Snow is putting a smile on Klaus’ face |

Snow is putting a smile on Klaus’ face

Smiles are easy to find these days on the faces of employees at Sport Obermeyer when they watch the national weather reports on TV.

The Aspen skiwear-maker, like most of its industry, is experiencing a sales surge, thanks in large part to Mother Nature.

“When there’s snow and wintry weather it makes us look intelligent in this business,” chuckled Klaus Obermeyer, company founder and president.

It’s rare that every region of the country has good snow, cold temperatures or both, Obermeyer noted, and when it happens it’s a recipe for success. The wintry weather benefits Sport Obermeyer in two ways.

First, strong sales by retailers lead to more reorders for this season’s clothing line. Retailers sell out of the merchandise they ordered before the season, so they are back on the phones trying to get more coats, ski outfits and other apparel.

Obermeyer said his company aimed for $3 million in reorders this winter. The figure just hit $3.6 million.

A second benefit is that strong sales builds confidence among retailers to order more for next winter. The snow sports industry is always one year ahead. Sport Obermeyer and other clothing companies, as well as ski and snowboard makers, are now taking orders for the 2001-02 season.

Obermeyer said it’s been eight years since the entire country experienced a harsh winter. Sales for the industry overall were disappointing the last two years because of mild conditions.

“Our sixth sense told us to buy a little more for this season, so that worked well,” said Obermeyer, whose company has annual sales of more than $30 million.

Sport Obermeyer’s good fortune this winter is typical of many makers of snow sports products, according to SnowSports Industries America, a nonprofit trade association for about 800 product manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.

“Snow sells,” said Mary Jo Tarallo, director of Internet development and communications for SIA. “Everybody’s going gangbusters right now.”

The industry experiences its best years when snow falls early and continues into the holidays. That stimulates sales of both hard goods (like skis, snowboards, boots and bindings) and soft goods (like clothing).

Manufacturers of all types of goods have low inventories due to strong reorders, according to Tarallo.

“Morale is definitely different from the last year or two,” she said.

An audit of the sales of snow sports products showed that sales from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 were up 1.7 percent to $297 million, according to SIA.

Preliminary figures show a significant increase in sales for November, but sales for the month last year were down 11 percent. Strong sales continued through the holiday shopping period, although a report won’t be available from SIA until later this month.

But Tarallo said the mood of retailers is probably as good a business indicator as any.

“It’s not always easy to please retailers,” she said. “If they’re smiling you know things are going well.”

Sport Obermeyer Marketing Director Barbara Owen noted that orders for next season will be taken through March, so there’s potential for stellar sales.

The company is banking on its designs as much as the weather to influence buyers. Sport Obermeyer is flying in representatives of the 60 top-selling retailers of its skiwear later this month, putting them up at the Aspen Meadows and accompanying them to the local slopes.

Obermeyer said his company will show off next season’s lines between all the fun. Sport Obermeyer is projecting an increase of sales for 2001-02 of between $3 million and $4 million.

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