Dealers came by the dozens — more than 80 strong from 13 countries — to help FXR Racing celebrate its 20th anniversary this past winter atop the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It was the first rooftop event of its kind there in the winter, but that should come as no surprise to fans of the FXR Racing brand. Milt Reimer has been pushing boundaries since he formed the snowmobile and motorcycle apparel company in his garage two decades ago.
It’s not every day that an apparel brand gathers dealers from across the globe to celebrate their partnership. This winter, dealers came from as far away as Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Iceland. Of course, the bulk of the contingent was from the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s absolutely pivotal for people to see how we run our company,” Reimer said. “And this year for the 20th turned out far better than what I ever thought, all because of the people we have.”
Reimer presented special awards to the company’s FXR Korea and FXR Vietnam managers, all as a way to salute their contributions to the brand’s growth. Sales reps — FXR sells direct to dealers and retailers — have pushed FXR into record-breaking years recently.
“You can launch something and only go so far if you cannot continue to reinvent yourself and stay relevant,” Reimer said. “That word ‘relevant’ is key. You want to be the company that everybody looks for to release the next leading designs that are relevant and going to trending in the industry. That’s our company and what’s allowed us to become the largest snowmobile powersports brand in the world.”
FXR Racing’s dual layer water proofing system and the “best venting system in the industry,” combined with some ahead-of-the-game colors and graphic patterns, have helped the company thrive in recent years in the snowmobile industry. And don’t look now, but moto is clearly the next step for Milt Reimer’s company. Reimer and his team are gearheads at heart — he’s as apt to be on a dirt bike in the summer as he is a snowmobile in the winter. In fact, many of FXR Racing’s apparel patterns and colors can be traced to moto. So non-snowbelt dealers who haven’t had reason to interact with FXR in the past will surely be hearing from the company’s sales reps soon.
“Everything revolves around the dealer. You can consistently put good product in there that sells, and our sell-through is the cleanest of all our competitors. That’s what we do better than anyone year in and year out,” Reimer said.
With four retail stores in Canada and a global staff of about 120, FXR’s worldwide dealer base now numbers about 600.
“We give dealers a good territory and the opportunity to be profitable,” Reimer said. “We have been able to help dealers really lock down their area and help them do a better job and be more profitable, and increase order sizes and volume and
Reimer in 2015 also was named a finalist for accounting firm Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
PSB: What is the biggest opportunity in the snowmobile industry, and how can the industry take advantage of it?
Milt Reimer: The biggest opportunity is in apparel, straight up. Getting moms into your store. We have the broadest selection of women’s wear by far. We have almost as much women’s wear as all of our competitors combined. And it’s an awesome area, but it’s also a high-risk endeavor, because if it doesn’t work, you end up with a warehouse full of stuff. Brand strength is a big factor with the women, too. Getting moms to shop in the store is really key. A lot of dealerships can’t do it. They’re too
“powersports-y,” or however you want to say it. To really create that attractive apparel section where the mom will come in and shop for all the birthdays and events that go on, it’s a huge benefit for those dealers who do it right. The dealers that do that well have that extra advantage, because when mom’s in the store, there’s all the other things they can buy, too. They start coming into the store consistently to shop when you can make the place friendly enough. A lot of good dealers, they have far more apparel when you walk in up front than units. You have to figure out that merchandising balance in the store to make that area very attractive. A lot of our moms and the kids, 80 percent of the apparel that we sell never sees a snowmobile. It’s winter wear, and it’s a growing profit center for us. Apparel gets you a far broader cross-section of customers through your doors, period.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?
The biggest challenge absolutely is having your personnel develop their skill sets and mature your business operations management model at the same pace as your brand grows. And that’s called growth pains. Every company like us — we’ve more than doubled our sales from three seasons ago from
$20 million to now we’re like at $53 million in sales — when your company is growing at that pace, with the infrastructure and warehousing and manufacturing and your ability to ship and deliver, it’s not easy to keep up with it all. We struggled three years ago a lot; last year we corralled it a little bit, and this past winter we really nailed it down. A lot of our operations had to change.
The method that you run the company — to ensure a stable supply chain and delivery, and to be the best at it — that was the biggest challenge. We hired some great people, and made some internal moves, and our people organically have been growing with us.
What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?
Don’t do it for the money. It’s always been about the passion for me; never about the money. I don’t have to do this; I get to do this. I can live my passion and personality and the way I function. I get in too deep because I don’t know when to let off — it’s a little like racing that way. We pushed those boundaries, but now we’re stabilizing, and we’ve done a bunch of test and market approaches and activations, and we’re finding our way. Moto is coming to the top.
So I guess my advice is to take risks, but don’t go all in with anything. Test the market, see where it’s going. Sometimes the first year doesn’t tell the right story, and you just need to tweak it a little bit and then put it out there again. You’re going to make mistakes and have successes. To keep it emotionally on an even keel is the tricky part. Understand what your customer wants and deliver that service and product.