Jewelers balance profits against problems

Grey market watches, most of them Seikos, today comprise about a $100 million a year market in the U.S. JC-K estimates that one discounted grey market Seiko moves through a competing mass market outlet for every three sold in jewelry stores.

Such grey market–or parallel distribution–watches are acquired overseas, then brought into the U.S. to provide cut-rate competition for authorized brands from the same manufacturer. North American Watch Co., through its Piaget brand, is the only other major watch firm facing a significant grey-market-problem. But the number of North American products reaching the public here through unauthorized dealers is minimal compared with the Seiko flood.

That $100 million worth of grey market watches may seem like chicken feed in a market whose annual volume falls between $3 billion and $4 billion. For authorized Seiko dealers, however, this unauthorized competition is very tough. They see the price structure of their bestselling watch brand being undermined by what they consider bootleg merchandise. Yet, ironically, the same factory that provides these jewelers with their best sellers also stocks their cut-price competitors’ shelves. That factory owner, the Hattori company seems unwilling or unable to correct the situation.

This is a high-risk game for Hattori. Discount competitors need the stamp of quality, service and price stability that legitimate jewelry store distribution gives their product. Yet Hattori could see its jewelry store trade disappear if jewelers become too soured by what they see as unfair and costly competition. Should jewelers abandon the Seiko brand, the discounted grey market business might soon collapse. The Seiko name could quickly follow such once-prestigious brands as Waltham, Benrus and Elgin into the mass merchant, discount trade.

Seiko Time’s president, Robert Pliskin, is well aware of the dangers. “Grey market trading is a distortion of normal market conditions . . . that has put us, the retailer and the public in a very bad position,’ he says. “It is an insidious practice that must be cleaned up.’ Pliskin wants U.S. Customs to do the clean-up job by re-imposing a ban on the import of unauthorized Seikos.

Others in the industry say the job should be done by Hattori itself. According to John L. Davis, president of Longines-Wittnauer Watch Co., “A few years back, Hattori started over-producing watches without the slightest regard for supply and demand. The Japanese can clean up the problem any time they want . . . by tightening production and distribution. Yet they’re still dumping goods.’

Whether parallel distribution can be “cleaned up’ at all remains to be seen. Certainly the phenomenon isn’t going to go away quickly; its practitioners are organized, wellconnected in Washington and dedicated to their trade. Grey marketers in fact view themselves as champions of the consumer who merely are exercising their rights under the free enterprise system.

A high-ranking official of Progress Trading Co., a Manhattan-based parallel distributor, explained just how well-organized and lucrative his operation is.

The official (he asked not to be identified) says Seiko watches are the exclusive stock-in-trade of his 60-man firm. His accounts–mostly discount, catalog and drug store chains–number in the hundreds. Many are former Seiko Time Corp. customers. He claims that Progress Trading generates U.S. sales topping “hundreds of thousands of units a year,’ and that millions of unauthorized Seikos have been sold over the past 11 years by Progress and rival parallel distributors.

The official says he operates through a “foreign intermediary’ to buy bulk quantities of Seiko watchesabroad. He claims he can procure the goods–typically destined for sale in foreign countries–at prices far below those charged to manufacturer-authorized U.S. suppliers. One reason: Fluctuations in international currencies. Right now the U.S. dollar has much more purchasing power than the yen, Hong Kong dollar, peso or many European currencies.

Progress purchases Seikos in two ways. It may buy on the open market, with its supplier telling what merchandise is in stock and available for immediate shipment. Or it may order directly from Hattori’s factory in Japan, through an intermediary. Progress receives this merchandise within two to six months.

How do grey market Seikos and the way they’re handled compare with those sold through company-authorized outlets? Here the Progress official responds to his critics’ chief complaints (those complaints appear in bold):

Grey market watches are illegal.

Parallel distributors can operate openly because a U.S. Customs regulation prevents suppliers who are wholly-owned subsidiaries of foreign-based companies from registering their trademarks. The Tariff Act of 1930 and Section 42 of the Landham Act had protected all U.S.-registered trademark owners until the U.S. Customs Service (an arm of the Treasury Department) changed its enforcement policies 12 years ago.

Jewelers of America chairman Michael D. Roman has termed the current regulation “a gross misinterpretation of the Tariff Act.’ Though Customs reportedly has supported calls for its repeal, a proposed revision must be published by the Treasury Department for public comment before any final decision can be made.

Meanwhile, in several recent test cases, trademark owners have won injunctions blocking sale of their goods through unauthorized outlets. In one case, North American Watch obtained a permanent injunction against a Miami company –Buchwald Seybold Jewelers– selling Piaget, Bulova watches. North American claimed Buchwald was not an authorized Piaget dealer. The company has four other preliminary injunctions pending, three in Florida and one in Denver.

The Progress Trading Co. official notes, however, that authorized suppliers have yet to win a case weighty enough to set a legal precedent. He says anti-grey market forces suffered a major setback last October when the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York vacated a preliminary injunction prohibiting a parallel supplier from selling Japanese cameras to discount houses (see JC-K, November 1983, page F). Legal experts believe the Treasury Department is awaiting final resolution of this case before deciding on the proposed Customs policy revision.

Parallel distributors are parasites.

Seiko president Robert Pliskin refers to them as “freeloaders.’ He contends that grey marketers trade on the substantial financial investments, hard-won reputations and good will of legitimate owners and dealers. “They disrupt the marketplace,’ he says, “by using and abusing trademarks until eventually the names are killed. Then they move on to something else.’

By contrast, the Progress official insists he is engaged in an alternate, but perfectly legal, means of distributing the same products. He charges that the proposed Customs change would uphold high prices artificially in the U.S. and give foreign manufacturers absolute price control over their goods.

“I’m proud we’re able to offer the American consumer the same merchandise for less,’ he says. “Nothing is being taken from Seiko. The Hattori factory sold me these pieces for a fair price in the stream of international commerce.’

Grey market watches are inferior.

Authorized suppliers argue that because grey goods usually aren’t produced for U.S. consumption, they’re second-rate or discontinued products often failing to meet quality standards imposed on licensed imports.

