Munich Sold out: Ortlieb panniers were more popular than ever over the summer. “We had to allocate the goods and set the retailers weekly and monthly limits for their orders,” says Martin Esslinger. The 40-year-old sales manager of the medium-sized company could not even come close to meeting the demand. There was a lack of production staff and machines. And that despite the fact that the Franconians have significantly expanded production.
Despite the tremendous upswing, Esslinger is now setting out to realign the family business. In spring, the owner Hartmut Ortlieb, 59, appointed the economist to the management. His mission: Esslinger should make Ortlieb fit for the time after the great bicycle boom.
But that’s not all: Esslinger is to replace the previous number two next to founder Ortlieb, the experienced manager Jürgen Siegwarth, 61. “We have initiated the generation change,” says Esslinger. Esslinger did not want to say when exactly Siegwarth will be eliminated.
Fit for the future, that means: more digital, and that in every respect – from warehouse and logistics to the web shop. In addition, the label should become greener.
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Ortlieb enjoys a legendary reputation among cycling enthusiasts. The waterproof saddlebags from Heilsbronn are part of cycling trips like Goretex are part of hiking jackets. In recent years, the brand has benefited from the boom in e-bikes. With Corona, commuters came as new customers who avoid local public transport, and of course holidaymakers who forego long-distance travel because of the virus.
Ortlieb also builds its own machines
Ortlieb keeps sales figures under lock and key. It is known, however, that the company produces more than a million items a year. The proceeds should add up to a mid double-digit million amount. This year sales rose again in double digits and the orders for the coming spring are, according to the company, 30 percent higher than those of 2021.
The entire range comes from our own factory. Ortlieb also builds the machines himself. Management believes that this is the only way for the company with its 300 employees to really stand out from the competition. But that’s not all: According to the company, 70 percent of all materials come from Germany, and a supplier is a stone’s throw away at the other end of the street.
Ortlieb enjoys a good reputation among retailers. “As a B2B partner, we of course appreciate the production in Germany and the resulting high, fast and reliable availability and delivery capability,” says Philipp Simon, head of the online shipping department Bike Components. This is “an absolute added value in the current problem of supply chain congestion on the world market”. The extremely low response rate also suggests that customers are satisfied with the products.
According to Simon, Ortlieb should benefit from something else: the trend towards cycling as a year-round activity. “Ortlieb’s functional promise to transport things reliably, safely and dryly, fits perfectly.” For the manager, the Ortlieb articles are “practically the Tempo handkerchief for bike bags, so the first choice for all year-round bikers”. The merchant assumes that the demand for waterproof panniers will continue through the cooler season.
But now it’s getting harder and harder to get the materials. The global delivery bottlenecks also affect Ortlieb, although most of the materials come from Germany. The manager has therefore postponed the offer of some peripheral products, which were planned for 2022, for the time being.
At the same time, Esslinger is working on the new long-term strategy. “The big question is: where do we want to be in ten, fifteen years? We are currently in the process of answering that. ”The brand wants to make Esslinger so well known that consumers always look directly to Ortlieb when looking for panniers.
The brand is so important to Hartmut Ortlieb that the brand is so important that he has already been brought to court several times against the Internet giant because of its – from his point of view improper – use by Amazon. The medium-sized company prevailed in two out of three cases. Alone Ortlieb would lead such expensive and protracted disputes, which went as far as the Federal Court of Justice, but no longer, emphasizes Esslinger. “We will continue to fight in court to maintain sovereignty over our own brand. But we need fellow campaigners for this. ”
More: Delivery bottlenecks also affect online bicycle retailer Bike24