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Fitness: Did you hear?…

Interbike expo showcases 32 fitness companies, Trixter wins prize for most media exposure, TKO Holdings acquires Linex International, Precor Icarian plans move to new production facility, plus much more...

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For the week of Oct. 5-11

>> The Interbike show continues to grow in popularity for fitness-related products and equipment. If you click on “fitness equipment” among exhibitors at, you come up with 32 companies of nearly 800 there, but that still includes some names we all know. And some we may hear more about in the future. Some of those companies are heart rate monitors, water bottles or nutritional supplements and not necessarily equipment. This year, booths from fitness companies included the likes of Nautilus, Cycleops (Graber and Saris), Ironman (represented in another booth), True Fitness, Lamar Health, SportsArt (a first-timer), among others. Most stuck to small 10-by-10s or perhaps a 20-by-20. Past exhibitors that were no-shows this year included Spirit Fitness, Horizon Fitness and Universal. Bob Lochner of Universal said the company may still return but had bowed out this year since most of those on-hand are selling cardio equipment rather than strength. Other companies have cycling heritages and are making more or continued plays into fitness, such as Eastern Bikes (with the EB Fitness indoor cycles), or Raleigh, Trixter or Lemond Fitness. Most fitness companies that do attend tell us (see SNEWS® story, Oct. 9, 2003: “Fitness suppliers pick up the pace at Interbike show”) that finding the right independent bike dealer in smaller markets can help make sales in areas the company is not yet represented — and help the bike dealer in its winter off-season. SNEWS® View: We fully expect Interbike to gather more fitness-oriented products and equipment in the future.

>> The October Men’s Health issue highlighted four pieces of exercise equipment as a part of its FitTips feature. The Trixter X-Bike was described as the way “to kill that rat-in-a-wheel feeling” with its moving handlebars. The “Motion Control” feature of the Smooth Fitness Evo2 Treadmill was called out as a way to make sure you don’t end up “in a breathless sprint for the brakes” since you can change speed with a wave of the hand. The Concept2 Rower still wins kudos as “the one piece of cardio equipment” some trainers would choose. And the SportsArt 807 elliptical was applauded for its “on-the-fly adjustment of up to 9 inches” in stride length.

>> Trixter was on a roll (oh, that’s so bad…) when it came to media exposure this month. CBS’s EXTRA Show featured the X-Bike at Encore Fitness in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Fitness Magazine also showed the Trixter X-Bike in its October “Fit Forecast” section. And Health magazine picked up the Matrix Fitness X-Bike (by Trixter) in its “What’s New” section.

>> Others that got play in the same Health magazine “What’s New” section in October: efi Sports Medicine’s GTS system for strength workouts and Cybex’s total body Arc Trainer.

>> GERMANYIn September, sporting goods retailers in Germany finally had reason to celebrate after downward trends for months. Sales were 6.2 percent more than a year ago, according to a monthly questionnaire done by the country’s trade journals sport+mode. Still, so far this year, sales are down 1.1 percent compared to last year.

>> TKO Holdings Ltd. (Pink Sheets: TKHL) has acquired all of the outstanding shares of Linex International Corp. TKO said the acquisition will enable it “to capitalize on the synergies between the fitness and boxing markets, capturing a broader client base with an expanded product line in a multi-billion-dollar industry.” Massachusetts-based Linex will move operations to TKO’s expanded facilities in Houston, Texas, where its cardiovascular and strength training equipment will be distributed under the names “TKO” and “Linex by TKO.” Those names should help leverage the brand awareness already enjoyed by TKO for fitness accessories and boxing. The product line includes exercise bikes, elliptical trainers, weights and weight benches.

>> Just to verify how worthwhile the Health & Fitness Business show can be, SportsArt America tells SNEWS® that it gained more than 150 storefronts based on contacts it made at the show. That makes it “our most successful Denver show ever. We strongly value the opportunity to meet with our key dealers and prospects in this venue,” said Scott Logan, marketing director.

>> Stott Pilates co-founders Lindsay Merrithew and Moira Merrithew were finalists in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Canada. Said Lindsay, “Moira and I share this honor with the thousands of loyal instructors, clients and employees who have contributed so much to make Stott Pilates a recognized and respected exercise approach and company worldwide.”

