Larry’s Looks To The Future

Texas retailer Larry’s Shoes, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is getting ready for the next fifty years with the opening of two new locations. The latest additions to the family-owned chain include a downtown Fort Worth site and an “Authentic Outlet” store in a new outlet center in Katy, Texas.

Over the past half century, Larry’s Shoes has gone from a pawnshop to the largest independent men’s-shoe retailer in the country. But rather than reflect on this realization of the American Dream, the Fort Worth-based company is more interested in looking forward and is poised for major developments in the future.

The son of an eastern-European immigrant cobbler, shoes were already a part of young Larry Goodwin’s life when, at the age of 21, he took charge of the shop. Always a good dresser himself, Goodwin offered a level of quality merchandise, service and commitment to his customers that transcended his modest surroundings and elevated his clients’ self-esteem.

“That principle of attention to the customer is what drives Larry’s Shoes’ success to this day,” said Elliot Goodwin, son and heir to the store. While the elder Goodwin remains chairman of the privately-held company, Elliot Goodwin became its president in 1988 and is responsible for the day-to-day running of what has become a fifteen-store chain.

He admits that the transition of control from father to son was not easy. “The biggest challenge for us both was working together,” he said.

In 1978, when he turned 20, Elliot Goodwin was named vice president. In the `80s, he initiated the company’s expansion from four stores to eight. Dallas gained a second store in 1981 and the Houston market was seized when two Larry’s stores opened in 1986 and a third in 1988.

Goodwin has consistently placed Larry’s Shoes in prime locations. The Houston stores for instance are well-positioned in popular retail areas such as Westheimer and the Galleria. Ironically, in the mid ’80s, while the Houston outlets were burgeoning, downtown Fort Worth was in decline, leading Larry’s to relocate from that area to Bedford, one of the so-called “mid cities” that bridge the 45 miles or so between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Another Texas outpost was established with the opening of Larry’s ninth store in San Antonio in 1991.

Elliot Goodwin, for all his ebullient self-promotion, is a shrewd businessman. He’s had big plans for Larry’s for a long time, but he’s not interested in expansion for expansion’s sake, and he recognizes the dangers inherent in managing a widespread company.

“I had to think hard about moving outside Texas,” he said. “The bigger you get, the harder it is to keep the corporate culture, to be sure that everyone is working toward the same ends and to maintain standards.”

To that end, he instituted training programs for all sales staff before he opened the first out-of-state store, in Denver’s Cherry Creek shopping center in 1991.

“Having the right people on the floor is every bit as important as having the right merchandise,” he explained. A testament to the store’s concern for its staff is the fact that many salespeople have been with Larry’s for many years.

“Our sales people have given a lot to this company, and we appreciate that and reward them for it,” he continued, noting sliding commissions scales and bonuses for performance. Sales staff are also encouraged to build relationships with customers and send out birthday cards, thank-you notes and sale flyers.

The experience of opening the Denver store, which has also spawned a suburban location, has led Goodwin to look closely at other, out-of-state venues. Elliot Goodwin said Phoenix and Atlanta are possibilities but that he’s not telling where and saying only, “Larry’s is going to be much bigger before long. We don’t need larger stores in the same locations. We need more stores in other places.”

And different kinds of stores, too, it seems. The latest two locations are each very different in terms of concept but share the lively, exciting, energetic ambience that has become Larry’s trademark in recent years.

After eleven years, Larry’s Shoes returned to its roots in downtown Fort Worth, with the new Sundance Square store in 1999. Housed in a historic bank building with marble and fine-wood fittings and a custom-boot room, Larry’s Shoes has returned to occupy a mansion, whereas it formerly occupied a shack.

“We’re delighted to be back,” Elliot Goodwin said. “Downtown Fort Worth is happening right now and we’re glad to be part of the revitalization.”

The second new store to open was in a brand-new outlet mall in Katy, Texas, just outside Houston. In November, Larry’s debuted its “Authentic Outlet” concept store with 15,000 square feet of over 25,000 pairs of name-brand shoes for bunion feet for both men and women.

A new advertising campaign created for this store features the slogan “Real Brands. Unreal prices.” and touts discounts upwards of 10 percent. There is also an area of the store designated “Garage Sale” where even bigger discounts can be found.

Despite the lower prices, the Katy Mills store has all the bells and whistles Eliot Goodwin introduced to Larry’s stores in the early `90s, after market research had indicated a change was needed.

The changes he instituted are what customers notice the minute they enter a Larry’s Shoes store. Motorcycles as window dressing; celebrities’ shoes in display cases; full-wall murals by Texas artist Brad Smith; brand-name vendor corners; complimentary gourmet coffee bars; a “chill out” area with a pool table, video monitors, magazines and comfortable seating; and even free foot massages.

“Customers want to be pampered,” said Elliot Good win. “I want them to think of Larry’s as the only place to buy shoes with good arch support , so I make it the best experience possible. I’d like the guys to hang out in here, have them say, `I’ll see you down at Larry’s.’ We always had the edge with our customer service and pricing, but we hadn’t conveyed that to enough people.”

