Founded in 1950 by German-born aeronautical engineer and ski instructor Klaus Obermeyer and now jointly managed with his son Wally, Sport Obermeyer is a leading supplier in the U.S. fashion ski-apparel market. Its products are manufactured by a joint venture in Asia with Obersport, and by independent manufacturers located in the Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States. With sales of approximately $30 million in 1992, Sport Obermeyer had a commanding 45% share of the children’s market and an 11% share of the adult market.
Nearly all of Sport Obermeyer’s products are newly designed each year to include changes in style, fabric, and color, and until the mid-1980s, the company’s ...view middle of the document...
It was founded in 1938 by the late Paul Lamfrom, father of present chairperson Gert Boyle. The company is headquartered in Oregon. Columbia Sportswear also produces footwear, headgear, camping equipment, skiwear, and outerwear accessories. In 2001, it was the largest American seller of ski apparel, making popular and relatively affordable outerwear.
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Other competitors such as Helly Hansen and The North Face are part of a proliferation of ski apparel companies expanding in the market as snow sports popularity grows in the youth demographic (snowboarding in particular).
Sport Obermeyer relied on an in-house “buying committee” – a group of company managers from a range of functional areas – to make a consensus forecast of the demand for each of the company’s various products. Wally Obermeyer oversees this committee, is of course a dominant voice as a key decision maker. All committee members contribute forecasts of product sales from their respective experience, which are then aggregated by the group. This can lead to both excellent insights in trends, as well as very disparate views on the selling potential of an SKU.
Obermeyer is wrestling with several concerns: how to create more accurate forecasts, how to reduce leadtimes, how to manage when demand data is transmitted to the company and the impact that has on design and ordering fulfillment, and how to reduce manufacturing costs without jeopardizing lengthening the order cycle or losing flexibility. The foremost of these issues is when they receive demand data, as this sets the timeframe and constraints of the current manufacturing cycle, all else being equal. Currently the company receives much of its strong trend and demand data from specific apparel shows (Las Vegas and Europe), and since these are later in the cycle of design and order fulfillment, the strain is placed on Obermeyer and Obersport to not only be correct in identifying trends before confirmation of their popularity, but also the manufacturing side as well react quickly in the case of emergency orders and also produce in as least inefficient and costly way as possible. Sooner receipt of demand data is also important to improving and validating product forecasts.
The second issue for Obermeyer is the actual manufacturing. A decision to base the majority of an order with either the China factory (cheaper) or Hong Kong (faster and better) comes...