Breaking Camp Keeping the Wolf From the Door

Outdoor clothing maker Jack Wolfskin has seen its sales slide, putting pressure on the German company's new American chief executive, Melody Harris-Jensbach.
Good times are over at Jack Wolfskin. Source. DPA

She has waited a long time for this job, but patience has ultimately paid off for Melody Harris-Jensbach, the Korean-American with a U.S. passport, who has been named chief executive officer at the German outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Jack Wolfskin.

The one-time designer had wanted to lead a company for several years after coming close to the top job at other firms. She was the second in command at Puma, the athletic apparel and footwear firm, but was passed over in summer 2011 when a long-planned executive change unfolded. Worse, she found herself reporting to a boss who was 20 years her junior. She immediately quit.

Ms. Harris-Jensbach also didn’t quite make it to the top in her next post with the fashion label Esprit. After two years with the company, she resigned in October 2013 to become a consultant.

Now, the 53-year-old succeeds Michael Rupp, who is exiting Germany’s largest outdoor supplier after less than two and a half years. The former Adidas executive was unable to get the Jack Wolfskin brand back on the road to growth. In fiscal year 2013, sales plummeted by eight percent to €324 million ($405 million).

Those languishing sales figures are particularly disturbing to Blackstone, the global investment and advisory firm that acquired Jack Wolfskin three years ago at the peak of the outdoor boom. The U.S.-based firm reportedly paid €700 million ($875 million) for the company, but since the purchase the retailer has been struggling. Labels such as Schöffel, Mammut and Campagnolo have been harrying the long-time market leader, particularly in its home market of Germany.

Ms. Harris-Jensbach won’t have it easy.

“The company has a unique history and possesses an extraordinary brand loyalty,” she said Tuesday. This may indeed be so, but now she must convince her customers to turn that loyalty into action again by buying jackets, pants and hiking boots.


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Joachim Hofer covers the tech, IT and sports sectors from Handelsblatt's Munich office. To contact the author: [email protected]