Health & Fitness Business Show '06: Vibration, swings, spa stuff and the Hula Hula Chair

In the past few weeks, we've covered the meat of the show from cardio and strength equipment to accessories and education. But there are always a few other trends or equipment offerings that don't quite fit in those traditional categories. To that end, this story is about the "other stuff" that was found in the corners of various booths at the Health & Fitness Business Show, Aug. 3-5, in Denver.

In the past few weeks, we’ve covered the meat of the show from cardio and strength equipment to accessories and education. But there are always a few other trends or equipment offerings that don’t quite fit in those traditional categories. To that end, this story is about the “other stuff” that was found in the corners of various booths at the Health & Fitness Business Show, Aug. 3-5, in Denver.

What wasn’t to miss was the sudden emergence at the retail level of vibration training equipment. Last year, there was as good as none; this year, there were four pieces, and we may have missed a couple. If you are considering jumping on this trend from the supplier or retail side, please take a moment to read our in-depth article on the pros, cons and history of this training mode in our Summer Fitness 2006 magazine. (Click here to see that.) Although vibration is being offered for training, it’s not all roses and advantages, so read our take for food for thought.

In another slowly developing trend that had nothing to do with product specs, we found the tipping point has been reached on marketing images. We suddenly noticed what seems like a majority of exhibitors now departing from marketing graphics that feature muscle-bound men and cute babes with towels draped demurely around their necks. In fact, we saw more demographic mixes, including seniors, in images on the booths, as well as images of general activity that was outside the gym. The message we applaud is “we know this is our customer too,” as well as “we know many people don’t workout just to go to the gym but to do other things too.” We believe that to move into the modern day, more of this thinking has to exist, and we’re glad to see the majority are now headed that way.

In other equipment on the floor, we saw pools, spas, Jacuzzis, steam rooms, apparel and porch swings, as well as something called the Hula Hula Chair, but we’ll get to that fun later. There was also a treadmill in the Taiwan Pavilion by Elec-Tech that had an oxygen delivery system to allegedly beef up your workout. We didn’t get a chance to try it, but if oxygen bars and oxygenated water can sell, why can’t oxygen treadmills? People will put their hard-earned money down for anything, it seems. Like the Hula Hula Chair. But more on that later.

We saw a lot of people checking out the porch and deck swings by Sunset Swings, another by Ted Habing who does Inspire home gyms too. The spas and Jacuzzis by Keys Fitness also drew a lot of attention. Both types of businesses — summer outdoor and general recreation — seem as if they would be great off-season sellers for specialty fitness stores. We in fact know of many that have taken advantage of these segments to add some oomph to summer.

(With this report, we are concluding five weeks of show coverage that began Aug. 7, so don’t miss any of the reports, from general attendee information to education reviews to category reports. As always, SNEWS® gives you the best, most accurate and detailed show coverage anywhere.)

Let’s take a look more specifically at a few highlights:

Vibration training – Keys, ProSpot and Spirit fitness all put vibration trainers on the floor for prices that were more in line with home product as compared to the pricier club versions for many thousands. Keys’ Ironman-branded Resolution model, for example, has a frequency of 35 hertz with a list price of $2,000. ProSpot, which also made its entry to cardio this year in a big line expansion, introduced a model called the Quake, with a retail of $2,600. Spirit’s two WBV models (standing, of course, for “whole body vibration”) are expected to be available by the first of 2007 and are the least pricy of the lot, with one slated to cost about $700 and another just under $1,000.

The oddball in the lineup was a so-called “Shaking Treadmill” by Sing Lin from Taiwan. An eye-catcher at the show because of the cute model in hot pants and a crop top jiggling on it for three full days, it’s not being distributed in the United States (yet, which is why we presume it was at the show) and the company therefore had no retail established. Basically, you can jiggle as you walk up to 3.2 mph (frequency up to 16 hertz) and after that pace it’s a regular treadmill. You can also just turn off the belt and stand or lie down and jiggle if that moves your fancy. Click here for the website, which is worth a look even just for entertainment value (don’t miss the photos).

