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Fitness: Did you hear?…

Rumors fly about H&F Biz show's future, Planet Fitness to open club in Sweden, Consumer Reports' pedometer rating questionable, plus much more...


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>> Compex Technologies, the manufacturer and designer of electromedical products used for fitness and sports training, has partnered with GNC to distribute the Compex Slendertone Flex abdominal training system, which were exhibited at the recent Health & Fitness Business show in Denver in August. Available in men’s and women’s versions, the plan is to start offering them nationwide in GNC stores in November. According to Compex, the Flex utilizes clinically proven technology and is the first product of its kind to be cleared for sale by the FDA for the indications of firming, strengthening and toning abdominal muscles. Also, Compex (Nasdaq: CMPX) reported consolidated revenue for the 2004 fiscal year (ended June 30) increased 14 percent to a record $86.0 million compared with $75.5 million a year earlier. Net income for the year was $3.1 million, or $0.24 diluted earnings per share, compared with 2003’s $5.0 million, or $0.45 diluted earnings per share. Fourth-quarter consolidated revenue was $22.7 million from 2003’s $19.8 million. Net income for 4Q was $1.0 million, or $0.08 diluted earnings per share, versus 2003’s $1.7 million, or $0.15 diluted earnings per share.

>> Business Week Online took an in-depth look at Nike in its story, “The New Nike: No longer the brat of sports marketing, it has a higher level of discipline and performance.” It highlights Nike’s search for the ideal balance between its creative and business sides, saying that the company is relying on a newfound financial and managerial discipline to drive growth. Check out the full story by clicking here.

>> Once again, the rumors are flying about the success and continuation of VNU’s Health & Fitness Business Expo & Conference. On the floor, talk was of “slow” traffic by some; yet numbers show that was not the case — with buyer numbers steady, retailers represented up slightly, and even exhibitor numbers up although total booth space was the same. One retailer told SNEWS® about the talk about the death of the show: “That would be a shame, especially for the little guys.” An Le, VNU Expositions marketing director, told us in response, “Yes, the show has not grown much, but it has remained steady in both attendance and exhibitors, even in an unstable business environment. We (which includes VNU) are absolutely committed to producing the show to serve the fitness market, and to evolve the show to best serve the community.”

>> RUSSIAFor the first time, Planet Fitness is crossing Russia’s border to build a sport and health club in Sweden. Set to open in November, the 40,000-square-foot full-service facility will offer various amenities including cardio equipment, free weights, selectorized equipment, whirlpool, steam room, sauna, indoor pool, day spa, as well as exercise classes and personal trainers. The company is planning more clubs in Sweden in the future. Co-founded in 1996 by 24 Hour Fitness’ Mark Mastrov and Leonard Schlemm, Planet Fitness has a network of 23 clubs throughout Russia including Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Kiev, Samara and Kazan.

>> Nowadays, obesity is a hot topic in medical journals and research studies, with a recent spotlight focus on the cost of obesity. The American Journal of Public Health (www.ajph.org/) reported in the August issue that healthcare expenditures related to obesity may soon top $39 billion per year in the United States alone. In another recent study, Columbia University researchers estimate that more than 4 percent of all direct healthcare costs for Americans age 20 to 85 can be attributed to obesity. And, the CDC has published a table of state-by-state estimated spending on obesity-related expenses. On the low side was Wyoming’s $87 million to California’s high of $7.6 billion. To see how your state fares, click here.

>> The October issue of Consumer Reports has rated pedometers, as well as written about how they work, how they’re worn, and the pros, cons and prices. Top rating went to Omron’s Healthcare HJ-112 ($35), while second-place unit and also the “CR Best Buy” winner was FreeStyle’s Tracer ($20). Third place went to New Lifestyles NL-2000. Three of the 15 devices tested were speed-and-distance products, including the Nike SDM Tailwind in first place, then the Timex Ironman and the Garmin Forerunner. All are more for runners (although CR said they are also for hikers. The problem is, as GPS power devices, trees and forest can block the satellite connection and give inaccurate or incomplete reads). SNEWS® View: Interesting was how the ratings from No. 1 to No. 12 were pretty different. In some CR reviews, there is such a minor difference, as a reader you often wonder what’s the point. Omron’s came in as “excellent,” while second place already dropped to “very good,” with the bottom two units coming in as “poor.” We’re not convinced this was all apples-to-apples since the Omron device retails for $35, while the lower-ranked ones are only $12 to $15. Oh, and CR said it took a total of 61,000 steps to rate the 15 devices (pedometers and GPS ones) in its report. It makes that sound grand, but that’s only about 4,000 steps per unit, which is only about two miles or so. Not a lot really to get a true feeling for a pedometer’s workings. Overall, I’d say we are not convinced.

>> Russell Corp. has named Robert Koney chief financial officer responsible for all corporate financial areas and investor relations. Koney joins the company from Goodrich Corp. and will start Sept. 15.

>> The New England sporting goods market is about to get more crowded than seems logical. Modell’s (www.modells.com), a sporting goods chain that operates 110 stores in the mid-Atlantic region, is looking to open three stores in the Boston area, locals told SNEWS® as evidenced by advertising for store employees recently. Rumor also has it the retailer is exploring other store openings for 2005 in the north-Boston area and perhaps New Hampshire. Modell’s does sell fitness equipment from brands, such as Star Trac, ProForm, Reebok, Bosu, Fitness Quest, Bowflex, Universal, Cap, Spri, Exertools,
Polar and more.

>> GERMANYThe Munich, Germany-based, sporting goods trade show ispo warns that the so-called “Fair Guide” has nothing to do with ispo or its management group despite mailings that seem to indicate a relationship. ispo points out that this offering isn’t free at all, but actually will be close to 1,000 Euro a year. “The Fair Guide is in no way a service of ispo,” said an ispo spokesperson. SNEWS® View: We have been receiving mailings from Fair Guide ourselves and actually contacted ispo to find out what it was about since a link seem to be inferred.

>> We really don’t mean to poke fun at, well, death. But we couldn’t resist chuckling at this headline on a recent press release from Harvard Men’s Health Watch: “Can Sudden Cardiac Death be Treated? Harvard Men’s Health Watch Explains.” OK, now, we had to read this article…. Man, they are good if they can treat death! Says the press release about cardiac death, “The good news is that sudden cardiac death doesn’t have to be fatal.” Now that you’ve gotten up off the floor from your laughing fit and shrugged off the stares from your office mates, realized the nice folks at the Health Watch really mean the RISK can be identified and treated. They aren’t so almighty that they can treat death.