Sport Obermeyer Case Study

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 design-and-sales cycle was relatively straightforward: design the product. Make samples, and show samples to retailers in March; place production orders with suppliers in March and April after receiving retailer orders; receive in September and October; and then ship them immediately to retailer outlets. That approach worked well for more than 30 years: production commitments were based on firm orders, and fall delivery provided ample time for efficient manufacturing.
In the mid-1980s, however, several factors rendered the approach obsolete. First, as Sport Obermeyer’s sales volume grew, the company began to hit manufacturing constraints during the peak ski-wear-production with high-quality-skiwear manufacturers during the critical summer months to allow all of its volume to be produced after it had received firm retail orders. Second, the pressure to reduce manufacturing costs and increase variety compelled Sport Obermeyer to develop a more complex supply chain.
The main competitors of Obermeyer were Columbia Sportswear, Spyder, and up and coming Helly Hanson, although the niche demographic selling area can differ. Columbia Sportswear Company is a United States company that manufactures and distributes outerwear and sportswear. It was founded in 1938 by the late Paul Lamfrom,...