- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

New Year’s Day resolutions — or goals, as more people are calling them — are driving up sales for a number of businesses.

Fitness centers, career coaches, financial-services companies and retailers are promoting discounts and reduced membership rates to cash in on the quest for self-improvement.

More Americans this year say they are focusing on traditional goals like losing weight or reducing their credit-card debt. Last year, concerns about career dominated a list of resolutions in a survey by Mygoals.com, an online goal-setting company.

“This year the traditional goals are back, and the survey has a nice balance of career, personal finance, health, fitness and family-time goals,” said Anthony Helmstetter, co-founder of Mygoals.com.

In 2003, 27 percent of the 1,000 participants surveyed said they would focus on finding a job or improving their career. This year, that figure dropped to 18 percent.

Mr. Helmstetter predicted the attitude change will result in more consumer spending. “There is always a [sales] spike in these sectors,” especially for exercise and health, he said.

Local gyms and fitness-equipment stores say they typically add promotions and discounts in January to encourage newly health-conscious consumers.

David Nees, president of Fitness Resource, said he has started discounting popular fitness equipment like treadmills and elliptical trainers at his Mid-Atlantic stores.

The stores, which include 10 in the Baltimore-Washington area, offer a free home gym with the purchase of aerobic equipment costing more than $999, Mr. Nees said.

“People seem to really love the promotion this year,” he said, predicting the high sales volume will begin to drop off in February.

David Spindel said his supplement store and fitness training center in Woodbridge is already seeing more customers.

“We won’t see a mob of people this weekend like other gyms, but customer traffic will pick up in the next two weeks and hold steady for most of the year,” said Mr. Spindel, president of Essential Fitness.

January is one of the busier seasons for Washington Sports Clubs, a network owned by Town Sports International. But Pete Bazzel, district manager for the eight clubs in Maryland and Virginia, said he doesn’t expect the gyms to be too packed.

Career coaches also are preparing for a jump in participation at seminars and workshops this month.

Susan Strayer, a D.C. career coach, said she has already received a high volume of calls for the next Career Action Groups series. Ms. Strayer heads the job-search seminar, by San Francisco career-development firm Next Step Partners, in the Washington area

While the six-week series, which starts Jan. 28, normally takes five to 25 participants, Ms. Strayer said she may run another concurrent class.

Meanwhile, she said her business as an individual career coach is picking up; her busiest season is from January to March.

In addition to better health and better jobs, people are deciding to eliminate credit-card debt, with personal-finance goals rating higher this year in some surveys.

Americans put $88.4 billion on their credit cards between Nov. 17 and Dec. 26, according to Cardweb.com, an online credit-card research firm.

Intuit Inc., the Mountain View, Calif., maker of personal-finance software Quicken, said the company usually has two surges in sales; after the company releases the new version in August and in early January, when consumers decide to get their finances in order.

“One big reason that sales will spike now is because people want to get their finances in order so they can pay down some of their credit-card debt,” said spokesman Chris Repetto.

Intuit is offering discounts and rebates on Quicken, which holds 75 percent of the personal-finance software market.

Stores such as Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse are expecting consumers to buy more storage boxes and organizers to clean up after the holiday season.

“There are certain peak times for different divisions of our stores, and January is a busy time for our home-organization category,” said spokeswoman Julie Yenichek.

The chain is devoting most of January’s ad circulars to home and office organizers.

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