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Today's news...12/7/04

DECEMBER 07, 2004 -- Athlete's Foot Mulls Chapter 11: TheDeal.com

According to TheDeal.com, The Athlete's Foot is mulling a Chapter 11 petition. The bankruptcy will get the company out of some onerous leases, it has been suggested. The petition would cover its 120 corporate stores, not the 580 franchise doors, which are doing well. A source close to the company told TheDeal.com that TAF is considering hiring UCC Capital Corp., a New York-based investment bank that specializes in providing financing for retailers, to advise it on the restructuring.

Management led by CEO Bob Corliss bought TAF from Rallye SA in January. In April, an article appeared in the New York Port questioning TAF's credit. Corliss denied the story's premise and pointed to an investment-grade bond the company raised with UCC Capital. In October, GMAC Commercial Financing provided TAF with $20 million in financing.

TAF didn't return calls to TheDeal.com, nor did Corliss return an e-mail from ISG regarding the article. Bankers told TheDeal.com there were fears on Wall Street last week that the retailer's biggest shoe suppliers were inquiring about the company's financial status. The source close to the company said TAF would use a bankruptcy filing to modify or break leases it has with mall operators, TheDeal.com said.

The retailer's predicament is somewhat puzzling since, at the time of the buyout, it announced its performance had improved and its balance sheet had been strengthened.


Vote For This Year's Trendsetter Awards

Cabela's, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Modell's and Dick's Sporting Goods head the list of nominees for the 2004 SGB Trendsetter Awards. All four stores have been nominated for the Retailer of the Year Awards, which will be presented Monday, January 17th in Orlando, the opening night of The Super Show.

For the fourth consecutive year, industry members will vote on nominees in six categories: Retailer of the Year, Retail Executive of the Year, Team Dealer of the Year, and Supplier of the Year in Apparel, Footwear and Equipment. Two other awards, The Michael S. Modell Award and the Horizon Award, presented to an innovative retailer with annual sales of less than $10 million will be selected by a special Trendsetter panel of judges. Voting is open to any industry member with a valid e-mail address. Votes can be cast by downloading a ballot from the SGB website at www.sportinggoodsbusiness.com

The nominees for retail executive of the year are: Matt Serra of Foot Locker, Ed Stack of Dick's, David Gochman of Academy and Joe Wood of Famous Footwear. Collegiate Pacific, Johnny Mac's, Universal Athletic and Port Jefferson Sporting Goods are the nominees for Team Dealer of the Year.

For the supplier awards, Taylor-Made, Schutt, Easton and Brine are the nominees for the equipment category; Asics, Nike, Deckers and Keene are the nominees in the footwear area and Under Armour, The North Face, New Era, Speedo and Quiksilver are vying for apparel honors. Under Armour has won apparel supplier of the year for three consecutive years.

The Trendsetter Awards are sponsored by Keys Fitness and Spenco Medical Products. Attendance is by invitation only. Further information on the event can be obtained by contacting Catherine Terry at 646-654-5393 or via e-mail at [email protected].


US Company Wins ispo BrandNew Overall Award

Nemo won the coveted ispo BrandNew Overall Award with its inflatable five-pound Sako tent. The Sako tent triumphed over 158 entrants from 21 countries, and became the second consecutive American product to win the Overall Award.
"This is by far the most outstanding and beautifully designed piece of outdoor equipment I've ever seen. It perfectly combines functionality and design," said BrandNew judge Robert Schroots from Riri.

Nemo was one of two American companies to win big. Jetboil captured the Hytrel Hardware Accessories category award for its lightweight outdoor cooking system. Other category winners included Yono from Japan (Invista Style Award), Pressurized from Austria (Riri Sportswear Award), Surfswing from Germany (Delrin Hardware Summer Award), Flink from Switzerland (Thermolite Accessories Award), and Alurunner from Germany (ispo Hardware Winter Award).

In the past three BrandNew competitions, a total of seven American companies have won awards for their product innovation, two overall winners and five category winners. The newest winners will be featured in the newly designed BrandNew Village at ispo winter 05, to be held February 6-9 at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre. They will be joined by more than 30 category finalists, nearly 1,700 exhibitors and more than 50,000 trade visitors from 100 countries at the world's largest sports industry trade fair, which has been sold out since October.

