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Today's news...3/18/05

MARCH 18, 2005 -- Adidas Launches $250 Computerized Running Shoe

Adidas on Friday began selling the first model of its so-called intelligent footwear, a running shoe known simply as the "1" that's built around an onboard microprocessor. Retailing for $250, the white and gold shoes claim the ability to automatically adjust themselves to respond to a wearer's changing demands for more or less cushioning around the feet.

According to Adidas, the 1 sneakers use a sensor and magnet to feed information to the microprocessor, indicating whether a runner's cushioning level is too soft or too firm. The processor then actuates a motor-driven cable system built into the arch of the shoe that changes the amount of padding applied to a person's foot. Adidas said that changes in the cushioning are made gradually, so that all a runner is supposed to notice is that the shoes fit snugly.

The company contends that the 1 shoes' adaptive design - which was a guarded secret at Adidas over the three years the product was being developed - -closely mirrors the operation of human reflex nerves, adjusting to respond to changes in weight or pressure.

Inside the shoe, the sensor sits below a runner's heel, while the magnet is attached at the bottom of the mid-sole. On impact, the sensor measures the distance from the top to the bottom of the mid-sole, and records the amount of compression being applied to the sneaker. Once that reading is sent to the processor, the shoe's brain automatically adjusts the padding where necessary.

Adidas claims that the overall system collects roughly 1,000 measurements per second, and said the processor is capable of making 5 million calculations per second. The company also said that software written specifically for use in the sneakers compares the compression readings received from the sensor to a preset range of settings to determine if the shoe is too soft or too firm.

The sneakers require a small, replaceable battery, which Adidas said lasts for roughly 100 hours of running, or what it expects to be the normal life for a pair of its shoes.

The "1" is believe to be the most expensive running shoe on the market. The New York Times said the current price leader in running shoes.is the New Balance 2001, which sells for $200.
The most expensive Nike running and basketball shoes top out in the $170 range, the New York Times claims.

Record Registering Pace For NSGA Team Dealer Summit

With two months remaining before the 41st Annual NSGA Management Conference & 7th Annual Team Dealer Summit, registrations continue to arrive at a record pace. As of March 17, nearly 390 persons had registered.

The Conference/Summit will be held May 22-25 at the brand new JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz. It is sponsored by ADT Security Services, Inc. and endorsed by 15 industry organizations. Last year, the Conference/Summit – which is capped at 400 attendees – was sold out, and several company executives who were on the waiting list unfortunately were shut out. The same 400-person cap exists for this year’s event.

Wilson Racquet Expands Call Center Hours

Wilson Racquet Sports is expanding their customer service call center to now include Saturdays and expanded weekday hours for the upcoming spring & summer seasons, which generally marks the peak of tennis participation throughout the United States. Starting April 2, Wilson accounts can now call the customer service line on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, CST. Weekday hours will be expanded to 8:00am to 6:00 pm

"Wilson is continually focused on leading the industry in product innovation, sales and service, with our addition of Saturday customer service hours being one way to show our commitment to this focus," said Rick Kerpsack, Vice President for Wilson. "Our expanded customer service hours during the weekdays of the peak spring and summer seasons will also ensure that we are more accessible for our customers in the different time zones throughout the United States."

Wilson Racquet Sports noted that it was ranked #1 in customer service and support in 2004 amongst all racquet brands - as reported in the late season 2004 Dealer Survey, conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys USA. This survey also ranked Wilson #1 in the industry in sales reps, product deliveries, product innovation, product playability, and advertising & promotion.

Nautilus Teams Up With 24 Hour Fitness On Cardio Machines

24 Hour Fitness, the fitness chain, and Nautilus, Inc. will partner to launch Nautilus Commercial Series TreadClimber machines.

The partnership includes installing 500 Nautilus TreadClimber cardio machines in about 100 24 Hour Fitness facilities. The introduction will be supported by an integrated marketing program, including advertising, in-club promotion and training. The initial installation will occur by July 2005 with marketing and promotion activities continuing through the third quarter. The program may be expanded to other locations later in the year,

The statement said hte new style of cardiovascular exercise delivers twice the calorie burn compared to a treadmill, through a natural, low-impact movement that combines walking and stairstepping into one machine.

The TreadClimber product concept was introduced for home use in mid-2003 and became one of the fastest-emerging new fitness products in history with more than $70 million in net sales in the first 18 months.

"This is one of the most significant innovations in the history of the fitness industry, and we're delighted to launch this product to help attract more people to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle," said Mark Mastrov, chairman and CEO of 24-Hour Fitness, which has more than 340 fitness locations. "Further, this is the first time in my memory that a fitness manufacturer has stepped up to provide us with marketing that supports our current members and drives new members to our facilities. We believe this new TreadClimber exercise experience will appeal to a broad range of people who want a great cardio workout in a short amount of time."

"Because 24-Hour Fitness is our largest single commercial customer, we approached them first about partnering with us to take our TreadClimber cardio machine to the commercial fitness marketplace," said Gregg Hammann, chairman and CEO of Nautilus, Inc., which manufactures and markets four leading brands of fitness products. "Our strategic approach is to build strong partnerships that grow the overall fitness category. Following this strategy, we will support the 24 Hour Fitness installation with educational and outreach activities that showcase this new style of exercise to 24 Hour Fitness members, prospective members and guests. This is the kind of innovation and partnership that will attract more people to a lifelong pattern of fitness and health."

