Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From Morris to a global leader

FXR Racing plans to double sales to $40M in few years

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FXR Racing is not as well-known as other Manitoba brands such as Great-West Life, New Flyer or Richardson Pioneer, but it also makes world-class products.

And while it's not a billion-dollar-a-year company -- more like $20 million -- its owner and founder, Milt Reimer, figures it will double its sales in the next two or three years.

FXR is the largest manufacturer of snowmobile jackets and pants in the world.

Snowmobile enthusiasts already know the name and the brand is moving into snowboarding and other extreme sports.

And taking the lead of another famous Canadian outerwear manufacturer, Canada Goose, it's also broadening its offerings into the fashion side.

This week, the company that started in the basement of Reimer's parents' house near Morris in 1994, held its first dealers conference.

Some of FXR's 250 dealers are in Winnipeg from as far away as Russia, Lithuania and Sweden.

Its bold designs and patented high-tech engineering features -- such as the flotation-assistance technology built into the insulation of most of FXR's pants and jackets -- have made it the favourite brand for high-performance consumers.

At the recent X-Games, FXR sponsored four power sport teams.

"It's a real Canadian success story," said Matt Lester, managing editor of Supertrax magazine, the largest snowmobiling magazine in the world. "In the snowmobile business, it's known as the top clothing line."

In addition to its own growing product line -- some on display in FXR's own flagship stores in the St. Vital Centre and the West Edmonton Mall, and the entirety jam-packed into a 212-page catalogue -- the company has co-branding agreements to make outerwear with Yamaha and Polaris.

It just received a large order from outdoors retailer Cabela's for a line of coats and jackets to be made under another co-branding deal with RealTree, the creator and marketer of RealTree camouflage patterns.

Last year, the company and its 20 employees moved from a shop behind Reimer's house near Sanford to a new office facility in Oak Bluff.

It's already added about 10 people to its Winnipeg operation, not counting workers at a 40,000-square-foot warehouse on McGillvray Boulevard or its FXR Asia office in Seoul, Korea, which manages production in factories in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

"We were getting so big we had to move to Winnipeg just to retain a higher standard of employee," Reimer said.

"The company has grown so much I have to find people significantly smarter than me to handle things like finance."

Reimer, 50, is probably being modest.

He's intimately involved in much of the company's operations and still maintains the position of chief designer.

He started doing all his manufacturing in Manitoba when there still was a garment industry here but was forced to move production to Asia like just about everyone else.

"It was a tricky transition to Asia for number of years," he said.

"We started paying too much margin to the agencies (who made the connection with the factories) until five years ago. We set up FXR Korea in downtown Seoul. We are involved in so many things, import and export into and out of countries. We have 30 cans (shipping containers) on the water at any given time in the fall."

In addition to the logistics of an international supply chain, it's a business dominated by a one-season sales cycle, which brings its own set of cash-flow nightmares.

At the dealers conference, Reimer went into surprising detail about why the company maintains a hard policy on prompt initial payments.

"I've had to learn the hard way," Reimer said later.

But he was equally thorough in explaining the kind of support the company will provide its suppliers.

Reimer believes FXR is one of the few companies in his field that provides inventory support through the season as opposed to leaving dealers to their own devices after they sell out of popular items.

Scott Harland, the owner of TransCanada Motorsport, a Kawasaki dealer in Brandon, has been selling FXR product since the mid-'90s.

"They are innovators and now FXR has got to the point where it is a world leader," Harland said.

"I consider myself very fortunate to be a dealer."

Harland does not have any exclusivity in the Brandon market but at the same time, he said, the company protects its dealers.

Its numbers are growing, but Reimer said he is content to see that happen incrementally.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 B5

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