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Fitness: Did you hear?

Matrix celebrates 2nd birthday, Nike and Brooks promotions abound, Sports World Tijuana opens its doors, The Fitness Experience to open five stores this year, adidas to shift focus to Asia, eyeglasses that can monitor body heat?...and more...

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>> Matrix Fitness Systems celebrates its second anniversary and announced its plans to double its workforce in New Mexico from 25 to more than 50 by January 2004, according to company President Ken Lucas. Matrix is that state’s only commercial fitness equipment manufacturer. The new employees will specialize in assembly, transportation and warehouse operations. Lucas said the company expects a 200-percent increase in sales over the next 12 months, with the expectation to reach $18 million in 2003 revenue. In other Matrix news, Daniel Corkill joined Matrix Fitness Systems earlier this summer as the strength product manager. He has been the associate and technical product manager for Cybex International’s strength systems division and was formerly business manager for the Hammer Strength division of Life Fitness. Also, early this summer Scott Hickey was promoted to vice president of sales, while Scott Sechrest was promoted to vice president of marketing.

>> Nike Inc. announced the appointment of five executives to key posts. They are: Tom Arndorfer as vice president and CFO of Nike USA; Jim Carter as vice president, general counsel; Adam Helfant as vice president of U.S. sports marketing; John Hoke as vice president, global footwear design; and Bernie Pliska as vice president, corporate controller.

>> Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE: S) has announced that its August comparable store sales are tracking better than expected for the four weeks ending Aug. 30, 2003.

>> Brooks Sports has promoted four sales execs. Rick Wilhelm now serves as vice president of specialty retail accounts, Parker Karnan as vice president of apparel sales, Dan Sheridan as director of national account sales and Mike Billish as eastern regional sales manager. Brooks also announced Tamara Otto is now the company’s new corporate communications manager. Her resume includes strategic communications initiatives for brands, including Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, Microsoft, Pyramid Breweries and Starbucks. Prior to her Brooks appointment, Otto spent seven years with the Seattle office of Edelman.

>> Save the Day with a women’s emergency kit: Grabber Performance Group, the company that specializes in oxygen-powered body warmers, has become the distributor for a new product called “Saves the Day” Women’s Emergency Kit. Says Jessica Wyman, CEO of “Saves the Day” Emergency Kits, “When a period arrives earlier than expected and you are not prepared, it can ruin your day. Knowing other women have experienced this embarrassing situation, I wanted to create a complete package that contains all the necessary elements to help ‘Save the Day’ after untimely accidents.” The kit includes a tampon, a feminine pad, two ibuprofen tablets, a sanitary towelette, and fresh bikini briefs in a compact box in two sizes to stash in purses, glove compartments, golf bags, suitcases, desk drawers or gym lockers.

>> Saucony announced the appointment of Tom Carleo to the position of vice president of marketing for Saucony. In his new position, Carleo will oversee the product marketing direction for all categories of footwear, as well as establishing strategic brand direction. Prior to joining Saucony Inc., Carleo held the position of global footwear product director at Nike.

>> A new health club has opened in Tijuana called Sports World Tijuana. The expansive club has five floors with more than 5,000 square meters. The club has a climbing wall over 13 meters high, four group-exercise rooms for yoga, aerobics, core training, Pilates, step, jazz and other activities. It also has facilities to practice basketball, and has a boxing ring, a jogging track, a semi-Olympic swimming pool, and a soccer court. Sports World Tijuana is one of the largest fitness centers in the country, and it is the sixth club in the chain. Its grand opening was Aug. 28.

>> The Fitness Experience, now with 55 stores, will be adding five more to the fold this year on or after Oct. 1. Look for new outlets in Madison, Wis.; Florence, Ky.; Polaris/Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and South Bend, Ind.

>> The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has announced a strategic partnership with the American Heart Association to provide Automated External Defibrillator (AED), CPR and first-aid training to ACE course offerings. In conjunction with the American Heart Association, more than 50 ACE faculty and staff members will be trained as Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED-certified instructors. This group will then provide the instruction needed to train and qualify all existing ACE-certified fitness professionals, as well as all newly ACE-certified fitness professionals in the near future.

>> The Sports Authority Inc. (NYSE:TSA) has announced results for Gart Sports second quarter ended Aug. 2, 2003, as well as a completion of the merger of the two companies on Aug. 4. The results for the second quarter represent Gart Sports only. Combined company results for the new Sports Authority will be provided beginning with the third quarter. Second quarter net income, including the effect of one-time merger integration costs of $1.7 million, or $0.08 per fully diluted share, totaled $5.3 million, or $0.42 per fully diluted share. Excluding one-time merger integration costs, second quarter net income was $6.3 million or $0.50 per fully diluted share, compared with $0.48 per fully diluted share in the prior year’s quarter. Total sales for the 13 weeks ended Aug. 2 increased 2.2 percent to $267.5 million compared with $261.7 million in the prior year’s second quarter. Second quarter comparable store sales decreased 0.6 percent from last year.

