The lipstick business has become difficult, says Sebastian Schwanhäußer. On the other hand, eyeliners sold wonderfully, like everything else that adorns the eye area. Backpacks for children and everyday life would also find decent sales, as well as pants for ski tourers, while other ski clothing is unlikely to be in demand this winter. And as far as pens and crayons are concerned: as long as the trend towards creative writing and painting continues, especially in Europe and China, he shouldn’t be afraid, says Schwanhäußer.
As CEO, the 58-year-old runs a company that is feeling the effects of the corona pandemic particularly quickly and drastically. The company makes products that play a role in many people’s everyday lives. Schwanhäußer runs the family company of the same name based in Heroldsberg near Nuremberg. He sells writing implements of the Schwan-Stabilo brand and operates an outdoor division, which includes the backpack manufacturer Deuter, the mountain sports outfitter Ortovox, the companies Maier Sports and Gonso, a manufacturer of cycling clothing. The third pillar of Schwanhäußer Industrie Holding with its 4,650 employees is the business with cosmetic pencils, which the Francs do not sell to end customers, but rather deliver to many large and well-known cosmetic brands.
All of these businesses are heavily influenced by the pandemic. Who buys ski clothing when lifts and ski hotels are closed? Who lipsticks when the lips are under the mask? And when schools and daycare centers are closed, that does not mean in every family that the child draws and writes at home. It is therefore all the more remarkable that after three years of massive sales declines, the group succeeded in reversing the trend in the 2020/2021 financial year, which was marked by a pandemic. Two percent growth to 623.2 million euros – that makes him satisfied given the circumstances, says Sebastian Schwanhäußer.
The company has the structural advantage that the writing implements, cosmetics and outdoor subgroups are now roughly the same size in terms of sales. So some things are balanced out. Years of declines in the cosmetics business, for example, which also lost 11.1 percent of sales in the past fiscal year, are more than offset by more writing instruments sold (plus 7.8 percent) and the growth in the outdoor segment (plus 16.6 percent). In times of the strictest lockdown, people are pushed into the fresh air.
Consumers are paying more attention than ever to sustainability
Seen in this light, Schwanhäußer is suffering and benefiting from the pandemic. Which makes it difficult to look into the future. “The risks are still very high,” says Sebastian Schwanhäußer. He refers to the fourth corona wave, also to the rising prices for energy, raw materials and transport. “Our financial year 2021/22 got off to a good start, and if the buying mood for our products continues, we are forecasting slight growth.”
Beyond the pandemic, the company used the time to remedy its own weaknesses. Especially in the cosmetics division, which has long been by far the largest division, where a new management headed by Tomás Espinosa no longer only wants to deliver trendy color for the face, but instead increasingly processes colored pencils for the skin made from natural ingredients and packs them according to ethical, social and ecological aspects . Consumers are paying more attention than ever to the sustainability of the products, says Espinosa. A make-up stick for the eyes with 70 percent less plastic than its predecessor goes well with this. And there will certainly be something invented for the lips, because at some point the masks will fall again and the lips will be visible.