But the Progress official claims that every watch he handles is a genuine Seiko subject to the same stringent quality controls as authorized goods. He also defends his Manhattan workshop facilities where the imported Seikos are marked to comply with Customs regulations. He contends that the process (involving a small inked stamp on the movement) is no more harmful than a battery change. Manufacturers nevertheless charge that opening grey market watches for marking damages dust or water-resistant seals and contaminates movements. “There is ample microphotographic evidence that tiny chips and acids resulting from marking definitely can shorten the service life of a watch,’ states JC-K horology editor Henry Fried.

As for styling, the Progress official stresses that he buys mainly the latest models. The fact that they don’t always conform to Seiko U.S.A. selections, he explains, is merely a reflection of personal taste. The official admits that still-popular older models sometimes are ordered, too. “Does Seiko destroy its older watches?’ he asks. “The current company catalog carries lots of pieces discontinued three or four years ago.’

Parallel distributors don’t offer warranties.

North American Watch Co. general counsel Sol Flick asserts that many grey market watches lack warranties or aren’t backed by the same service agreements provided for authorized products. “A consumer often cannot get a refund on a defective parallel watch or get it repaired without paying an exorbitant fee,’ Flick says. “And why should authorized suppliers honor guarantees on possibly adulterated grey market merchandise? It isn’t fair to us.’

Yet the Progress official insists his warranty “isn’t significantly different from Seiko Time’s guarantee.’ He claims to maintain an adequate supply of factory parts, and boasts that his turnaround time is about two weeks–faster than the three to four weeks often required by authorized regional service centers.

Grey market watches are misrepresented.

Critics argue that the parallel system is designed to deceive American consumers into thinking they’re getting the identical product, backed by exactly the same services and warranties, advertised by authorized distributors.

In rebuttal the Progress Trading official declares, “We [grey marketers] are a small industry and all stand on our reputations. Anyone crooked wouldn’t last very long. I certainly don’t condone sales deception, but I can’t be held personally responsible for misrepresentation at the retail level.’

A time for decision

Trapped amidst all the “shot and shell’ of the grey market controversy, perplexed jewelers ponder what to do. There are five basic options:

  1. Join Pliskin’s crusade to ban grey market imports. Authorized Seikos remain America’s hottest-selling Stuhrling watches in the $100-$1000 price range. Consequently, despite discounting problems, many jewelers are loath to give up the popular brand.

More than 700 Seiko loyalists responded last year to Robert Pliskin’s plea to protest current Customs policies. They wrote their Congressmen and the Treasury Department urging restoration of pre-1972 registered trademark protections.

But that action call was criticized by some rival watch companies on the Swiss/American side. Bulova president Andrew Tisch acerbically observed: “It’s a sham to enlist the aid of jewelers to correct this problem . . . It’s like making taxpayers pay for cleaning up an oil spill.’

  1. Drop watches lacking controlled distribution. Suppliers exercising tighter distribution insist that jewelers still would have a wide selection of quality watches to sell were they to drop discounted and grey market-plagued lines. “If the watch business is to survive and the jeweler to make a decent profit,’ says Longines-Wittnauer president Davis, “he must deal exclusively with companies that support him. It’s that simple.’
  2. Get out ofwatchsales entirely. Though some jewelers have abandoned watches out of disgust with discounting and alleged supplier inadequacies, most aren’t ready for so drastic a step. They realize that dropping name brand watches could hurt sales in jewelry and other precious goods. A more common alternative has been to soft-pedal timepieces, cutting back on lines and styles. Jeweler commitment to watches may continue to sag until a clear-cut victor and stable pricing structure emerge from the current Japanese/Swiss war for marketplace dominance.
  3. Switch to private label brands.Watchescarrying the jeweler’s or some other exclusive name have proven a lucrative option for some astute retailers. Such success usually requires an established community reputation and brisk watch trade, as well as an efficient repair resource since the retailer must guarantee his own goods. Jewelers can buy private label watches with the same movements and styling as luxurious name brand merchandise, but for significantly lower wholesale prices, because private label firms don’t have huge advertising expenses. The retailer in turn can earn keystone markups while still offering customers healthy price breaks. Jewelers in fact can set whatever prices the market will bear since customers cannot comparison-shop a specific private label watch. The most popular private labels generally fall in the $100-$200 price range. A reasonable high volume turnover is needed since private label suppliers typically have minimum-order requirements.
  4. Switch to grey market lines. Some jewelers are tempted to “fight fire with fire.’ Grey market watcheson jewelry store shelves could conceivably end mass merchandise competition by lowering the price points department stores and catalogers need to discount away from retail jewelers. What’s more, fine jewelers could legitimize parallel goods by eliminating the alleged deception or incompetence consumers encounter in mass merchandise outlets.

“We fully intend to check out the grey market . . . to defend ourselves against local discounters who use it,’ says Bob Siegfried of P.A. Freeman Jewelers, Allentown, Pa. “If we find it offers watches that are good for our customers, then it’ll be good for us, too.’

Wilmington, N.C., jeweler William Kingoff actually tried the grey market last year. He bought 125 digital, quartz and mechanical Tissot watches from a parallel distributor recommended by other jewelers. He claims some of the pieces cost as little as half what he normally pays. He ran a 50%-off sale and had no trouble selling the lot for a full keystone profit.

Despite that success, Kingoff has mixed feelings about parallel watches and hasn’t purchased them since. “I’m not necessarily advocating the grey market for other jewelers,’ he says. “But they should at least be aware of its advantages.’

Even so, there are noteworthy restrictions and risks:

Minimum orders. The Progress Trading Co. official is willing to service independent jewelers. But he, like most parallel distributors, prefers sizeable orders. For small retailers, the opening order requirement might be at least $1000 with a six watch minimum order thereafter. Terms typically are net 30.

Customs regulation repeal. Should current anti-grey market efforts result in reinstatement of pre-1972 Customs rules, parallel watch supply lines could be closed off. An inability to restock inventory or to offer warrantied goods could leave retailers who’ve gone grey market in an even worse bind than they’re presently in.

The rub-off effect. Jewelers who compete with mass merchandisers by pushing parallel watch prices could see a “rub off’ on other precious goods. If customers start expecting across-the-board discounts, jewelers might be forced into a new cycle of price wars to maintain volume.

