SNEWS® International Reports
Flori Schuster, owner of 87-year-old Sporthaus Schuster in the heart of Munich, Germany, likes to sell what others don’t, doesn’t worry about market share, and doesn’t feel compelled to expand.
“As long as we feel we can do even better here in Munich, we concentrate on our investment here instead of someplace else. Moreover, we feel that the quality of our personnel is not replicable. Well, it may be, but not in less than a generation!” says Schuster.
“I couldn’t even tell you market share numbers since we don’t try to be ‘everybody’s darling.’ We try to do an expert job for experts to appreciate.”
Sporthaus Schuster was founded in 1913, right before World War I, by Schuster’s family and has continued to grow ever since. In March 1945 in the bombings of World War II, the store was nearly completely destroyed, he says, forcing his father to restart the entire business. Sales in the last year reached 70 million German marks (some 34 million US Dollars), Schuster says. The store’s growth he puts at “a two-digit tendency.” It covers a sprawling, spiraling, multi-story building that is grown outward and upward over the years, now totaling about 70,000 square feet (6,500 square meters).
A bit of a Munich landmark, most sports enthusiasts whether weekend warriors, occasional fitness nuts, or serious outdoor enthusiasts know they can make the trek to the store near Marien Square (that’s where the bells chime and the statues dance in the courthouse) and find what they need.
But Sporthaus Schuster is about more than just sales:
- It’s a gathering spot, noting the televisions in the windows during the Summer Olympics in late September that attracted throngs of excited viewers sort of camping out in front of the screens to watch and discuss whatever event was on.
- It’s a sports museum. The windows usually have some display of an antique piece of equipment and the walls are hung with photos of historic moments, well-known athletes, and other eye-catching relics.
- It’s a travel bureau. Sports and ski enthusiasts can turn to Schuster for package trips specializing in tennis, golf, horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing, ice climbing, hang-gliding, and whatever else you can dream up. Particularly popular are its ski schools and trips, all run by Schuster’s own instructors or hand-picked partners.
Ask Schuster the brands they carry, and he’ll spout a list including the biggest names and most recognized companies. U.S. brands include Black Diamond, Buck Knives, Coleman, Columbia, Leatherman, Marmot, North Face, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Sorel, Teva, and Thor-Lo.
But the big names aren’t what Schuster (www.sport-schuster.de) is all about: “In general, those brands that are most important to us are those that distinguish us from the competition, not the ones you can find everywhere.”
Like other European dealers, Schuster recognizes the influence that North American brands have on European brands.
“U.S. outdoor brands don’t care too much about what it looks like, as long as it works,” he says. “European brands usually aren’t that bold. And, more importantly, there is a strong influence on what I call ‘the market landscape.’ Some U.S. global players such as Nike are regarded as more of a threat to dealers than as partners.”