>> Tubbs Snowshoes is expanding its “Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer” Winter Walk Series to five markets and expects to attract 3,500 to 4,000 attendees to the events. With a goal to raise $100,000 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the series features a 3K and 5K walk and a 3K fun run for all ages and abilities. New activities for 2004 are kick-off breakfasts featuring keynote speakers, clinics on getting started in snowshoeing, and sponsor/partner displays. All participants who collect $100 or more in pre-event pledges will be entered into drawings for outdoor gear and prizes donated by Tubbs and its partners. As part of the event series, Tubbs will also host pre-event “Snowshoeing as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle” clinics at outdoor specialty stores in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in early November to promote snowshoeing and the event. Hosting venues include Stratton Mountain Nordic Center, Stratton, Vt., and the Frisco Nordic Center, Frisco, Colo., which both hosted events last winter, and the Three Rivers Park District in Minneapolis, the White River Sno-Park at Mt. Hood, Ore., and the Mountain Dell Golf Course in Salt Lake City, Utah. Last year’s inaugural event raised $36,000 in pledges and events proceeds, with Tubbs donating another $8,600 from the sales of women’s-specific snowshoes models in 2002/2003. SNEWS View: We think this is a perfect event for fitness companies and especially health clubs to get involved with.

>> Nominations are open for the 2004 Sports Product of the Year award, with semi-finalists to be selected by attendees at The Super Show Jan. 12-14 in Orlando, Fla. Last year’s co-winners were the Canopy Trike from Huffy Bicycle and the Quick Change Dumbbell System from Hoist Fitness Systems. Go to for more information.

>> According to an interview in the “Boersen Zeitung” (stock market report) in Germany recently, adidas will shift its priorities slightly and focus more on Asia. Adidas Chairman Herbert Hainer said he believes that Japan will become the second most important market within the next two to three years. Currency exchange fluctuations on the North American market have caused a lull in demand.

>> Growing health clubs in the southeast: Manny Butera’s Brentwood-based Total Fitness Systems Inc. plans to bulk up its business in Middle Tennessee with 10 fitness centers over the next two years. Using $1.5 million of investment cash and current revenues, Total Fitness will open in Maryland Farms and Cool Springs in September and in Smyrna near HCA Inc.’s new StoneCrest Medical Center toward the end of the year. Another fitness company has quickly and quietly pumped up its empire of health clubs from Harrisburg to the Arboretum in North Carolina with plans to add six more by 2005. Jeff Stec, 31, created the Peak Fitness concept in 1999, operating it under Fitness Management Group Inc., and he has already opened nine locations. He plans to open two more clubs this year.

>> Working more than you used to when not at the office? You’re not alone. According to a recent survey by the Net Future Institute of company managers and executives, 60.7 percent have increased the amount of time spent working out of the office over the last three years. This pattern has made a majority (42.7 percent) of these managers’ and executives’ lives better with only a small percent (18.2 percent) calling it worse. Some comments: “Two years ago I got laid off from my tech job and went into business for myself as a consultant. I am making more money than I ever did. I get to play ball with my 3-year-old son at 11:00 and with a little wifi technology, I can work out of my ‘downtown’ location … Starbucks. What’s not to love?” “Working from home allows an employee the needed flexibility to fit work and life together. Being part of a team connected electronically is a new definition of community. Companies can expand their access to expertise, reduce working stress and increase productivity in a well thought out electronic workplace.” “While there is certainly some flexibility and convenience by being able to conduct business from home or away from the office, it has dramatically increased the amount of time I work. I have had to develop more disciplined work habits; otherwise I would never ‘turn off’ work mode.”

>> If a watch can monitor hydration(see our story from June 9, 2003, about the Acumen monitor),then could sunglasses watch over your body temperature and your chance of overheating? That may not be so far-fetched considering a new technology developed by a Yale University researcher that could provide athletes with a constant reading of body temperature with the goal of preventing heat stroke and dehydration. The wireless technology, unveiled in Singapore recently, triggers an alarm when body temperature reaches a pre-set level — sending a reminder to sweaty athletes to guzzle water when their body gets too warm. Officials from Giant Wireless Technology Ltd. said the Hong Kong-based company expected to launch commercial applications for the technology, known as “TempAlert,” early next year. Research has found that a small area of skin near the eyes and the nose was connected to a “thermal storage center” in the brain, and this area has the thinnest skin and the highest amount of light energy.

>> The Athlete’s Foot and UCC Capital Corp. have completed a private placement transaction involving a whole company securitization backed by the retailer’s intellectual property. The long-term asset-backed notes were issued by Athlete’s Foot Brands Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Athlete’s Foot Marketing Associates.

>> The Forzani Group Ltd. reported that retail system sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2004 grew 7.5 percent to CAN $262.7 million compared to CAN $244.3 million for the same period of the previous year. Combined revenues from corporate and franchise divisions increased 8.2 percent or CAN $16.3 million to CAN $215.7 million. During the quarter, total company comparable store sales were up slightly at 0.1.