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Fitness: Did you hear?…

The Super Show rolls out red carpet in Orlando, The Sports Authority plans to bring up price points, Icon CEO and COO set to resign in July, Dick's names Bill Dandy senior VP, Cybex signs license with Trazer, plus much more...

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>> The Super Show rolled out the red carpet for tens of thousands of attendees from around the world in Orlando, Fla., on its opening day Monday, Jan. 12, with special guest appearances by the likes of Sammy Sosa, and aisles that although slow-to-fill began steadily moving by late morning. The World of Sports Innovation took a center space with an assorted collection of oddities and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that products, and seemed to be flowing and working better than last year’s debut. On the first day of three (the show runs through Jan. 14), exhibitors in the fitness and footwear/apparel areas seemed to indicate they were mostly pleased; some claimed they were flooded the first day, while others said it was ebb and flow. SNEWS will cover the show from start to finish and will bring a series of show and product reports in the next week. We may even find time to, as one attendant at a shoe-shine station barked calmly to passers-by, “take a little time to get a shine.” Oops, we have our sneakers on. Guess not. Unfortunately, he may not get as much biz as at other shows with all the athletic whites and browns floating around.

>> At The Super Show’s annual pre-show “financial day” with presentations by executives from major sporting goods retailers and companies, Doug Morton, CEO of The Sports Authority, said the now 387-store chain (45 states) will begin bringing price points up in the fitness department, which seems to be what customers are looking for. He also said its shoppers are 48 percent female, 52 percent male, and women want performance enhancement, for which they are more likely to come to TSA compared to mass merchants.

>> Icon Health & Fitness CEO Scott Watterson and COO Gary Stevenson will in July resign from their positions at the company they founded to become Mission Presidents for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Both will be assigned to locations outside of the United States in positions something akin to regional directors for the teen-agers and 20-somethings that do two-year missions for the church. Watterson, who is expected to be assigned to a Chinese-speaking country since he speaks Chinese, and Stevenson will be in those church positions for three years. When the mission is completed, they will return as members of the board and possibly management positions. While they are gone, they will be involved in select strategic decisions. In their absence, Watterson’s brother David Watterson will take over as CEO.

>> The Super Show managed a front page write-up in the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel on the show’s opening day, Monday, Jan. 12. According to the paper, the show will be the largest show ever held in Orlando — expecting 62,000 or more attendees — and will be one of the first really huge shows held at the new Orlando Convention Center that opened last fall with 1 million new square feet in the north and south buildings. By the way, the largest show so far in Orlando until this one was, get this: the 2000 World of Concrete. No, really.

>> In other Icon news: The company was at The Super Show. Sort of. In its typical off-floor series of meeting rooms without signage or any inkling anything is behind the door, Icon had only an equipment showroom for its international customers. Where was the other stuff? Back at Logan, Utah, headquarters where Icon was flying all — yes, all — of its customers for a private show. The same weekend as The Super Show. A little skiing, wining, dining, product introductions. With transport provided by the company’s private jet. We’re not sure what the big to-do was about when Icon supposedly “came back” to The Super Show since we’re not sure a private room and whisking people away is truly supporting the show.

>> Harking back to The Super Show’s glory days in Atlanta a decade and more ago: Posted at one of the show’s main escalator entrances was a scantily clad young blonde handing out the show daily paper. Hm, guess the news is so hot that short shorts and low-cut snug tank tops with high spike heels are necessary. When asked about the horror of standing there all day in those heels, the woman said, “I’m trapped for today, but I’ll be crying tomorrow.”

>> Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. (NYSE: DKS) has announced that Bill Dandy has joined the company as senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Dandy joins Dick’s with 20 years of retail experience, most recently as senior vice president – marketing, for Jo-Ann stores, where he was a part of the executive team that successfully brought the company out of turnaround. Dandy was also employed by Famous Footwear (a division of Brown Shoe Company) as its senior vice president – retail sales and operations and senior vice president – marketing and advertising. He also was with Michael’s Stores as vice president of marketing and advertising. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on:

>> Cybex has signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Trazer Technologies Inc. Trazer combines optical position sensing and VR stimulation technologies that can be used for exercise, sports performance enhancement, rehabilitation and other applications to hone speed, agility, power, balance and overall fitness. SNEWS View: SNEWS saw Trazer at the 2001 Health & Fitness Business Expo and had a ball playing its agility games — you faced a large screen, and a small belt relayed your position to the equipment in front of you — but it apparently was just too advanced (and too expensive) for most fitness applications. “Adding Trazer to our portfolio will help us gain new ground in commercial fitness — not just in health clubs, but in additional larger markets like schools. Trazer also creates opportunities to expand distribution and to enter health care and fast growing wellness markets that are an important part of our strategic plan,” said Roland Murray, Cybex vice president of marketing. Cybex plans to launch Trazer at the IHRSA show in late March in Las Vegas.