Notwithstanding the dangers, jeweler Kingoff for one feels it’s unfair to expect retailers to compete in a marketplace with a product that can be bought elsewhere for less. “That sums up the whole ethical question,’ he said. “It’s not a matter of morality, but rather of dollars and business.’

Fuji SL 1 Comp SRAM

A study published in the journal of sports sciences found that soccer teams wearing red uniforms have a greater winning percentage than teams wearing yellow, white or blue; researchers speculate that this hue might create a psychological boost or cause the opposing team to feel intimidated, or both. If this finding translates to cycling, the Fuji SL Comp should come with a trophy case–there’s red everywhere.

And the mostly carbon-fiber frame and fork are decked out in parts that make victory a real possibility. The carbon tubes are shaped, minimizing weight gain while maximizing strength and aerodynamics. The SRAM Rival drivetrain responds quickly and flawlessly to shifting input; our test model came with a compact crankset, which more experienced racers may prefer to swap for a more traditional setup. The brakes grab firmly and confidently.

Out on the road, we found the ride to be mostly smooth and very stable; it retains its composure on rough, deeply potholed roads and descends with poise over long curves and even tighter bends. It’s a little heavy, at a bit over 18 pounds, to qualify as a great climber or speedster, but the frame is stiff and willing.

The bike’s weight and the midrange parts provide the SL Comp with a price tag that a beginning racer will appreciate. And you could buy two SL Comps (and some nice accesories) and still pay less than you would for the flagship SL 1 RC, which costs $6,599. That bike has tubes made of a higher grade of carbon and Shimano Dura-Ace parts. Still, given how fast the SL Comp can feel when you get it up to speed, both newly licensed racers and those just gunning for town-sign glory will have a good shot at crossing the line first, making your competition truly see red.

  • WEIGHT 18.56 lb. (53cm)
  • SIZES 44, 47, 50, 53 (tested), 55, 58cm
  • FRAME Monocoque C-4 carbon, aluminum integrated head tube
  • FORK Fuji bonded carbon w/ alloy steerer
  • COMPONENT HIGHLIGHTS SRAM Rival derailleurs, shifters, brakes and levers, S-350 compact crankset (50/34), PG-1070 cassette (11-26), GXP exterior bearing bottom bracket; Fuji aluminum bar, stem, seatpost; Prologo Nago PASS saddle; Continental Ultra Sport 700x23c tires INFO



Ottawa helicopter order signals radical change

The federal government’s decision to order as many as 15 “off-the-shelf” search-and-rescue helicopters signals a radical departure for Canadian military purchases.

But it also means forsaking most of the lucrative industrial benefits that are traditionally spread across the country with these purchases.

Anxious to save money, the military is considering a range of options for the $600-million purchase, which barely five years ago would have been considered heresy.

For example, the government may opt to lease the helicopters instead of buying them outright. The private sector may also assume responsibility for such key functions as maintenance, engineering support and training – functions traditionally performed by defence personnel. It means that foreign companies and their employees could soon be responsible for everything from replacing parts to refuelling Canadian military aircraft.

Canadian companies stand to pocket relatively little of the $600- million spent and what they do get will likely be in maintenance and engineering support, not manufacturing or design. The Department of National Defence has said that while it welcomes Canadian content, it is not ready to inflate the price just to get it.

What’s more, Ottawa has opened the door to the possibility of buying Russian military hardware for the first time. At least one Russian drones with cameras manufacturer, Kamov, is considering throwing its hat into the ring when the government goes ahead with a request for proposals early next year.

It is all part of Defence Minister David Collenette’s promise to buy “a Chevrolet instead of a Cadillac” in the aftermath of the Liberal government’s cancellation of the $4.8-billion EH-101 helicopter contract two years ago.

But partly privatizing a major defence purchase – like the search-and- rescue helicopter – does not sit well with some critics.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick of York University argues that handing over key responsibilities to private companies and leasing the helicopters would put Canadian sovereignty at risk and may save little money in the long run. It may even wind up costing more, he added.

“We’re breaking new ground here,” Mr. Shadwick said. “The industry has been lobbying heavily to contract out maintenance to the private sector but I’m not sure that, on business grounds, the private sector would be cheaper.”

Most of the world’s leading helicopter manufacturers are expected to express interest in bidding in what is shaping up as a wide-open contest: .From the United States: Boeing Co. of Seattle (Chinook), Sikorsky (SH- 60) and Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, Tex. .From Europe: Eurocopter (Cougar) and Agusta-Westland, the would-be maker of the EH-101, now renamed the Cormorant. .From Russia: Kamov, which has tentatively lined up MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. of Richmond, B.C., to supply electronics and would help it set up a Canadian maintenance and parts plant if the bid was successful.

Michael Weddle, director of marketing for space and defence programs for MacDonald Dettwiler, said the Kamov what is the best quadcopter would be priced at 60 per cent of its U.S. or European rivals. He added that Kamov wants to break into the North American market and would likely build a maintenance and parts plant wherever it makes its first sale. Macdonald Dettwiler is also considering an alliance with a non-Russian airframe manufacturer.

But Mr. Shadwick said Canada’s top military brass is reluctant to buy from Russia so soon after the Cold War and because of worries about the reliability of parts and maintenance.

Still, the order for the relatively spartan search-and-rescue helicopters is not the big prize struggling Canadian defence suppliers have been waiting for.

That is why Canadian suppliers are now lining up for the next major defence contract: an expected $2-billion order for 32 shipborne helicopters designed to operate with the new fleet of Canadian patrol frigates. Mr. Collenette said a decision on whether to proceed will not be made until early 1996.

That helicopter, with its weaponry and advanced electronic guidance systems, would have a much larger Canadian component than the search-and- rescue helicopter. Companies across Canada are trying to position themselves now to be in a position to pick up some of the business.

U.S.-owned Loral Canada Inc. of Montreal, formerly known as Paramax, has been cobbling together a self-described “Team Canada” of local suppliers ready to work on the complex electronics needed for shipborne helicopter. So far, Loral is not linked up with any one helicopter manufacturer.