The two-three-person Nemo tent utilizes a low-pressure inflatable structure, rather than traditional aluminum tent poles, which allows the tent to be set up in less than a minute. A system of internal air lines connects the two air beams to permit inflation and deflation from a single point. The tent is entirely one piece and comprised of a unique water-resistant/breathable fabric that is light, environmentally friendly and allows the tent to breathe while protecting against rain. The zippers are water-resistant to minimize the need for zipper flaps.

The other ispo BrandNew winners are:

Hytrel Hardware Accessories Award: Jetboil is a very simple, lightweight but effective outdoor cooking system that greatly speeds up cooking time at all altitudes. The unit compresses and packs easily, creating added convenience for high-mountain backpacking and camping.

Invista Style Award: Yono, the first ispo BrandNew Award winner from Japan, convinced the panel with its futuristic cuts and function-based style elements in its first collection. Yono provided one of the most impressive collections in the style category since the start of the ispo BrandNew Awards in February 2000.

Riri Sportswear Award: With a new wingsuit concept, Austria's Pressurized was selected. The suit for base jumpers and parachutists provides a highly effective aerodynamic concept with air inlets in the front and special seams and rips on the backside which create a surface with a highly improved profile.

Delrin Hardware Summer Award: A new training tool for board sports enthusiasts comes from Germany. The Surfswing is fixed about 15 feet above the ground. Boarders swing freely, allowing all kinds of surf, wakeboard, snowboard and skate tricks to be performed in mid-air.

Thermolite Accessories Award: Young Swiss designer Remo Frei won with his new backpack system "Flink." The upper part is split in two and both parts are fixed by a hinge. This allows the top of the backpack to move independently from the back, providing great mobility, especially for climbers or snowboarders.

ispo Hardware Winter Award: This award went to the German Alurunner, an incredibly stylish aluminum sled, equipped with suspension and a soft transparent seating area. It is an ideal product for sled and luge riders.

Along with the winners, 33 finalists will be offered the chance to be a part of The BrandNew Pavilion that will be located in one of the trend sports halls. As an ispo BrandNewbie, companies have the advantage of being on a designated platform and gathered in a premium location.


Rocky Buys EJ Footwear Group

Rocky Shoes & Boots agreed to buy privately held EJ Footwear Group for $87.7 million in cash, plus 484,261 shares of Rocky common stock worth $10 million. Based on a successful and timely completion of the transaction, Rocky expects fiscal 2005 combined revenues to range from $280 million to $285 million and combined EPS to range from $2.35 to $2.45. EJ Footwear Group consists of three subsidiaries, EJ Footwear LLC, Georgia Boot LLC, and HM Lehigh Safety Shoe Co. LLC, all of which are owned by Strategic Industries LLC. The company's products are sold under owned brands, including Georgia Boot, Durango and Lehigh, and licensed brands, including Dickies and John Deere.


Candies Inks Exclusive Deal With Kohl's

Kohl's plan to introduce Candie's into its junior and girls departments beginning in the fall 2005 in all stores and on Kohls.com. The Candie's brand is being licensed to Kohl's. It will be the exclusive provider in the US of all Candie's apparel, such as sportswear, accessories, and intimate apparel. Candie's footwear, which is designed, manufactured and distributed by Steven Madden Ltd., will be introduced at Kohl's as part of the launch. Both Candie's footwear and handbags will continue to be distributed through a variety of specialty and department stores through the end of 2006. Beginning January 2007, the Candie's brand in its entirety will be available exclusively at Kohl's.


Malden Mills was in talks with some 700 workers who are threatening a strike. The union vote on the proposed contract from management was voted down 231-198. The "best and final" offer promised higher pay, but would boost the premiums the employees pay for their health insurance.


Canaccord Capital maintained a sell rating on Forzani Group. The target price is set to C$10.00.


Balle de Mätch has been named a preferred vendor for 2005 by ClubCorp. Founded in 1957, ClubCorp, Dallas, owns or operates nearly 200 golf courses, country clubs, private business and sports clubs, and resorts.


Adidas-Salomon AG will sell the remaining shares of Erima Sportbekleidungs GmbH to managing director Wolfram Mannherz in a management buy-out. Based in Pfullingen, Erima is a supplier of teamwear products. Both parties have agreed to maintain confidentiality with respect to the financial terms of the transaction. Wolfram Mannherz, who has been managing Erima since 1998, bought the other 49% of shares in 2000.


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