>> GERMANY In a ranking of top selling sport shoe companies in Germany, adidas has come out on top, with 27.5 percent of the market in the first half of 2003. Next is Nike with 23.2 percent, Puma and Asics tied with 10.1 percent , Reebok with 5.5 percent, Lowa with 4.2 percent, Fila at 2.2 percent, Meindl at 2.0 percent, New Balance with 1.6 percent, and Salomon with 0.9 percent. Overall, the athletic footwear market there was worth Euro 375 million (approximately USD $478 million in today’s dollars), up from a previous value of Euro 360 million. Both adidas and Nike lost market share, while Puma and Asics gained ground. Up-and-comers in the athletic area are outdoor specialists Meindl and Lowa.

>> Want to compare your sales to overall reports? According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, same-store sales were up 5.6 percent year over year from the week ending Jan. 3; a consumer survey by Goldman Sachs and Nielsen/Net Ratings said online holiday shopping was up 35 percent to $18.5 billion between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26 compared to a year ago; and Visa reported a 14-percent increase in Visa card use at retailers year over year for the week ended Jan. 4 for a total of $6.1 billion.

>> GERMANY Icon’s Germany chief Frank Koch has left the company (called “Aicon” in Europe). A spokeswoman there said there were strategic differences about how to manage the company internationally. Koch told Germany’s trade publication sport+mode: “We have increased revenues 55 percent in the last two years. In the German market, we need to employ certain tools…. And therein lay the difference in opinions.” Mark Richard, formerly head of Icon in England, is now directing the Germany office.

>> We recently caught some of Bally Total Fitness’ much-touted new TV ads, which definitely represent a new feel, with the tagline, “Every Body Needs Something.” Some women may identify with the “Closet” ad, which depicts a frustrated woman facing a variety of clothing sizes, and a few may recognize their home in the “Delivery” ad, where a slew of high-calorie foods are delivered to the same house. As for the “more rounded” folks promised in marketing materials? We really couldn’t find any among the onslaught of flashy bodies working out in these 30-second spots, which may or may not be the intended “well-rounded” ones, but we still didn’t see a regular Joe in the bunch. Other ads are coming, so we’re hopeful that with the new chief marketing officer, Martin Pazzani, and his crew of many agencies, more realistic images are on their way. We remain enthusiastic about the more inviting, everyone-can-relate-to intent we heard about — truly a new era after the muscles, sweat and sex Bally has been selling for years. We trust it is coming.

>> Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) reported net sales for the five-week period ending Jan. 2, 2004, of $33.657 billion, an increase of 11.3 percent over the $30.251 billion in the similar period in the prior year. Sales for the 48-week period were $237.626 billion, an increase of 11.3 percent over $213.528 billion in the similar period in the prior year.

>> Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE: S) has announced that comparable domestic store revenues decreased 0.8 percent for the five weeks ended Jan. 3, 2004. Total domestic store revenues were $3.9 billion for the five-week period in December 2003, down 0.6 percent compared with the five weeks ended Jan. 4, 2003.

>> UNITED KINGDOM The Leisure Database company has predicted 2004 will see competition in the health and fitness club market getting ever more fierce — forcing clubs to focus on delivering excellent customer service. Writing in Health Club Management magazine there, Managing Director David Minton says that there are now over 2,000 private clubs with more than 500 members and over 2,500 public sector clubs already open — and this is set to increase dramatically over the next year. Planning permission has already been received for a further 800 clubs and a further 700 applications are in the pipeline.

>> Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. (Nasdaq: BGFV) has reported that net sales for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 28 increased 8.5 percent to $191.8 million from $176.7 million in the same period last year. Same store sales increased 3.6 percent for the quarter, representing the 32nd consecutive quarter of same store sales increases. Net sales for the fiscal year ended Dec. 28 increased 6.3 percent to $709.7 million from $667.5 million for fiscal 2002. Same store sales increased 2.2 percent for fiscal 2003. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: