Fitness: Did you hear?…

Horizon hires sporting goods rep firm, online retailers making customers happier this year, Johnson Health Tech opens its global R&D center, All About Fitness heads to Las Vegas for its 12th store, Is your dog fat?... and much more…

>> Horizon Fitness has announced that Robert Brooks Associates, a rep firm for sporting goods manufacturers, has signed on to represent Horizon’s products. Robert Brooks Associates also reps for Knight Golf, Ebonite Bowling Equipment, Bell Sports, and Roller Derby Skates. The company manages the distribution of goods to major sporting good retailers including The Sports Authority, Dicks, Modell’s, and Academy. Horizon Fitness is owned by Johnson Health Tech, currently the fifth-largest fitness equipment manufacturer in the world.

>> Online retailers have found themselves with increased sales and high levels of customer satisfaction, according to the findings of a new survey. The third installment of the 2003 eHoliday Mood Study found that a majority of retailers’ average daily transactions and site traffic during the first two weeks of December have increased compared to the same two-week period last year. For the holiday season so far, nearly half of retailers (49 percent) have seen holiday sales increase more than 35 percent over last year. And it’s going more smoothly than in pat years: According to the survey, 88 percent of consumers are somewhat or very satisfied with their online buying experience this holiday. Online retailers have also been successful providing online tools that help shoppers select gifts this holiday. Thirty-five percent of retailers said that gift idea centers were their most successful site feature and another 29 percent cited “suggested items” as their most successful shopping tool. But product promotions were still the biggest draw, with 39 percent of retailers choosing it as their best feature. The eHoliday Mood Study is based on data provided directly from online retailers, in addition to consumer data. This installment represents the two-week buying period between Nov. 30 and Dec. 13 and includes data from more than 80 leading Internet and multi-channel retailers.

>> Specialty retailer All About Fitness has grown. Earlier this month – just in time for the busy season — the Colorado-based stores opened a storefront in Las Vegas, Nev., its first in that state and its 12th overall. “It’s a new market for us,” owner Chip Hunnings told SNEWS. “It certainly works for us geographically” since it’s only 1 ½ hours from the Denver-area home base. Hunnings also called it a “growing market” that could support additional growth by his store. The new outlet is 5,500 square feet with 4,500 square feet being showroom, which fits in the middle of its current size range of 2,300 to 12,000 square feet. All About Fitness stores are in Colorado, Arizona, Kansas…and now Nevada. It carries Pacemaster, Vision, Octane, Landice, Hoist, Body-Solid, Vectra, and PowerBlock. In the area? Drop in: 7685 Commercial Way, Suite F, Henderson, Nev. SNEWS View: Nevada in general and Las Vegas in particular are indeed growing markets. We get the sense that Hunnings has more stores up his sleeve, but he’s smartly conservative since he’s only averaged about one a year since the first one opened in 1991.

>> A poll by USA Today of economists finds a consensus that the U.S. economy next year will grow at its fastest pace since the ’90s boom, and that unemployment will fall. In their most optimistic end-of-the-year outlook in years, the economists expect the stock market to continue to rise. And business spending, a key economic element, is expected to rebound strongly after being largely absent. “After a number of false starts over the last couple of years, I think it’s pretty clear that now most, if not all, of the sectors of the economy are firing on all cylinders,” said FleetBoston Financial chief economist Wayne Ayers. Said Larry Chimerine, president of Radnor International Consulting: “Almost everything is pointing in the right direction.” Sixty economists were surveyed Dec. 11-17. Read the full story by clicking here.

>> The new Johnson Health Tech global R&D center in Madison, Wis., is now up and running, Tom Moran, director of the center and vice president of engineering for Johnson Health Tech North America, told SNEWS last week. “We just moved in and are sorting out all the details,” he said. “It turned out great.” The center is only a few minutes outside of Madison in a newly built-out building. In the last couple of months, Moran has also hired additional engineers. They include Clint Myers, formerly of Icon, who will head up the Horizon Fitness team based at the global center. John Roach will manage the prototype shop that will work for all three companies on-site. Roach comes from outside the fitness industry – way outside: He was most recently with Harley Davidson where he was responsible for in-house maintenance of the H-D Archives Motorcycle collection. Also hired was Mrako Fenster as the center’s in-house industrial design manager and who will lead the New Technology group. He was formerly with Omnimount where he developed new furniture design concepts. Previously hired were Ron Carringi, who will be the engineering manager for the Matrix group and comes from Life Fitness; and John Roessler, who will be the engineering manager for the Vision group and comes from Burdick, a division of Quinton. Moran said he expects each manager will have a full engineering and design team in place by March. The global design center – conceived as a think tank — will house teams from Matrix, Vision, Horizon and their parent Johnson Health Tech in a first-of-its-kind attempt to bring together the best of both overseas manufacturing and U.S. design in a way that improves communication and speed-to-market.

>> Once again, a large (no pun intended) number of Americans are looking to include health and fitness into their lives in the New Year. Many Americans are preparing to live healthier, with 31 percent vowing to exercise more and almost 20 percent anticipating eating healthy foods, according to a survey conducted on behalf of Scripps Networks, the owner of HGTV and Food Network, among others. Another priority for the new year — focusing on family and friends, according to 30 percent of the respondents. Some people have big dreams for the year ahead. When asked, “If your wildest dream came true, what would it be?” 38 percent said they would like to win a sweepstakes, and 24 percent said they wished for their ultimate dream home. Surprisingly, these choices ranked ahead of becoming a millionaire (2 percent), having good health (1 percent!!) and achieving world peace (less than 1 percent). “For the vast majority of people, their home is their most important and emotionally fraught possession,” explained David Bersoff, chief research scientist for Yankelovich Inc. “The home still is the centerpiece of the American dream, and these days, it also is the center of activity and togetherness. In this context, it is easy to understand why a home figures into the wildest dreams of one quarter of Americans.” The survey was conducted by consumer research firm ICR during the first week of December. Results are based on a random sample of 721 adults, age 18 and older, in a nationwide omnibus telephone survey. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

>> Nike Inc. has reported second quarter earnings that made the company smile – earnings per share were up 16 percent, while revenues for the quarter increased 13 percent to $2.8 billion. In addition, gross margins went up to 42.3 percent, and worldwide futures orders increased 9.7 percent. “It was a great quarter,” Philip H. Knight, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “These positive results span most of Nike’s portfolio of businesses and categories. They reflect our management’s ability to lead in innovative product, communication, and operational performance.” By region, futures orders for the USA were up one percent; Europe increased 16 percent; Asia Pacific grew 18 percent; and the Americas increased 11 percent. In Europe, eight points of the increase were due to changes in currency exchange rates. Currency exchange rate movements contributed approximately four points and seven points, respectively, to futures growth in the Asia Pacific and Americas regions. In the United States, footwear increased 5 percent, apparel 8 percent, but equipment was down 6 percent. However, equipment revenues increased by 4 percent in Europe, and 11 percent in Asia Pacific.

>> GERMANY — adidas has opened another company Originals store, this one in Munich, Germany, in a prime shopping area on the Hohenzollern street. Adidas now has Originals stores in, for example, Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Milan and Miami.

>> Are you an autograph hound? Make the rounds at The Super Show. Expected to attend in one booth or another are: Bill Russell (NBA great), Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs), Jeff Kent (Houston Astros), Luis Gonzales (Arizona Diamondbacks), Luis Castillo (Florida Marlins), Eric Chavez (Oakland As), Javier Lopez (Atlanta Braves), Sam Jones (ex-Boston Celtic), Bob Feller (baseball Hall of Famer), Hal Greer (former NBA guard), Clem Labine (ex-Brooklyn Dodger), Paul Hornung (football Hall of Famer), Willie Wood (ex-Green Bay Packer), Jerry Kramer (ex-Green Bay Packer), Phil and Tony Esposito (ex-NHL stars), Izell Reese (Buffalo Bills), Takeo Spikes (Buffalo Bills), Ron Warner (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Derek Jeter (baseball), Cliff Bonamie (artist), Steve Young (needs no title we guess since the release came without one), John Abdo (Olympic fitness trainer), Chris Richard (Colorado Rockies), Ben Witer (NCAA All-American and Long Drive Champion), Jim LeFebvre (former baseball player), NBA Orlando Magic dancers, Sugar Ray Leonard (six-time world champion), Dominick Guinn (heavyweight), Cory Everson (former Miss Olympia), and Tony Little (fitness). SNEWS View: Not sure if Tony Little belongs in the same league as Steve Young or Paul Hornung.

>> GERMANY — Reebok will increase its showing at the ispo sporting goods trade show in Munich, Germany, for the winter show in February 2004 after returning to the show just last summer. The company will double its booth size, with a focus on running, walking, and fitness. Reebok Germany is putting more of an emphasis on lifestyle activities, said CEO Hans-Hermann Deters.

>> Is your dog fat? Is your cat rolly-polly? That’s just another indication of the times, according to pet insurance company Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, Calif., which has more than 350,000 policy holders (Now that’s another story….). The company says that some estimates show anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of pets may be obese today, compared to only 15 percent or less about a decade ago. In addition, it says insurance claims for cardiac arrests for pets have increased 47 percent in the last two years, while claims for other obesity-related illnesses have also been steadily increasing. So, aside from the fact that of course SNEWS is terribly, terribly concerned about Fluffy, think about it: Fluffy can’t dig into a bag of chips at night, snarf a pint of Haagen-Daz, or operate a can-opener by itself. It is a victim of the hand that feeds it. So what does this say about us? You got it. That we’re fat too. Dogs of overweight owners are nearly three times more likely to be overweight themselves, according to a 1998 study by a German research group. You betcha that’s higher now. Pets just don’t get exercised by couch-potato owners, who also humanize their pets by giving it extra snacks and human food – all of which is just as bad for Rover as it is for its Master. SNEWS View: We think the take-away here is that a master-pet exercise program could be a way to go for some folks. Share the exercise so your dear Fluffy and Rover don’t become a statistic.