Meade Instruments, the world's largest manufacturer of telescopes for amateur astronomers, is the only company in the industry whose stock is publicly traded. This makes it the only one required by law to disclose financial information to consumers. In mid-October Meade released results for the quarter ending August 31st. The numbers show a decrease in revenues relative to the same period last year and foretell a likely operating loss for the year as a whole — driven in part by softness in high-end telescope sales to serious backyard astronomers.
"We're clearly concerned," Meade president and chief executive officer Steve Muellner told Sky & Telescope, but "we can achieve profitability by further reducing our cost structure and introducing innovative and exciting products to the marketplace." A statement accompanying the mid-October financial report outlined general plans to reduce the workforce at Meade's Irvine, California, headquarters and to shift much of its telescope manufacturing from there to a "lower-cost location."
This week more details of Meade's plans became available. In an e-mail response to questions posed by Sky & Telescope, Muellner said that all high-end manufacturing will be moving to the company's international partners.
During this transition the production of some telescopes will be temporarily suspended, and a few other models will be discontinued. Meade said it anticipates no interruption of its popular 8-, 10-, and 12-inch LX200R telescopes as well as its 8-inch LX90GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain reflectors. The 10- and 12-inch LX90GPS models will remain in production to fill existing orders and then be suspended until Spring 2008. Likewise, existing orders for 14- and 16-inch LX200R telescopes will be filled, and then production will be halted until the second half of 2008 — except for the fork-mounted 14-inch, which will be suspended indefinitely. The company's heavy-duty MAX Mount, and all sizes of its fork-mounted RCX400 telescopes, will also be suspended indefinitely. The only instruments to be discontinued outright are the Calcium-K (ultraviolet) models in the company's Coronado line of solar telescopes and filters.
According to Muellner, Meade's aggressive development and scheduled release of new products will not be affected by any of the manufacturing moves taking place. "Way ahead of this time next year," he predicts, "this will all be a distant memory."