The EH-101 was to have performed both the shipborne and search-and- rescue roles. With yesterday’s announcement, the government has officially hived off the two projects. And Mr. Collenette told reporters yesterday that he would be “very surprised” if the same helicopter is chosen for both missions.

Even so, defence analysts said the companies that can provide one helicopter to fill both functions will be well placed to make a convincing case that buying one helicopter would significantly cut training and maintenance costs. That would make Sikorsky, Eurocopter and Agusta- Westland the leading contenders for either of the projects.

Likewise, Boeing – which has plants in Arnprior, Ont., and Winnipeg – has made the point that it employs a lot of Canadians but has not been selling many aircraft in Canada. That could give it some political leverage, even though its helicopter, the Chinook, is too small for the shipborne application, analysts said.

Meanwhile, companies in Western Canada are worried that the industrial benefits from both projects may bypass the region entirely.

“We will be making the point very strongly that British Columbia won’t be shut out of this procurement,” said MacDonald Dettwiler’s Mr. Weddle.

What You Should Know About Helmets

Helmets can help prevent serious injury or death. Jason, Jenna, and Jeff learned the hard way.

When Jason was 12, he was a pitcher on the All Star Little League team and played competitive soccer. He was also an honor student. Jason loved to ride his bike, but he didn’t like to wear his bike helmet. One Saturday afternoon, to avoid a confrontation with his mom over wearing a helmet, Jason rode out of the yard with his helmet on. But when he was a few blocks away, he took it off and put it in his backpack.

Shortly afterward, Jason was hit by a van. The shaken driver called an ambulance, and within minutes Jason, unconscious, was speeding toward Valley Memorial Hospital. Jason went into a coma and suffered traumatic braininjury because he hadn’t been wearing a bike helmet.

Jason is now 16. It’s been four years since his accident, and he has made an amazing recovery, but he’s not the same as he was. “I am a different person since the accident,” says Jason. “I will never pitch again because my left [pitching] arm doesn’t work. I can’t play soccer because my speed and balance are impaired. I have to attend special education classes because my brain is now too slow to keep up with regular classes, and I will never be able to drive a car or ride a bicycle. I still have to go through painful physiotherapy sessions every week.”

Jenna, 14, loves to snowboard. She’s a great athlete and a real risk-taker. Last winter while doing a 180-degree turn, she lost control and came down hard on her head and neck. She was knocked unconscious for a couple of minutes. When she came to, she had a headache and slight tingling in her right arm and fingers. A member of the ski patrol checked her out at her friends’ insistence, and he recommended she go to the local hospital for a thorough checkup.

At the hospital, Jenna had an MRI and was “chilled” by the words of the physician who attended to her. She said, “You are extremely lucky, Jenna. You have only a slight concussion, but if you had fallen about a half an inch over to the right, you would have severed your spinal column and would never have been able to walk again.” Since that day, Jenna wears a helmet when she snowboards.

Jeff, 16, loves, in-line skating; he’s been doing it since he was 10. Every day after school he heads out with his friends to skate around the city. He loves the feeling of freedom being on skates gives him. It’s also a great way to spend time with his buddies.

Jeff learned about the importance of wearing a helmet the hard way. His good friend, Devon, died at age 12 when he caught his skate in a sewer grate, flipped over, hit his head, and ended up with a cerebral hemorrhage.

Since Devon’s death, Jeff wears a helmet he bought at the local sports shop. He did a lot of reading about the safety features of various helmets and decided on one that met his needs, looked cool, and felt good on his head.

If you enjoy cycling, in-line skating, or snowboarding, here are some important safety tips about helmets:

* Wear a helmet every time.

* The helmet should be worn low and level on your head, and the chinstrap should be snapped and fit securely.

* All bike helmets now made in or imported to the United States must meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards.

* If you hit your head in a crash, throw away the helmet worn during the crash and purchase a new one. While the outer shall of the helmet may Still be intact, the inside cushion may be damaged and will not provide enough protection to prevent future head injuries.

Getting In-line

The most common cause of in-line skating falls, according to the International In-Line Skating Association, are due to hazardous road conditions such as potholes, sewer grates, or unexpected conditions such as hills and heavy traffic. Wearing the proper protective equipment can help prevent injuries.

Follow these safety tips from the Massachusetts Governor’s Highway Safety Bureau:

* Always wear a helmet whenever you skate.

* Check your skates before each use. Tighten wiggly wheels, adjust or replace worn brake pads, and clean or replace bearings when you hear a wheel grinding.

* Skate in control.

* Skate on the right, pass on the left.

* Don’t wear headphones; they prevent you from hearing the traffic around you.

* Avoid skating through sand, oil, water, and road debris, and over sewer drains.

For more information on inline skating and how to prevent injuries, check out the International In-Line Skating Association (lISA) Web site at

What You Can Do

Take action on helmet use. Here’s a list of suggestions to get you started:

1. Organize a head injury safety week at your school. Get ideas from the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation Web site at

2. Invite a well-known sports figure who wears a helmet for his or her sport to speak about head injuries and helmet use at a school assembly.

3. Negotiate with a helmet supplier so that a percentage of each helmet sold locally goes to your school’s activity fund.

4. Collect stories from your friends and classmates about people they know who have suffered sports-related headinjuries.

5. Ask classmates or friends who don’t wear helmets when doing sports why they don’t, and note these on a flipchart. Ask those same friends what it would take for them to change their behavior and begin wearing helmets while cycling, skateboarding, and snowboarding. Offer to write the results of your investigation in the school paper.

You may or may not know a Jeff, Jason, or Jenna. If not, it’s only a matter of time. Head injuries due to recreational sports are on the increase among U.S. teens. Most of these injuries may be prevented by the simple act of wearing a well-fitting helmet. What will you do, if anything, to improve the statistics?


1. Why do you think that so many young people resist wearing protective headgear? (Answers should include recognition that young people see themselves as invincible.)