Mountainsmith's Novak Joins Kelty

Kelty said Peter Novak as their new director of sales.

Previously, Novak was the vice-president of sales for Mountainsmith. While at Mountainsmith, he was responsible for the creation and implementation of sales strategies in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Japan, and Asia. Prior to Mountainsmith, Novak oversaw the 5.11 Tactical Series by Royal Robbins, as their national sales and marketing manager. For the 5.11 Tactical Series, Novak was the primary agent in bringing the new product line to market.

Novak will become the primary sales strategist for one of the leading brands in the outdoor world.

"Peter*s deep experience in the backpacking market as well as the outdoor lifestyle market made him an ideal fit for the position," said Kenny Ballard, president of Kelty. "We*re pleased to have him on board with the Kelty family."

Novak is scheduled to begin at Kelty on April 1.

NYLIM Retirement Plan Services To Handle K2's 401K Plans

NYLIM Retirement Plan Services, a division of New York Life Investment Management LLC (NYLIM), announced that it has been appointed by K2 Inc. to manage the sports
equipment maker's $48 million, 2200-participant defined contribution plan.

Under this arrangement, NYLIM Retirement Plan Services will now provide K2 with recordkeeping, participant communications, investment management services, trust and investment consulting for its 401(k) plan.

"We chose NYLIM because we like their open architecture and the fact that they can customize communications to our plan participants," said Robert Moynan, director of corporate human resources at K2 Inc. "We were also very impressed that they have a background in ERISA consulting. This will be beneficial to us in fulfilling our fiduciary duties to the plan. The great culture fit between our two companies also counts for a lot."

Colin Montgomerie to Endorse ECCO Golf Shoes

ECCO, the Danish footwear maker, announces that it has signed international golf star and seven-time Ryder Cup participant, Colin Montgomerie, to endorse ECCO golf shoes. Under terms of the multi-year agreement, Montgomerie, 41, will wear ECCO golf shoes exclusively during all his on-course activities, display the ECCO logo on the sleeve of his golf shirt and appear at ECCO promotional functions.

In addition to Montgomerie, ECCO endorsers include Aaron Baddeley (PGA Tour), Juli Inkster (LPGA Tour), Thomas Bjorn (European PGA Tour) and Thongchai Jaidee (Asian PGA Tour). More than 100 PGA, Champions and LPGA Tour players regularly wear ECCO golf shoes.

"Colin Montgomerie is synonymous with professional golf in his native Scotland and throughout Europe and will further the ECCO brand," says Per Aagren, GM of ECCO's golf division. "Regarding Colin's feet, ECCO takes pride in ensuring his 'absence of discomfort' and, stylistically, adding a dapper complement to his on-course look and feel."

Montgomerie will wear shoes from ECCO's 2005 men?s golf-shoe collection that comes in 11 styles and 31 color combinations and retail for $140 to $400 (USD).

Pony Sponsors Philippine Boxer

Pony International announced that Philippine boxer Manny "The Destroyer" Pacquiao will wear a custom PONY "PacMan" boxing shoe in showdown against Erik Morales at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, March 19.

Pacquiao, featherweight, also wore PONY in the ring during his December fight in the Philippines, a 4th-round TKO against Fahsan 3K Battery.

"Pound-for-pound, Manny is one of the best boxers in the world without a doubt," says Killick Datta, CEO of Global Brand Marketing, Inc., the majority owner of Pony International. "His popularity in Asia and the immense respect he has earned within the boxing establishment for his skill and ferocity in the ring makes him a natural fit with PONY and our boxing tradition."

Bluetorch Writes Off Airwalk

Bluetorch Inc. said has written off its investments in two of its subsidiaries, Total Sports Distribution Inc. and Unboxed Distribution Inc.

Total Sports markets and wholesales True Skate Apparel (TSABrand) and Airwalk apparel, both under separate licensing agreements. Unboxed markets and wholesales Bluetorch branded apparel under a licensing agreement.

The writeoffs reflect a shift in Bluetorch's strategy to focus on companies that have entry level positive cash flow financial statements. Additionally, the investments must have the potential for growth based on existing core factors, additional capital infusion if required and, if necessary, the introduction of an experienced management team that has a reasonable expectation of expanding the existing business.

While Bluetorch's directors and management remain bullish on the extreme sports apparel sector, and Island Tribe in particular, management will be reviewing acquisition opportunities to include all consumer products categories to provide for a diversification in an expanded portfolio of subsidiary companies

Bluetorch said both Total Sports Distribution Inc. and Unboxed Distribution Inc were “not in conformity with the new business model in terms of current and future profitability.”

As part of the move, the company signed a mutual release agreement with the Bluetorch licensor which requires the company's subsidiary, Unboxed Distribution Inc., to cease the selling and marketing of Bluetorch apparel. The company also plans to change its corporate name by April 20.

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Copyright 2005 Sporting Goods Business

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