Beginnings are often lost in the mists of time. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the preparation of foundation documents was not among the top priorities of people who liked to take the initiative. They simply pitched in and made the most of their opportunities. But the year 1804 is on record – documents from that year show that Georg Schöffel obtained a licence for trading in stockings.
Stockings, socks, nightcaps and traditional Swabian pointed caps - the choice was indeed captivating.In those days, Schwabmünchen was a capital of knitting, and „Schwabmünchen Blue" was a guarantee of quality. Knitting was an ideal supplement to the frugal living offered by farming, with spinning, dyeing and knitting generally being carried out under one roof. By 1675, resourceful Schwabmünchen residents were beginning to sell the local wares further afield, buying knitted goods and trading them throughout the country. Mobile and determined, full of ideas and way ahead of many of their fellow countrymen, they were prepared to take entrepreneurial risks.Knitted goods from Schwabmünchen were seen at fairs in Frankfurt, Leipzig and Nuremberg, and were later exported to France and Italy.
Families such as the Schöffels took to this trade with great success and ensured a good turnover. By the beginning of the 19th century over 2,000 local residents were involved in the knitting trade.Magistrates' records from later years show that in 1804, Georg Schöffel laid the foundation stone of what was to become a successful business, with no inkling of what would grow from it in later generations.
Josef Schöffel, son of Schwabmünchen stocking merchant Georg Schöffel, was called up to war. This was the War of the Fifth Coalition in 1809, in which the forces of Napoleon were faced by a coalition of Austria and the United Kingdom. Young Josef Schöffel distinguished him in the Battle of Abensberg not only with his great courage, but also by saving the life of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig.
The consequences were excellent: a lifelong annuity, which he invested in his business as a travelling stocking merchant, smoothing the way to marriage with Theresa, a farmer’s daughter.
The silver bravery medal spared him from having to serve again in the Napoleonic campaign in Russia, and Josef Schöffel made the most of his opportunity by laying the foundations for the company of Schöffel.He invested and expanded, and his courage was rewarded many times over.
For about four years the business operated of necessity from ancillary buildings at Fuggerstrasse 13, until in 1950 the commercial premises at Fuggerstrasse 6 were finally rebuilt.
A new generation took to the stage: Hubert Schöffel, born in 1930, took his place as head of the company towards the end of the 1950s, after the death in Russia of his older brother Ludwig.He soon began to go his own way, but not without conflict. Together with his wife Lydia Holdenried and despite vehement resistance from his father at the start, the 28-year-old put into place an ambitious plan.
A new, modern clothing store was established on the site at Fuggerstrasse 13. It was opened in 1960 and Lydia Schöffel, who died in 1999, managed it for decades with skill and wisdom.
But this hurdle (“the biggest risk of my life”, as Hubert Schöffel put it) was no sooner successfully overcome, before the young Schöffel, now representing the sixth generation of merchants, was seeking new horizons and wider dimensions. Opportunity was not far away. In 1961, the year his son Peter was born, a Lederhosen factory in Schwabmünchen was closed down. Hubert Schöffel did not wait long before entering new territory. By September 1961 three sewing machines were kept busy under the management of a part-time master tailor. Outerwear trousers were now the second leg of the Schöffel business.Daring was rewarded with good fortune. A new technical manager and a dedicated sales representative gave an important input, and 40 employees were soon making men’s and children’s trousers – a new era had begun.
In the 1970s the new age of technical clothing got off to a gradual start. New materials, new coating procedures, and new trends characterised the late 1970s. And Hubert Schöffel, too, was looking for alternatives.
But there was a setback with the events of Autumn 1979. A large advert announced "Gore-Tex® – revolutionising the anorak".
But the revolution almost consumed its children. Technical defects caused complaints to pour into Gore-Tex® and by 1981 this chapter appeared to be closed. The teething troubles for the product may have been overcome, but the market refused to believe in a new start, and Gore-Tex® once again disappeared from the collections.
Only two men continued to believe success was possible: Thorger Hübner, development manager of Gore, and Hubert Schöffel. And so in 1983, Schöffel was almost the only manufacturer who continued to have anything to do with the product.
Going it alone like this was seen as a great opportunity, but also posed a huge risk. However Schöffel and Gore put their all into it with a desire to work together to make a real vision come true. In order to make enough garments available for a forthcoming publicity campaign by Gore, Schöffel arranged for welding capacity for 24,000 jackets – without having a single item in the order books. The start was two-fold: a small trial series of the mountain anorak “Tibet” was produced, Sport Schuster in Munich ordered 70 anoraks, and Gore took out a full-page advert in a daily paper. And by mid-day of the launch date, all the anoraks were sold, with thousands more to follow in the coming months.The triumphant advance of Gore-Tex® and Schöffel had begun. The successful introduction in 1983 was followed by the boom years.
Since the 1980s, Schöffel's policy has been concentrated on premium ranges. Competent products made with top-class workmanship, the latest materials, service and innovation – in short, class instead of mass.The company has also gone international – what works for Germany would also be good for the foreign markets. It was Peter Schöffel, became managing director and the man responsible for the company's direction since 1990, who started the increasing internationalisation of the Schöffel brand, which continues to this day. The company now has a presence in 15 countries, including Russia and even Taiwan. The positive results of this expansion policy are clear to see. In 1999 the group turnover exceeded DM 100 million for the first time, representing a threefold increase within a decade.
2004 was a jubilee year for Schöffel – 200 years since the company was founded. From that time on, Schöffel has pursued a clear strategy – premium products for premium requirements. The marketing expenditure increased accordingly, and new tools such as the Internet were used. Customer loyalty schemes were introduced, such as the "Owners' Club" for Schöffel enthusiasts. Famous outdoor sportsmen and women and renowned ski schools have contributed their experience to the Schöffel “Professionals Pool”, helping with product development, prototype testing and advising end users. The premium brand is carefully nurtured and developed further.
In Autumn 2003, in the heart of the financial metropolis of Frankfurt, Schöffel opened the first Schöffel-Lowa store together with shoe and boot specialists Lowa, providing a stylish joint presentation of the two brands in a store concept that has attracted plenty of attention. Working together with specialist dealers, Schöffel and Lowa opened their second dual-label store in Düsseldorf in 2005. In 2006 Schöffel came up with another first. At the opening of the Munich shop of mountain sports dealer, Sport Schuster, Schöffel presented its innovative shop concept, which provides a consistent, harmonious setting for the perfect presentation of the Schöffel range with its unmistakable identity. The pilot project at Schuster – where Schöffel is represented in two shops – was followed by August 2006 by a further 20 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Schöffel has now progressed to become a national market leader and has set itself the goal of playing a substantial role as a respected premium brand throughout the rest of Europe. Schöffel recently emphasised this claim with the successful conclusion of a sponsorship deal with the Austrian Ski Association (ÖSV), announced in October 2007. As a result, in 2007 Peter Schöffel was given the award for the best entrepreneur from among German SMEs by the industry journal "Markt Intern". In his vote of thanks, Peter Schöffel stressed the role of SMEs in Germany.
In line with the expectations of this role, Schöffel opened two new dual stores together with Lowa in 2007, in Leipzig and Berlin. Others are set to follow. In a world which is becoming ever more technical and so the desire is increasing for the authentic experiences and genuine experiences that only nature has to offer, Schöffel is committed to the outdoor pursuits, mountaineering and skiing sectors.
After more than 200 years of family history, the name of Schöffel today stands for a successful medium-sized business, for innovation and for reliability. But above all it stands for an outlook on life in which people feel as safe and secure in the great outdoors, up mountains or on long-distance journeys as they do at home.