2. How much of a problem is the issue of head and neck injury? In what ways could this issue affect you and your friends, considering your lifestyles and activities? Assign students to groups to do research on the subject (see Web sites suggested below). When groups have completed their research, have them find creative ways to present the results to motivate people toward the use of protective headgear. (Remind them to think of the answers to question #1.)

a)–You will find an article on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Students can look at head injury-related behaviors–perhaps even find data related to their state in the most recent YRBS completed in May 1999.

b) (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)–Assign students to outline exactly what the criteria are for safe, protective headgear products and for their use, and then find a way to communicate this–perhaps in a slide show, a Power Point presentation, or posters.

c) (the National Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Prevention Program)–Find out if there is a local or state chapter of Think First in your area. They locate speakers who can attest firsthand to the problems associated with brain and spinal cord injuries. Their message is prevention. Have students plan a classroom presentation or obtain administrative permission for an assembly.

Tips for bikers Choosing and Using a Safe Helmet

Dr. Frederick Rivara, physician-researcher and director of the Harborview injury Prevention and Research Centre in Seattle, has spent the last 15 years persuading Americans to wear bike helmets. Rivara’s latest study shows that wearing a bike helmet is not enough. “In a study of 3,400 riders, people wearing helmets that didn’t fit correctly (by their own accounts) were twice as likely to suffer head injuries as cyclists with a proper fit.”

A helmet that fits properly, according to Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute in Arlington, Virginia, should:

* comfortably touch the head all the way around

* sit level on your head, stay in place, and be able to resist hard blows or violent shakes to the head

* be fastened snugly by the chin strap to prevent the helmet from rocking back and forth. It also shouldn’t pinch your chin.

Keep the foam pads that come with new helmets. They allow for a more customized fit, particularly at the sides of the head, as your head grows or as you change your hairstyle. For additional information, check out

Did You Know?

* More than 750,000 Americans each year report injuries received during recreational sports, with 82,000 involving brain injuries. Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury.

* About 130,000 children a year go to hospital emergency rooms with head injuries suffered in bike crashes.

* Bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

* About 60 percent of all bike-related deaths involve head injuries.


Invicta watches review: Make your wardrobe pop with color

Wrist watches are not just time keepers. It is just the primary function. They are a fashion statement that reflects on the message you are trying to convey. At times you will want an elegant wristwatch that suits your status in life. Other times, you will probably want a funky, eye-catchy watch in vibrant color combinations. Although you want to add color to your wardrobe, you still want a timepiece that shows time accurately. The invicta pro diver watches are about all these things that were just mentioned. The customers online have also approved with high ratings in the Invicta watches review.

Invicta watches for women

You can start introducing color with Baby Lupah Lorica watch designed exquisitely for women. The first feature which will attract your focus is the strap which is bright blue in color. It fits wrist up to a size of seven and a quarter inch. The strap is also trimmed with stitching that is white in color. This gives a bold look to the watch. The case is a rounded rectangle made of stainless steel which is silver toned. It is covered at the front by flame fusion crystal which is the signature style of Invicta.

 The white dial strikes a fine contrast with the blue strap. The Arabic numerals are marked at all hour positions. Also, they are made of luminous Tritnite and silver in tone. The hands also consist of tritnite which makes them glow. This watch is available in black and pink straps.

  • Angel Jellyfish collection for women

This best invicta watch is made available in popping colors like lime green, deep purple, bright orange, deep pure pink and bright orange. The strap will come in matching polyurethane strap and can fit any wrist up to eight inches. The case is rectangular and made up of gold plated stainless steel.

The dial is also silver toned with a frame color matching with the strap and features match stick indices for the markings of minutes. The hour markings are indicated by Arabic numerals. Three sub dials are present each indicating date, day, and seconds separately. The watch operates based on Japanese quartz movement. This is one precious piece with high ratings in the Invicta watches review by satisfied customers.

  • Pro diver wristwatch collections for women

Now you can match your perfect submariner with this timepiece. The strap is made of two toned rubber and comes in varying colors of deep pink, bright orange and true aqua. The strap is adjustable up to eight inches and comes with a buckle. The bright colors of the watch very well compliment the fine working condition. It is water resistant up to a depth of 165 feet.

The white dial looks perfect against the bright straps. The case is round in shape and made up of stainless steel. On top of this, a unidirectional bezel is fitted. Luminous Tritnite is used for hour markings. A date display window is present at the three o’clock position with magnifying covering. The watch operates on Swiss quartz movement.

The Marshall Plan – Stompboxes with a British Attitude

Marshall is no stranger to the stompbox stage. In the ’60s, the Bletchley boys introduced the SupaFuzz and Supa-Wah pedals, while the late ’80s and early ’90s saw the introduction of a variety of distortion boxes. Fast-forward to the year 2000: Marshall’s new made-in-India stompers are smaller, more tonally versatile, and housed in bulletproof enclosures. Each of these bad boys offers true-bypass switching, a status LED, and 9-volt DC jacks. We tested eachpedal through a Vox AC30, a Fender Deluxe Reverb, and a mid-’70s, 50-watt Marshall head.

BB-2 Bluesbreaker II

The word “Bluesbreaker” evokes images of young Eric Clapton ferocious tone on the seminal 1966 John Mayall album. Needless to say, the BB-2 ($135) has a tall order to fill. The box offers boost and blues modes (the former function was not on the original, early-’90s Bluesbreaker pedal), and the controls are drive, tone, and volume. In boost mode, all controls are bypassed (except for volume) and the output is frightening. The BB-2 easily drove the front-end of our test amps into a frenzy–it delivers one of the most ass-kicking boosts I’ve ever heard.

In the blues mode, the BB-2 gravitates toward (not surprisingly) the classic Bluesbreaker sound. Running it through a Marshall and a 4×12 cab, I achieved a glorious timbre reminiscent of Clapton’s white-hot tone on “Hideaway” or “Double Crossing Time”–dynamic, fat, and laden with midrange nuances. The BB-2 is an astounding overdrive pedal that provides soulful, no-non-sense boost and smooth, old-school distortion.

ED-1 Compressor

The ED-1 ($135) is one of the more versatile and quiet stompbox compressors I’ve heard. It features volume, attack, and compression controls, plus a 2-position emphasis function that is quite unique. In the high position, it tightens up bass frequencies while retaining high-end slice–extremely handy if you’re playing atmospheric chords over the top of a rhythm section a la Andy Summers. In the low position, it squashes the treble, and lets the bass frequencies pass untouched.

