- likely with less maintenance required.

BH2010spinningellipse.jpg

In other news…

Naturally, many companies still had something to show off. Star Trac introduced a treadmill much like its eSpinner with a built-in coaching system on video that is personalized, customized and at your fingertips for motivation. Vibram’s FiveFingers, one of the companies that launched the barefoot running trend, was on hand to showcase its barely there footwear that has also become popular with trainers, on gym floors and also for yoga and other group exercise classes.

“We might have been the only footwear company to attend and we were slammed,” CEO Tony Post told SNEWS. “The show was a key vehicle to help raise awareness about our brand and concept among professionals in the fitness community.”

MatrixFitness launched its expanded partnership with an endorsement by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, including an alliance to launch Livestrong indoor cycling by Matrix with cycles specific to the program, and a line of commercial cardio equipment that includes two treadmills, an elliptical, a recumbent and an upright bike. Hoist Fitness’ Roc-It strength line continued, just like in the last two years, to be one of the hits of the show.

Vectra Fitness worked to refine another version of its “Body ResiStability” piece first shown a year ago and also at the 2009 Denver show. Click here to see a SNEWS 2009 story and find a link to an earlier SNEWS video. Also seemingly getting a lot of attention was smaller, alternative gear, including new martial arts equipment from TKO, a pull-up assistance piece for doorway pull-up bars from Lifeline (photo - left), and things like rope pulls, kettle bells and even a new trampoline from JumpSport said to be the first geared for club’s needs.

--Therese Iknoian

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