Spas and pools – Of course, Keys Fitness had its saunas there with the same lineup as last year, although the spa division under its Backyard division (which it acquired from Icon earlier this year) was nowhere to be seen and seems to have different distribution channels. In a different area, SNEWS® was amused to watch a number of retailers and interested exhibitors clambering in and out of the Beachcomber hot tubs on display at the show for the first time this year — although there was no water in them. The point, we were told by company representative Jeff Welters, was to prove that the company’s hot tubs were simply the most comfortable hot tubs in the world to sit in. “If you can sit in them while they don’t have water in them, and be completely comfortable, imagine how comfortable they are to sit in when full of hot water,” Welters said. So, we climbed aboard too and have to admit they were darn comfy. Welters also told us that the Canadian-based company was looking to expand its presence here in the United States and felt that targeting the fitness side of the business was ideal because of the health benefits the company spas offered. “I owned a fitness store before joining this company, and I see selling fitness equipment and selling spas as one and the same — it is about wellness and health,” said Welters, who also told us that dealer response at the show was fantastic (what else would he say) and that the show would help the company to build on its existing, though small, fitness dealer base already selling spas in the United States.

Also on the floor was something called iPool by FitMax, which stands for “infinity pool.” That’s because it is like an above ground pool but has a tether and harness rig so you can swim in a small pool but not go anywhere, making swimming laps (or the simulation of that) more reachable — like a treadmill for swimming as the supplier states. The pool retails for $800, is about 2 meters by 3 meters, and has a filter system without chlorine.

Swings – A huge hit at last year’s show, Inspire Fitness’ home gyms and Sunset Swings, both divisions of Health In Motion LLC, shared floor space at Health & Fitness Biz, and by the looks of all the buzz (or was that snoring?) around the Sunset Swings side of the booth, patio swings are more than just a passing fancy for many retailers in the fitness industry. Teb Habing, co-owner of Health In Motion, told SNEWS® that the swing biz is doing very well in fitness specialty stores as dealers discover swings help bridge the sales gap between slow and strong seasons. We took a ride on the new 460 patio set swing along with several dealers, and immediately had to admit a sudden desire to play hooky from the rest of the day and place an order for Mint Juleps. The beauty is not only great looks but a sturdy build based on Habing’s experience with home gym construction.

Apparel – Nautilus showed its new apparel collection, part of what its acquisition of Pearl Izumi from June 2005 is doing with the company. It is pegged for indoor workouts, which by definition are shorter than outdoor biking and running in most cases, and therefore the introduction of the clothing line seems to be quite basic, with less emphasis in the biking wear on things like finished seams. The line is small and targeted for rather broad use in clubs, although there are a couple of bike-specific pieces. The company is targeting “influencers,” such as instructors, as well as health clubs and sporting goods. “We want that fitness diva in a Nautilus shirt,” said John Rauvola, vice president for business development for Pearl Izumi.

Hula Hula Chair – Honestly, we must say we were a bit giggly-giddy when we finally made it back to this item in the Taiwan Pavilion at 2 p.m. when the show closed on Saturday. But SNEWS® editor Therese Iknoian had heard enough about it that she had to give it a whirl … pun intended. With a couple of other SNEWS® editors in attendance, she plunked herself down on what was about the height and size of a kid’s baby chair or a low lawn chair. A lime green seat and back completed the picture. Then the man turned on the chair. YIKES!!! The round seat gyrated in circles and everyone broke out in peels of giggles. If you lifted your feet off the floor, it tried to turn you in circles as you did your hula dance. Although he couldn’t speak much English, we discovered we could get a container full for quite a deal. No single prices available. But we politely declined since SNEWS® didn’t intend to buy a container of Hula Hula chairs.

If your product or company wasn’t mentioned here, that’s either because it didn’t strike our team as new or different, or perhaps we were totally brain-dead and missed it (unlikely, but possible!). Remember, we started reports out of the show on Aug. 7 and, with this, have concluded our round of news straight from our team on the floor of this year’s Health & Fitness Business Show.