Gertrude Boyle is called chairman and, occasionally, one tough mother. The nonagenarian and face of Columbia Sportswear's "tough mother" and "tested tough" ads heads one of the global powerhouses in the development, marketing, and distribution of active outerwear. Columbia's trademark Bugaboo parka with weatherproof shell put the company on the map in upscale outdoor wear. Columbia offers performance apparel for a variety of activities, as well as sportswear accessories, boots, and rugged footwear, sold under brands Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, Sorel, and Montrail. Founded as a hat company in 1938, Columbia Sportswear is controlled by the Boyle family and run by president and CEO Tim Boyle, son of Gert.
Columbia Sportswear's operations are divided between two product categories: The largest category, apparel, accessories, and equipment, generates about 80% of the company's total sales. Footwear, including Sorel brand boots, accounts for the rest. The sportswear maker also operates 55 outlet stores and eight branded stores in the US in high-profile locations, including Chicago, Seattle, and its home city Portland.
Columbia Sportswear rings up nearly two-thirds of its sales in the US and Canada. Beyond North America, the company's products are sold in about 100 countries. Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region is the company's second-largest market, accounting for more than 20% of sales. Other markets include Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Sales and Marketing
Columbia's products are primarily sold through wholesale distributors to specialty outdoor and sporting goods stores and major retail chains. The company sells directly to consumers through domestic and international banner retail outlets and stores (Columbia-operated and dealer-operated) as well as online. In countries where it does not trade, the Columbia sells to about two dozen independent distributors. Almost all of Columbia's items are made in Asia by independent manufacturers.
The company uses a variety of media to market its products, including online advertising and social media sites, TV, and print. It also sponsors events and operates branded and outlet retail stores in high-profile locations.
After several years of flat revenue, in 2014 Columbia reported a 25% increase, from $1.68 billion to $2.1 billion, due to a strong uptick in demand across the US in all categories. Canada and Latin America and Asia-Pacific (LAAP) also grew double digits with the Columbia brand in front. Net income, which had also been flat for years, shot up 45% on the revenue bump.
Columbia Sportswear has strategically expanded its presence and product offerings through acquisitions, alliances, and licensing deals. In April 2014, it bought the PrAna Lifestyle apparel brand from owner Steelpoint Capital Partners for $190 million cash.
In 2012 Columbia formed a joint venture with Swire Resources, a subsidiary of trading conglomerate Swire Pacific, to expand the Columbia and Mountain Hardwear brand in China. Swire operates some 70 Columbia banner retail stores and has exclusively sold both brands through a network of wholesale dealers since 2004. Swire has also distributed the brands in Hong Kong and Macau since 2002. The JV, which began operating in Shanghai in 2014, is 60% owned by Columbia and 40% owned by Swire.