From the September 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

The young and the restless no longer are--restless, that is. Now that kids spend ever-increasing periods of time working on computers--to say nothing of the hours spent glazed over in front of the television--it's becoming clear that couch-potatoitis isn't an adults-only affliction. Alas, many of today's kids are sedentary enough to sprout roots.

"When I was younger, we'd play outside," observes Latrice Lee, 41, founder of Chicago-based Pre-Fit Inc., a 48-unit franchise that takes children's fitness programs to day-care centers. "Now, if a child isn't involved in some kind of team activity, they're not getting any exercise at all. In most states, [physical education] isn't even a requirement."

Enter the trend toward organized physical activity programs such as Lee's--as well as exercise equipment modified to meet the needs of junior Jane Fondas and pint-sized Arnold Schwarzeneggers. "Everybody's interested in it," says Lee, who also recently launched a children's health club in Chicago. She hopes to open additional Children's Health & Executive Clubs later this year.

But how do you get this sedentary generation of kids pumped up to, well, pump up? According to Lee, it's not as difficult as it seems. "We make everything fun," she says, revealing the secret to her company's success. And, yes, that approach results in many healthy returns.

Upward Mobility

The newly flush rush to spend.

What a difference prosperity makes. With two-thirds of Americans rating the economy "excellent" or "good" in a recent Gallup poll, it's clear businesses have much to celebrate--or, rather, much to sell. And make no mistake: Consumers are buying.

"Retail sales are rising faster than incomes," notes Roger Blackwell, professor of marketing at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "This increasing confidence is affecting sales of everything from Beanie Babies to bathtubs."

What's particularly interesting is the behavior of the newly affluent--boomtimers, if you will. Thanks to boomtimers, luxury movie theaters that serve fine wines are making their debuts. Even upscale products in categories like diapers and food-storage bags are being picked up by consumers.

But don't mistake these consumers for show-offs. "It would be wrong to say people are buying [premium products and services] just as badges of prosperity," says Blackwell, author of From Mind to Market: Reinventing the Retail Supply Chain (HarperBusiness). "[The products and services] are symbols of quality."

So boomtimers are on a quest for quality? Yes--and convenience. "In a prosperous economy," concludes Blackwell, "[consumers will] buy the best if they feel the value is there."

Flash!

Turkey, cranberries . . . and "Rugrats?" You bet. Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, the animated children's program "Rugrats" is scheduled to hit the big screen . . .

. . . Going, going, gone? At press time, the home run record of baseball's Roger Maris was within striking distance of Mark McGwire. Other players--Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa--could also beat Maris' 61 dingers, but the smart bet is on McGwire. Naturally, any home run king is expected to become licensing royalty.

Full House

With the economy booming, Americans are eagerly remodeling. According to the American Express Retail Index, approximately 39 percent of homeowners will follow in the handyman footsteps of television's Tim Allen this year. They've slated these rooms for reconstruction:

Bedroom: 27%

Living Room: 17%

Kitchen: 16%

Home Office: 13%

Dining Room: 11%

Home Theater: 8%

Contact Sources

Blackwell Associates Inc., (614) 457-6334, fax: (614) 457-8187

Pre-Fit Inc., 10926 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60643, (773) 233-7771