The notion of “shopertainment” to entice shoppers who are adverse to spending time in stores sits well with vendors, too, according to Dorothy Mahler, president of Johnston & Murphy, a long-time supplier.

“It’s a unique and refreshing approach to retailing men’s footwear,” she said. “Larry’s has always had a very special appreciation of the customer. Their professional team spots the trends for the future, and we support that, too.”

Another edge Elliot Goodwin claims is his sizing policy. Using the macho slogan “Size Matters,” he stresses the selection of sizes 5 to 20 and widths AAA to EEEE. Consequently, his stores have enormous inventories of product.

“My salespeople know how to fit a customer, and if he’s hard to fit we’re the store to fit him,” he said.

Ever the marketing guru, Elliot Goodwin’s decision to include a small selection of women’s shoes and accessories in the latest Fort Worth store came from the realization that women frequently direct a man’s shopping choices. Although younger men are more sartorially inclined than their fathers and the advent of the “business casual” category has broadened their footwear options, Elliot Goodwin said he believes that many men’s minds “run out when they reach their feet,” and that most men are happy to have a woman along when they shop.

Now, apparel is showing up alongside the shoes, ties, belts and socks at Larry’s. Since bringing a full-time accessories buyer on board, Larry’s has seen a jump in sales. “Accessories is one of our biggest growth areas,” said Elliot Goodwin. “We’ll be marketing them more aggressively in the future.”

Jeans, shorts, T-shirts, jerseys and shirts by Calvin Klein, Timberland, Dr. Martens and a half dozen other labels are just what a women likes to peruse while her man gets his feet measured. Also, a small but eclectic display of shoes and handbags for her may lead to a purchase.

Among the myriad of brands carried by the store are a full range of athletic looks from names such as Adidas, Nike shoes for plantar fasciitis and Reebok. For men, Ecco, Rockport, Sebago, Bally, Stacy Adams, Kenneth Cole and Dr. Martens are part of the assortment. For women, Donald Pliner, Anne Klein, Mezlan and Kenneth Cole round out the extensive assortment.

“Women love to shop, of course” said Elliot Goodwin, “and if [a woman is] impressed with the ambience, the coffee, the music, whatever, she’ll want to buy something for herself.”

But is this experiment likely to lead to a full women’s department at Larry’s Shoes? Elliot Goodwin has been quoted as saying that Larry’s’ identity allows it to stand out as a true specialty store.

“We have a niche as the largest men’s-shoe retailer, which I treasure,” he said. “But every company needs to reinvent itself every five to seven years. The new concept of `Larry’s hipness’ is taking off and working very well.”

Elliot Goodwin said he envisions a bigger chain of Larry’s stores down the road. Customers will still be pampered, staff will still be appreciated and the next generation of Goodwins will be in charge. This is no doubt what Larry Goodwin had in mind back in that tin shack in Fort Worth, fifty years ago.

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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.’

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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



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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.


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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.

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Best Softball Bat for Slow Pitch – Some Top Brands to Try

Brands and tags matter a lot for some things in your life, and this is more the case when you are looking for the best softball bats. The the best slowpitch softball bats are constructed by making use of the most scientific and advanced technology. These can assist you in improving your techniques for the game and do not affect your efficacy unlike ordinary bats. There are bats of many styles available from varied brands. Some of the top brands which offer the best bats in the market include the following:


The Worth Toxic XXX comes with a 14” barrel and it is one of the most capable performers around. It is made completely of composite and this ensures a longer life. It helps players to swing at a faster pace and hit farther than they have ever done before. The Worth Titan comes with optimum durability and has a high strength. Its composite core offers amazing rebound. The Worth Mutant is ideal for any player who wants to get maximum consistency and power with a terrific feel. The bat comes with an excellent design which can maximize the elongation and strength that can be found only in the composite bats of the highest quality.


Ever since its inception, the company is known for its high quality bats which boast of excellent craftsmanship. The design of each bat has been done keeping the player in mind. The company makes use of materials of the most superior quality in order to make the best softball bats that you can find. The bats from this brand come with the best feel, durability and hitting distance capability. The company is always striving to develop the best methods and techniques in creating their brand of bats.


The softball bats from this brand come with one-of-a-kind features which distinguish them from similar products that can be found on the market these days. For better control and feel, these come with a thinner handle. The grip material of the bat handle is similar to the pebbled cover of a basketball. When combined with a batting glove, these offer optimum control and grip. The bats from Miken come with the largest sweet spot. The bat has a more flexible barrel all through the whole length of the core which can produce maximum power while hitting. Once you hit the ball at any area of the sweet spot, the ball will fly away and there will not be any vibrations.


The premier manufacturer of high quality softball bats, Easton is known for manufacturing bats which have a technical design and an innovative edge. The sweet spot of its bats is extremely flexible. The use of a nano tube technology makes the bats of this brand stronger than any individual can imagine. These are durable bats and you can expect them to last for a long time. Naturally, you can get real value for your money. Easton is popular for its amazing stealth bats which are true winners for players!

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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 corset waist cincher 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 (Source). 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.

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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.

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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.

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