>> In order to keep up with the rising demand that has outpaced production, Precor Icarian is moving to a new production facility that is more than double the size of the previous location this month. The new facility, in Valencia, Calif., is100,000 square feet and replaces a Burbank location where the Icarian strength line had been produced for more than 10 years. Precor bought Icarian in January 2004, and since then employee numbers have grown from 95 to 150 production workers. By early 2005, Precor expects to have more than200 employees at the Valencia facility. “Over the years, Precor has established a high set of expectations,” Paul Byrne, president of Precor, said in a statement. “We’re near those expectations in terms of Precor Icarian quality, but we’re not meeting Precor standards in terms of time from order to delivery.” The new Valencia facility will have improved welding, painting, packaging and loading systems, along with a lab for product development.

>> New Balance is extending its shoe and apparel sponsorship with the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon through 2007. A sponsor since 1997, New Balance provides official merchandise, outfits volunteer staff and coordinates regional retail promotions and advertising activities. Also, its marketing team is on site during race weekend and Team New Balance athletes compete and participate in pre-race activities.

>> IHRSA has named Herman Rutgers to the newly created position of director-Europe as of Oct. 1. Based in the Netherlands, Rutgers will develop new and maintain existing relationships with leading club companies, suppliers, and national industry associations. Rutgers’ varied professional experience includes a recent stint with Life Fitness/Brunswick, where he held senior management positions in both Europe and the United States. His expertise will be put to use at next week’s IHRSA fourth annual European Congress Oct. 20-23 at the Estrel Hotel & Convention Center in Berlin, Germany. The European Congress is an executive-level networking and business event, designed to attract attendees interested in opportunities and trends shaping the European health club industry. Keynote speakers for the Congress include: Lothar Spath, Ph.D., chairman of Jenoptik AG; Hamish McRae, futurist; Peter Kopelman, European Association for the Study of Obesity; and Andree Deane, Added Value PR, speaking on “The Health & Fitness Industry’s Contribution to European Public Policy.”

>> When the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently asked website visitors, “What keeps you from going to the gym?”, 46 percent of the 1,500 respondents said they don’t go to the gym because it’s too crowded. Another 21 percent said they don’t know what they’re doing; 19 percent said they feel they’ll be the only one who isn’t “buff” or already in shape; 11 percent cited rude gym etiquette (i.e., not wiping off a machine after a cardio workout); and 3 percent admitted they are afraid to ask questions. In response to the results, one fitness professional said the responses are indicative of two things: how the fitness industry has historically focused on just increasing the number of memberships sold and how many people will often overstate the importance of an obstacle to their doing something they may not want to do anyway. Jonathan Ross of Aion Fitness and an ACE certified trainer added, “In general, I think the industry needs to see these results as an opportunity to make health clubs more comfortable and appealing to those who traditionally have shied away from them. This will be absolutely necessary if the industry is to meet the ambitious goal that IHRSA set of 100 million U.S. health club members by 2010 (39.4 million as of January 2004). The people most likely to sign up have already done so by now. The industry needs to focus on attracting people that are traditionally turned of by health clubs and the responses to this survey should give us a road map on how to achieve that objective.”

>> James Campbell recently joined Cybex International in the newly created position as Asia Pacific regional sales director. With more than 30 years experience in the fitness industry, Campbell has spent the last three years planning, building and managing a leading chain of health clubs in China, Taiwan and the Philippines. At Cybex, he will work with John Young, the vice president of international sales, to develop long-term relationships with customers, distributors and industry and education professionals. He will be based in the Manila, Philippines, office.

>> Universal Gym Equipment has announced what the industry already knows: That the company has entered into a license agreement with newly formed Lamar Health, Fitness and Sports of Boulder, Colo. The agreement took effect Aug. 19. The announcement was intended to reinforce that the license is only for cardio products; strength and weight training equipment will continue to be marketed through the existing Universal Gym Equipment company, a division of FF Acquisition Corp.

>> Attendance at the fifth annual IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Conference & Trade Show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, increased by 32 percent over the previous year. The show occupied 12,000 square meters and had 120 exhibiting companies, as well as 26 educational seminars focusing on marketing, sales, retention and human resources. The number of exhibitors also increased by 22 percent over 2003. Next year’s show will be Sept. 8-10, 2005.

>> USA Women’s National Wrestling Team members Patricia Miranda and Toccara Montgomery recently demonstrated a new maneuver at the New York Stock Exchange — they rang the bell to start the day’s trading. Earlier that morning, the two athletes, along with Body Bar Systems Chairman and Founder Arno Niemand, Body Bar’s President Sherry Catlin and three Olympic team coaches, listened to presentations from top women business executives during a breakfast program called “Up the Glass Ceiling,” which celebrated the first Olympic women’s wrestling team. Body Bar Systems is the manufacturer of the Original Body Bar, a weighted fitness bar, and the Master Your Body video series of workout programs.