In a rare move, Klaus Lenhart, owner of the Leki company, has disclosed a few figures from his company and the market of trekking and ski poles in an exclusive interview with THE COMPASS. According to the managing director, Leki sold more than 1,000,000 pairs of poles in 2007. Lenhart emphasizes “pairs” because some of his competitors mix up pairs and pieces to obscure the real figures, Lenhart says. The company, from Kirchheim outside Stuttgart, has sold more than 1 million pairs for a couple of years in a row, but the precise figures have varied from one year to the other depending on the quality of the winters and the evolution of the decreasing market of Nordic walking poles.

The share of production of OEM goods for third parties is traditionally relatively low at 5 percent of the entire volume. Leki continues to manufacture ski poles for Head and Stöckli. While Lenhart is not willing to disclose his company’s turnover, he hinted that trekking poles make 40 percent of his business in terms of volume, compared with 60 percent from ski poles. In terms of value, the ratio is the opposite because adjustible poles can be sold at a higher price than fixed length ski poles. This is partially thanks to Leki’s “Trigger” technology, which allows the consumer to disconnect the loop from the pole easily.

Leki sees itself as the largest manufacturer of poles in the world, but admits that it is not leading in every category. It estimates it is in front for trekking poles only rivaled by Komperdell, the Austrian company. In the alpine ski business, the big competitor is Scott. For cross-country poles, the brand thinks it is No. 3 behind the Scandinavians, i.e. the Norwegian brand Swix and Exel from Finland. Cross-country poles make about 10 percent of Leki’s annual production. Another competitor is the bunch of Chinese factories that seem to have impressive sales in the lower price range, for no-name products or OEM production for Western ski brands. There are about 30 companies in the Far East that compete on this segment.

The company employs 40 people at its German headquarters and 180 at its own manufacturing facility in Tachov, a town in the Czech Republic. Leki shut down its factory at the headquarters in 1994 due to high labor cost in the wealthy Stuttgart area. By then, it already had sub-contractors in Tachov as well as in Dresden, but Lenhart then decided to concentrate the entire production at Novasport, Leki’s Czech subsidiary. In 2006, the Tachov facility was enlarged from 10,000 to 12,000 square meters. The brand only works with local distributors in its key markets, except for the German home market, Austria, the U.S., where it has its own subsidiary, and Italy. The Italian business is operated from the German headquarters. Novasport, the Czech operation, is in charge only of manufacturing; the distribution is handled by Sport Koncept, a Prague-based company.

The glove business of the brand is still young but promising, the owner says. Lenhart went into gloves when he acquired a minority stake in Reusch, the Valencia-based marketer of gloves and apparel from which he eventually pulled out. The company continues to market the Lekisport brand, a Swiss operation, which used to be run by Lenhart’s brother Rainer. No ajor effort is made to move this brand forward. It is kept alive to supply its existing customers in Switzerland nd beyond.