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For the week Feb 15-21
>> In the ongoing bankruptcy case of Midwestern retailer The Fitness Experience, the judge overseeing the case accepted the motions in a hearing Feb. 18 to proceed with the trustee’s auction on Feb. 23 and a bid from Scott Egbert for the company’s assets to be offered at the auction. (See SNEWS® story, Feb. 14, “TFE misses bankruptcy filing deadlines, Egbert bidding to buy assets” as well as other past SNEWS stories.) In addition, the company as of Feb. 21 had not filed required documents, and the judge has not yet issued a ruling or court order.
>> Not all consumers who purchased a piece of equipment from The Fitness Experience before it shut its doors will lose out. Vision Fitness has for about 10 customers who contacted the company shipped the piece at no extra cost and honored whatever price the customer had been charged. “There’s some responsibility,” said marketing director Chris Cox.
>> GERMANY — Recognizing it was under-represented in Austria as compared to its growing dominance in Germany, Style Fitness (with distribution of Horizon and Vision in Europe) has established itself with the H.F. Marketing agency to expand there. Alan Wardle, the company’s Munich-based sales manager, until now also responsible for Austria, will continue to focus on Southern Germany and Eastern Europe. The H.F. Marketing company, which n the past had successfully placed Icon accounts across Austria, has given notice to Icon.
>> Scott Egbert has opened second Utah Home Fitness store with a third already slated for the end of February. Additional expansion is also set to occur with the Precor Home Fitness stores that are the old Fitness Showcase stores his company acquired as of Jan. 1.
>> With the release of President George Bush’s proposed 2006 budget, SGMA is taking issue with the fact that the budget calls for reduced funding for key physical education and recreation initiatives. SGMA said it is pushing for those fiscal cuts to be reversed, including a $19 million cut in the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Program — from $74 million in 2005 to $55 million in 2006. The PEP Program provides funds directly to schools for the purchase of sports/fitness equipment and for training/hiring of more P.E. teachers. The budget also includes a $92.5 million cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the nation’s primary federal funding source for local parks, fields and trails development. SGMA said Bush’s budget anticipates zero funding for these two programs in future years, allocating funds to so-called “other priorities.” “The PEP program is a catalyst in revitalizing physical education in the United States,” said SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove. “Because of PEP, we are seeing fundamental changes in the way our children are introduced to sports, fitness and health. We should double PEP funding rather than eliminate it in light of the benefits society will see in the years to come.” Cove added, “In the case of LWCF, the idea of terminating the very program that makes parks, trails, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts and playgrounds available to the general public simply does not make sense. In crowded urban and suburban centers, we must invest in safe, accessible places for people to play, relax and be healthy. As a country, we must recommit to be physically active. These budget cuts are taking us in the wrong direction.” Bush’s 2006 budget now goes to Congress for analysis, refinement and approval, with final decisions made by Sept. 30.
>> After two years of improvements, the American Customer Satisfaction Index checked in at 73.6 in the final quarter of 2004, a 1 percent decline from the third quarter. Conducted quarterly by the University of Michigan, the American Society for Quality and CFI Group, the survey said retail trade scored a 72.6, a fall of 3.2 percent from the previous year and a 4.1 percent drop from the 75.7 baseline assigned to it when the overall index was created. The overall index, with a baseline of 100, was created in 1994 to measure consumer views about service in various industries. Producers of the index maintain that a drop in the ACSI retail trade number is a troubling sign for the economy. “It turns out that the modern consumer is almost insensitive to income and whether or not he has cash on hand because credit has been so available,” said Claes Fornell, a business professor at the University of Michigan who leads the ACSI study. “So it seems to depend on, as far as we can tell, degree of satisfaction. If your satisfaction goes down, you may hesitate a bit more as a consumer, and in the aggregate that shows up as a reduction in spending, which directly affects economic growth.”
>> Raw Power Fitness is offering PCE Fitness’ LifeSpan cardio line in Canada. Raw Power’s Kitchener, Ontario, warehouse will house product and serve as the customer service center for specialty fitness retailers in Canada. Initially, offerings will include LifeSpan treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines and the Stretch Partner, a full body-stretching device. For more information, call 866-739-7697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
>> The American-Statesman newspaper in Austin, Texas, reported that the Texas attorney general is cracking down on health clubs that close their doors without notice, leaving members in the lurch. The office has filed lawsuits against Westlake Fitness, a now-defunct Austin gym that closed its doors after an unsuccessful lease negotiation, and SportsRidge Athletic Club of Richardson, saying it had not registered with the state or posted a required $20,000 security bond. Dallas-area gyms Fitness Evolution and Ultra Fitness reached recent settlements with the state, agreeing to register and post bonds, the article said. State Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, authored a bill asking the legislature to make $20,000 the minimum bond amount and allow the secretary of state’s office to determine an appropriate higher security bond amount based on gym enrollment. To read the article, click here or do a search at www.statesman.com.
>> From the etail front: Half of online product purchases involve the use of a search engine, and online shoppers tend to search for products well in advance of purchases, according a study by DoubleClick. Plus, brand may not mean much after all. The “Search Before the Purchase” report, conducted by DoubleClick’s search marketing division, Performics, along with comScore among 1.5 million Internet panelists, analyzed pre-purchase search activity across four categories: apparel, computer hardware, sports and fitness, and travel. The report said most shoppers search for products weeks in advance of making purchases, and those searches are often not brand specific, and brand names of online retailers were in the minority of purchase-related searches. The study found that search is almost as important for shoppers’ research needs. Also, shoppers often shop around when searching, conducting multiple queries prior to buying something online. In regard to the categories it looked at, shoppers on fitness/sports sites conducted 2.5 relevant searches in the 12 weeks preceding a purchase, while apparel buyers made 4.7 searches, computer hardware buyers made 4.9, and travel buyers averaged six searches before pulling the trigger. While the majority of pre-purchase search involves generic terms, it appears that many online shoppers start broad and then get narrower as they proceed. Brand-specific searches and clicks become more prominent closer to purchases, DoubleClick said.