Obermeyer rides wintry weather to strong sales
Klaus Obermeyer is fond of saying that lots of snow makes a guy like him in the winter sportswear business look like a genius. He says it for good reason.
Sport Obermeyer’s sales in dollars were up 15 percent last winter, and initial orders for the 2004-05 winter are up another 15 percent compared to this time last year according to Bill Post, president of the Aspen-based company.
Good snow years in most regions of the country helped fuel the strong sales, Post said. Wintry weather brings a double dose of good news for ski wear manufacturers – it helps retailers sell the inventory in their stores, and it boosts confidence in advance orders for the next ski season.
Obermeyer is faring well even though the competition is fiercer than ever. While the number of direct competitors of a similar size has dwindled to one, Spyder, a lot of companies that used to specialize in climbing wear or hunting and camping wear have expanded into ski wear. So when a large retailer is considering which manufacturer to order 1,000 parkas from, it has probably 50 choices these days, Post explained.
“It’s really become a market share battle,” he said.
Overall sales of winter sportswear isn’t increasing. And Sport Obermeyer’s retail base is holding steady at between 500 and 650 stores and outlets, according to Post. So to increase sales the company has to work harder than the competition and try to appeal to a broader customer base.
Post said Obermeyer sets the standard for the industry in kids’ winter wear. “They come to us first and look at what we’ve got,” he said. Sales of women’s wear is also strong. Sales of menswear is “strengthening,” but still has the greatest room for improvement, said Post.
Post, who is in his fourth year with the company, said sales are just now topping the level they were at before Sept. 11, 2001. Sales had jumped 30 percent in 2000, then nose-dived after the terrorist attacks as the national economy slumped, Post said. The gains of the last couple of years have offset the deficit.
Obermeyer took orders for next winter between Jan. 1 and March 15. Its four factories in China and Bangladesh will start manufacturing soon, and orders will be delivered starting July 1.
The company will sell between 600,000 and 700,000 garments – everything from headbands to parkas – for the coming campaign, compared to 500,000 to 600,000 last year, according to Post.
“We feel positive about the industry and our position in it,” he said.
But the company, which employs 35 workers in Aspen, also knows it cannot afford to be complacent. Post said that Klaus, who remains the chairman as well as owner of the company, is fond of another saying that goes: “You have it never made, you’re always making it.”
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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