Aspen’s Klaus Obermeyer celebrates 98th birthday with business as usual
Klaus Obermeyer celebrated his 98th birthday Monday with family and friends during a two-hour open house at his company’s headquarters in Aspen, but after the apple strudel, traditional Bavarian music and a yodel, it was business as usual for the Aspen icon.
Obermeyer continues to lead the skiwear company he founded in 1947. He is one of the oldest CEOs in the country, if not the oldest. He reports to his office everyday and keeps his fingers on the pulse of the company. He is most fond of working with suppliers to find the right materials that will keep Sport Obermeyer on the leading edge of technological advances in skiwear.
“I’m kind of the policeman,” he said in an interview in his office Friday. “I want to make sure it’s not the looks that sell something, but the performance.”
It’s a dynamic world where something that was important yesterday is bypassed today, he noted.
He demonstrated the company’s cutting edge by displaying the “Klaus Jacket,” which will be released in summer 2018. It’s light but also versatile. It can keep outdoor adventurers warm with 800-fill goose down in the torso and 600-fill goose down in the sleeves. But it’s unusual as a down jacket because it’s got ventilation zippers. It will be all that skiers need on many days and a good base layer on a blustery powder day, Obermeyer said.
He also is proud that his company has meticulously researched what chemicals can be used to make garments highly water repellent without posing a health threat.
Sport Obermeyer has stayed true to Klaus’ original vision of providing skiers with the clothing they need to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.
Obermeyer is fond of saying success in business depends largely on aiming at a clear place or goal.
“That intent works almost all the time,” he said.
The company also maintains a strong bond with retailers that sell its brand. It helps retailers who run into financial problems, particularly in seasons that are tough because of lack of snow. He listens to what retailers have to say. Obermeyer continues to personally greet attendees at the major ski show each year.
Most importantly, Obermeyer doesn’t sell and ship directly to its U.S. customers via the internet — even as online shopping soars. One of its biggest competitors, Spyder, recently cranked up direct-to-customer sales.
“If we would sell direct we would be in competition with our retailers. We don’t want to hurt them,” Obermeyer said. “It helps us make many friends in the ski industry.”
The calculated risk of forgoing direct sales out of loyalty to retailers is one that Obermeyer feels strongly about.
“I cannot dance at every wedding,” he added with his signature laugh that comes often and easy in conversation.
The move continues to pay off. Sport Obermeyer is enjoying another strong sales year.
And Klaus keeps reporting for duty because, he said, he is still having fun.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s very important to love the work that you do. If you don’t love it, you’re being punished.”
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