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AUGUST 20, 2012


Polar Sports, Inc.
In early January 2012, Richard Weir, president of Polar Sports, Inc., sat down with Thomas Johnson, vice president of operations, to discuss Johnson’s proposal that Polar institute level monthly production for 2012. Since joining the company less than a year earlier, Johnson had become concerned about the many problems arising from its highly seasonal production scheduling, which reflected the seasonality of sales of skiwear and accessories. Weir understood the cost savings and improved production efficiency that could result from level production, but he was uncertain what the impact on other aspects of the business would be. Polar Sports, a fashion skiwear manufacturer based in Littleton, Colorado, carried production lines in high-quality ski jackets, snow pants, sweaters, thermal soft shells and underwear, and accessories such as gloves, mitts, socks, and knit caps. The company produced most of these products in a wide range of styles, sizes, and colors. Polar had a unique design of skiwear that employed special synthetic materials for better insulation and durability. The design and color of products changed annually. Dollar sales of a given product line could vary as much as 30% to 40% from year to year. The ski apparel design and manufacturing business was highly competitive. The industry comprised a few large players and a number of smaller firms. Besides several major competitors in the market such as North Face, Burton, Karbon, Spyder Active Sports, and Sport Obermeyer, highend designers like Prada and Giorgio Armani had recently entered the technical skiwear market. Occasionally, a company was able to gain share in that competitive market by developing and marketing new fabrics and using innovative patterns in a given year; typically, however, competitors were able to market similar products the following year. Unlike Polar, several large producers had shifted their major production to Asia and Latin America to save on labor costs, making their products more competitive in price. Fierce competition in both design and pricing resulted in short product lives and a relatively high rate of company failures.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Harvard Business School Professor W. Carl Kester and Professor Wei Wang, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, prepared this case solely as a basis for class discussion and not as an endorsement, a source of primary data, or an illustration of effective or ineffective management. Although based on real events and despite occasional references to actual companies, this case is fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons or entities is coincidental. Copyright © 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to This publication may not be digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.

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913-513 | Polar Sports, Inc.

Company Background
Polar Sports, Inc., was established in 1992 by Richard Weir, a retired professional snowboarder. His desire was to produce high-quality skiwear and accessories for people of all ages and abilities. Through Weir’s expansive network of ski instructors and resorts, Polar was able to sell a few hundred units of high-quality products by the third year of operation. Polar experienced fast growth since the late 1990s, after sponsoring a number of snowboarding events and endorsing a few talented athletes who later competed in several international competitions. Polar became a popular brand among both professional and amateur skiers and snowboarders. The company’s sales growth was affected...
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