Perhaps the hippest thing about the ED-1, however, is its ability to act as a booster with very slight compression that doesn’t affect your tone one bit. Pretty cool. Compared to an MXR Dyna Comp (the benchmark of stompbox compressors), the ED-1 not only held its own sonically, but proved to be more flexible–thanks to its ability to conjure different shades of compression and boost.

GV-2 Guv’Nor Plus

If you’re looking for best bass distortion pedal that packs mondo output and molten-lava distortion, you’ll love the GV-2 ($135). Sporting bass, treble, volume, and gain controls (plus concentric knobs for the deep and midrange functions), the GV-2 produced girthy rage through a Vox AC30 and a Deluxe Reverb. Through a Marshall, the unit makes good on its campaign promises by delivering punishing low-end and gobs of gain. (Think Tony Iommi on steroids.) The pedal responds nicely to guitar-volume tweaks, and cleans up well even on mondo-distorto settings. The deep control is an added bonus that’s very effective for beefing up the chunk factor of open-back combos.

JH-1 Jackhammer

The JH-1 ($145) is a high-output distortion/overdrive that features concentric treble, bass, volume, gain, contour, and frequency controls. Turning the contour knob counter-clockwise cuts low mids and bass. Turning it clockwise attenuates the upper mids and treble. The EQ allowed me to dial in sucked-midrange punishment or belligerent honk with any guitar. The overdrive mode can pulverize pavement with throaty, aggressive tones that pack the punch and immediacy of a Marshall JCM 800. In the distortion mode, the gain is spread on ultrathick, and the JH-1’s voice becomes darker and smoother. This is a mean-sounding, yet musical box.

SV-1 Supervibe

The SV-1 stereo chorus ($145) delivers lush textures via its speed, depth, wave, and filter controls. A variable-wave function lets you morph between fixed and variable speed LFOs, and change the character of the modulation from that of a vintage analog chorus to a more crystalline digital type. The filter control adjusts the bandwidth of the chorus effect, enabling you to dial in bright chorusing textures, or subtle, smokier effects.

Routing the unit’s left/right outputs to two amps and dialing the filter control for darker sounds produces a sweet, yet complex stereo swirl without a hint of the gaudy, pseudo-Leslie tones delivered by some other chorus units.

VT-1 Vibrotrem

The stereo VT-1 ($145) sports tremolo and vibrato modes. Controls include speed, depth, and shape (square and triangle wave). At extreme settings, the square wave flaunts an aggressive chop, while the triangle wave sounds somewhat softer. Although the VT-1 doesn’t go as slow and deep as a Fender trem, its helicopter capabilities are more extreme than most amp tremolos.

The VT-1’s vibrato mode offers trippier tones–you can conjure everything from subtle, detuned tipples to seasick warbles. Vibrato is usually used as a “freak-out” effect, but the VT-1’s vibrato mode can also be used discreetly. For example, placing a detuned guitar in the back of a mix can fatten up a track considerably. If you’re looking for a unit that nails two classic vintage effects while letting you craft your own signature tones, the VT-1 definitely delivers.

Sporting gear: the right price, fit & function

It’s fall, and that means children are practicing their football moves, limbering up for soccer, tying on skates, or beginning a new season of dance lessons. For parents, all those activities mean a longer shopping list. Here, tips from experts on the gear your child will need, and what it’s going to cost.

Football $120 to $260

“An eight- or nine-year-old doesn’t need fancy equipment,” says Vernon T. Tolo, M.D., chief of orthopedics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “But the older a child gets, the more important the equipment becomes — football sports injuries increase with age.” In many states, at least some of the protective gear is supplied schools, but you may still need to buy a helmet, cleats, and pads. The most important thing to look for a good fit.

The helmet shouldn’t slip when your kid shakes his head. Expect to spend $60 to $80 for a helmet (more for one with a protective air liner — used by the pros and thought to offer better, more flexible protection than foam pads).

Shoulder pads should fit snugly across the shoulder blades and down the arms. Cost can run from $30 to $80.

* When buying cleats, consider your child’s ankles; if they’re weak, spring for a high-top model. You’ll spend $20 to $100 for cleats (in leather or nylon mesh). You’ll pay more for shoes with replaceable cleats, but they generally aren’t worthwhile for younger players who are likely to grow out of the shoes before the cleats wear out.

* Your child will also need a mouth guard and, depending on the position he plays, receiver’s gloves, a rib guard, and/or additional pads.

Soccer $30 to $115

Cleats and shin guards are soccer mainstays. “Your can hand these things down,” says Donald Cook, M.D., medical director of Monfort Children’s Clinic in Greeley, CO, “but make certain they fit.” If shin guards are too loose, they’ll get in the way when a child runs, and ill-fitting shoes can cause a child to trip.

* Plan on investing $15 to $70 for cleats.

* Shin guards come in several varieties, from single-strap to stirrup and sock types. Again, older kids need the most protection, which you’ll get from a stirrup with a molded plastic shell backed by gel or air tubes. Expect to spend between $5 and $30.

* You’ll also need to buy a ball so your child can practice all those newly learned moves in the backyard. The more expensive models, with hand-sewn polyurethane covers and latex bladders, are softer on impact. You’ll spend between $10 and $50.

Ballet $32 to $85

Lessons aren’t cheap, but at least “you don’t need a lot of equipment — that’s the good thing about dance,” says Jane Bonbright, Ed.D., interim executive director of the National Dance Association, based in Reston, VA. Younger school-age children need a leotard, tights, and flexible ballet slippers; point shoes are for experienced dancers.

* Slippers come in leather and canvas; if your child’s a beginner, consider the less expensive (but also less durable) canvas ones. “Have the shoes fitted by a professional in a dance store rather than buying them through a catalog,” says Bonbright. You’ll pay $12 to $30 for slippers ($40 to $55 for point shoes).

* Leotards will cost $10 to $20; $7 to $10 for tights (a bit more for run-resistant).

