Conversation with the head of Olympus: how to sell men's shirts these days

Everything is getting more expensive right now. Also men's shirts? Or do you have to offer shirts like sour beer to get rid of them at all? Mark Bezner, the en

Conversation with the head of Olympus: how to sell men's shirts these days

Everything is getting more expensive right now. Also men's shirts? Or do you have to offer shirts like sour beer to get rid of them at all? Mark Bezner, the entrepreneur behind the German shirt market leader Olymp, does not like to talk about this topic at all. Actually, he would have to raise prices because the costs have increased so much. Cotton in the beautiful, long-staple quality used for Olymp shirts has become a quarter more expensive within a few weeks. Calculated over the course of the year, there is a cost increase of up to 134 percent, depending on the variety, Bezner reports in an interview with the F.A.Z. and adds: "Synthetic fibers are even worse.“ The overall goods use rate had increased by four percentage points.

Susanne Preuß Business correspondent in Stuttgart. I follow

Yes, the Olymp boss confirms at some point: next year the fashion will be more expensive, the "core product" of Olymp too, so the shirts. But the matter is delicate. According to the classic calculation, which has given the family business uninterrupted growth and an equity ratio of over 50 percent over the past 25 years, Olymp would have to increase the price of the classic 59 euro shirt to 79 Euro.

But whether the market gives this? "I'm having a hard time catapulting myself out of a certain price range," Bezner says pointedly. The competitor Eterna, the number two in the German shirt market with less than half the Olymp turnover, is currently in a restructuring process and the creditors of a bond were fed off with 12.5 percent of their claims. In such situations, the pricing in the market is also confused.

Ties and home office

Do you even need men's shirts anymore? At the latest since company bosses in rather conservative industries took off their ties, the business uniform has been under surveillance. At the latest since the time of home office in the pandemic, men have been thinking about which video conference they should really appear at in a classic men's shirt. Closed shops and missing business trips reinforced the renunciation of the shirt. In addition, there were no occasions to dress formally – an effect that is now increasing again with the high-speed infection numbers.

Last year, Olymp sales fell from 268 to 191 million euros. There is no sign of catching-up effects as in other industries. "This year is going to be miserable," Bezner is aware. In the order of 165 million euros of sales could still be created, he expects.

Perhaps, Bezner admits, even more would have gone if he himself had not been so pessimistic. But if you have 65 shirt shops of your own and you don't sell anything there for months, then you don't fill the warehouse with new goods, the Olymp boss tells of his own corona shock. "I lacked the courage," says the 58-year-old grandson of the company founder. He also has no practice with crises. For 25 years it has always gone up, for 25 years you have done what you think is normal at Swabian family businesses: put money back just in case. This has never happened before, but now, Bezner admits, the liquidity situation is tense. Olymp had to ask the banks to increase the credit lines, KfW was also used. For the first time, a loss will probably remain the bottom line.

Updated Date: 01 December 2021, 00:01

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