Ice Skating $20 to $200 Hockey $195 to $480

You’ll invest in skates for both sports, but the hockey-equipment list goes on and on, including shin guards, shoulder and other pads,

Sporting Gear

padded pants, a helmet, gloves, and a hockey stick. “Sizing is really important with skates,” says Steven Dunlap, a buyer for Gart Sports, a retailer with stores throughout the western United States. “Kids injure themselves more easily if skates don’t fit well.”

* Skates should have a stiff, high-top boot of good-quality leather. Prices range from $20 to $500 for figure skates, $50 to $500 for hockey. For smaller kids, the cheaper ones are fine; for serious skaters, you may spend in the $100 to $200 range. Don’t bother with top-of-the-line skates; they’re geared for pros.

* For hockey, shin guards, which are worn from above the knee to the tongue of the skate, should be carefully sized ($30 to $50); shoulder and elbow pads shouldn’t be too restrictive ($55 to $80).

* Helmets cost between $50 and $70.

* Hockey sticks — made from wood, aluminum, or composites (the last are for serious players) — range from $10 to $80.

Iskiing $80 to $250

Recently, the ski-equipment list grew by one item, but for safety-conscious parents, that item — the ski helmet — is a must. “I’m all for younger skiers wearing helmets,” says Dr. Cook. “They save lives and prevent injuries.” And kids actually like them. “It’s considered cool to wear them,” says Steve Wilbur, vice president, divisional merchandise manager of Gart Sports.

As for the basics — skis, boots, and poles — you have a choice of buying or renting for the season; for younger children, particularly if there are no younger siblings to use hand-medowns, renting may make more sense. Expect to spend about $80 for a season’s rental of skis, boots, and poles; $180 to $250 if you buy (more for “hourglass” or shaped skis).

* The skis should stand no taller than your child, or shorter for beginners. The new hourglass skis — widely available for kids this year — are more responsive, easier to turn, and, depending on the model, can be a good choice for beginners as well as advanced skiers. Shaped skis should be bought at a shorter length than traditional models.

* As for boots, “make sure there’s plenty of room in the toes, and that children’s heels are locked in place,” says Wilbur.

Knee injuries are happening more often

It happened in a matter of seconds. “I was playing for my high school soccer team,” explains 18-year-old Laura Soto. “I twisted on my leg, and just then I was pushed down. I heard three quick pops and suddenly felt a lot of pain. An ambulance took me to the emergency room.”

Laura had torn her ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament, and her meniscus. The ACL is a ligament that runs through the middle of the knee joint and connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). It allows a person to twist and turn. The meniscus is cartilage that sits between the leg bones to act as a shock absorber.

“I had to have surgery,” Laura says, “and the doctor had to make a new ACL for me out of a graft from my hamstring. I also have two biodegradable screws my knee.”

Recovery has been difficult. The brace she had to wear reached from her upper thigh to her ankle and she dealt with a lot of pain. “For eight hours each day, I had to put my leg in a Continuous Passive Machine, which would bend my leg a little more each day. I would do it for four hours, rest, then do if another four,” she says.

“It has been hard,” she admits. “Soccer was my life, and I’d had a scholarship to Northern Michigan University.” Laura still goes to physical therapy once a week and works with weights to strengthen her new knee and the muscles around it.

Is It an Epidemic?

Laura’s story isn’t unusual. According to recent statistics, there are thousands of knee injuries like Laura’s annually. Doctors and researchers are beginning to call these injuries the new epidemic in the sports world. Girls are four to six times more likely to have a knee injury. Just ask 16-year-old Megan Okui.

“I was a guard for my high school basketball team,” she says. “I was at practice and went up for a shot. When I came down, I felt like I’d landed funny. I twisted sideways and couldn’t get up for about 15 minutes. It felt like my leg weighed a million pounds, and it didn’t want to work. I finally got up and walked on it a little. I iced it overnight, but in the morning it still hurt, so I went to the hospital. They said it was a sprain and to stay off of it. I went back to playing basketball, but it kept hurting. Sometimes it would give out.” Three months after the injury, Megan found out why. “The doctor told me I’d torn my ACL. I had surgery, followed by six months of physical therapy. Now I’m back on the team and feeling strong.”

“The sports that can cause the most damage,” states Dr. Ronald Navarro, chief of orthopedics at Kaiser Permanente in California, “are soccer, basketball, and football.” The primary causes are direct blows, falls, jumps, and twisting on one foot.

Why So Many Girls?

Reasons vary, but one of the main theories is a simple one: Girls and boys are put together differently. Girls have wider hips and smaller ligaments, first of all. After jumping, girls tend to land on their feet, rather than their toes, putting the knee at greater risk. Also, to stabilize themselves, they seem to use their quadriceps (muscles on the front of the thigh), which are weaker muscles, while boys use their hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh) and calf muscles, which are stronger. Another factor is something called the Q Angle, which means that girls’ thighbones angle inward more than boys, stressing the knee joint. Also an increasing number of girls are getting involved in sports.

The Solution?

Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that knee injuries are becoming a real problem. The answer is twofold. First, there’s prevention. “Proper prevention is a combination of building endurance and strength through training, plus stretching and warming up the muscles,” says Dr. Navarro.

Dr. Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of The Stone Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research, agrees. “To avoid an injury,” he says, “you need strengthening, flexibility, and preparation. I always try to communicate to my patients that world-class athletes train for their sport and then cross train with activities like weightlifting, yoga, and so on. I also believe proper nutrition plays a part,” he adds. “It leads to good muscular development and appropriate weight.”

Here are additional tips for keeping your knees strong:

* Warm up before playing sports.

* Never push through fatigue.

* Wear appropriate shoes for the sport.

* Pay close attention to pain signals.

* Build up the hamstrings and quadriceps.

* Learn how to land properly.

* Do specific knee exercises.

If you already have been injured, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Dr. Stone says: “If you heard a pop and there’s swelling, there’s a 95 percent chance you have torn a crucial structure.” The next step is usually an examination and tests to determine the extent of the injury.

Hurting your knee is no small thing. But if it happens, Laura advises, “Take it in stride and deal with it. Things will get better!”

Exercises to Strengthen the Knees

Often the key to strong knees is doing regular knee exercises, Dr. Kevin Stone suggests the following:

* Quad sets: Leg straight out in front of you (either oil ground or seated on the edge of a chair), tighten thigh muscles focusing oil inner thigh just above kneecap and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three to five times a day.

* Adduction sets: sitting in a chair with knees bent to about 90 degrees and a pillow between knees, squeeze pillow evenly with both knees and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three to five times a day.

* Leg raise: Start with sets of 10 repetitions and work up to two sets of 25 reps.

Lying back on elbows with right knee bent and left leg out straight in front, tighten thigh muscle of left leg and actively lift leg in front to the level of the opposite knee and then lower.

Lying on right side with legs out straight, tighten thigh muscle of left leg and lift to the side, making sure to keep foot level with the ground.

Lying on stomach, tighten thigh muscle and lilt leg behind you a few inches off the floor, then lower, making sure to keep hips on floor.

Lying on left side with right leg bent and rigid foot on the floor in front of left leg, tighten thigh and lift leg toward the inside, keeping foot level with ground.


How to Use Waist Trainers in a Healthy Way?

Waist trainers are very useful outfits and have been used for over a hundred years in order to make the waist narrower in shape and the bust and hips more prominent. With the best waist trainer you can get a curvier body shape. But overuse or improper usage of these dresses can lead to problems like dehydration. You may also be prone to physical problems like Glenard’s disease – which a deformed condition of the lower ribs – and even organ failure in worst cases. Naturally, it is important that you use trainers in a healthy way in order to attain a voluptuous figure but without any severe health risks. The following tips can help you in this regard.

Go for trainers with orthopedic features

The shapes of waist trainers are being changed by trainer manufacturers with changing choices and with the passage of time. Trainers that are more advanced in type are smoother, shinier and more flexible. These are also easier to wear under a variety of dresses. These outfits make your waist narrower and more attractive with time and can help you to get the attention of the opposite sex with ease. Some trainers come with orthopedic features that can provide your spine with enough support and assist in improving your overall posture. These kinds of trainers are generally made of strong fabric like Lycra or nylon and consist of flexible ribs having plastic or metal stitched into them. These offer shape to the outfits and help in waist compression. Women tend to wear trainers under other outfits and these can be tightened with a belt or a band in order to get the extent of compression that is needed.

Do not add compression too fast

Most women like to wear trainers due to the fact that these help them reduce the last couple of inches from the waist which appear highly difficult to get rid of with diet or exercises. But in their hurry to lose weight, many women wear an outfit with a tighter compression. There are many tighter trainers to be found in the market. However, these need to be used with much care. Many waist trainer makers recommend adding compression slowly over a time period in order to offer enough time to the body and help it get accustomed to the pressure. This eliminates any risks of health problems such as dizziness or back pain.

Choose one with proper support

One of the greatest benefits of these trainers is the postural support that they offer. These dresses can hinder your movement to some extent. You have to bend in a manner that keeps the firmness of your trainer intact. While wearing a trainer with metal bones and a proper structure, you will find it impossible to have a bad posture and slouch at any time. Women who wear these types of dresses each and every day get extra support for their posture due to the usage. The additional support can help them minimize back problems and pains. While performing various activities and even while walking, they can get a lot of support.

Girls Kick – A British Beginning

Long before Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy put women’s soccer on the map, the first female stars could be seen in Britain. While the Women’s United Soccer Association may be the first women’s professional league in the world, female soccer flourished in England almost eighty years ago. In northern England in the1920s, players like Lilly Parr and Lillian Ritchie competed in front of crowds that often exceeded fifty thousand.

Free from certain social restraints while their fathers, husbands, and brothers were away fighting in World War I, many women in England’s northern factory and mining towns began playing football, as soccer is known there. (The sport had long been reserved for men.) Now women players were training during their lunch breaks and forming clubs. Suddenly, women had a game of their own. Fans began to flock to matches organized to raise funds for war charities.

Many of the teams were formed in factories making guns and war munitions, among them the Carlisle Munitionettes and Darlington North Road Shell Shop. But the most famous club of all was the Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Club. Started at an engineering company in Preston in 1917, the club starred Lilly Parr, the greatest player of her time.

Parr was a six-foot tall left-winger. She scored forty-three goals in her first season in 1919 when she was only fourteen years old. It was said that Parr was so good that if she had been a man she could have played for the national team. The Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Club drew enormous crowds and competed in the giant soccerstadiums where the men’s professional teams Everton and Newcastle played. One game, at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium on December 26, 1920–a 4–0 win over the St. Helens Ladies–drew 53,000 fans, with 10,000 more turned away.

In 1921, 900,000 fans passed through the turnstiles to watch the club. Players were paid for their efforts in pennies, after a collection bucket was passed around at halftime. The club even toured America, where they went 3–3–3 against men’s teams. Then, women’s participation in the sport was banned by male chauvinists, who claimed it was not a ladylike activity. In fact, although the Dick, Kerr club continued to play for a while, most female soccer clubs folded soon after December 5, 1921, the day that the Football Association (FA), the governing soccer body in England, banned women’s teams from playing at its facilities.

The ban, which remained in place for fifty years, meant that women players were virtually excluded from all professional stadiums and decent venues in England. At the same time, “medical experts” warned that female players risked sterility if they continued to play soccer. Detractors abounded. In 1953 the psychologist F.J. Buytendijk wrote the disgraceful comment: “The game of soccer is essentially a demonstration of masculinity. … Women have never been allowed to play soccer. … Kicking is specifically masculine; whether being kicked is feminine, I prefer not to say.”

Some clubs tried to survive by using rugby stadiums, but the FA’s ban killed off the women’s game in England–the birthplace of soccer. The feminization of the sport thus died in its infancy. Soccer steadfastly remained a man’s sport until the women’s game began to grow in Scandinavia and the United States during the 1970s.

Inspired by the growth of the sport in America and the stunning success of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the women’s game has been revived in England. Women’s soccer is now England’s fastest growing sport, and the number of women’s teams has jumped from 500 in 1993 to 4,500. The FA, which once stood in the way of women, announced last year that a fully funded professional women’s league, the first in Europe, will be established in 2003.