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Columbia Sportswear Company

Columbia Sportswear Company

6600 North Baltimore
Portland, Oregon 97203
U.S.A.
Telephone: (503)286-3676
Fax: (503)289-6602
Web site: http://www.columbia.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1938 as Columbia Hat Company
Employees: 1,450
Sales: $614.8 million (2000)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: COLM
NAIC: 315228 Mens and Boys Cut and Sew Other Outerwear Manufacturer; 315239 Womens and Girls Cut and Sew Other Outerwear Manufacturer; 316219 Other Footwear Manufacturing

One of the largest outerwear manufacturer in the world, Columbia Sportswear Company designs, manufactures, and markets outdoor apparel and footwear, distributing its merchandise to more than 10,000 retailers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia-New Zealand. It is the leading skiwear manufacturer in the United States and also sells lines of snowboard apparel, hunting and fishing clothing, casual sportswear, and accessories such as mittens, hats, scarves, sunglasses, and ski goggles. Columbias rise to the top began during the 1980s, when Gertrude Boyle and her son, Tim, orchestrated the remarkable growth of their family-owned business nearly 50 years after the company began doing business as Columbia Hat Company. With mother and son at the helm, Columbias sales grew quickly after the company entered the skiwear market in 1986 with its trademarked Interchange System of layered outerwear. The company made a reputation for itself in part through an eye-catching advertising campaign featuring the chairwoman as hard-driven Mother Boyle. The company is a global supplier of high-quality outerwear, with distribution in over 30 countries. The Company operates a few of its own retail outlets, with stores in Portland, Oregon, Nagoya, Japan, and in Sydney, Australia. Columbia also sells discounted goods through its own outlet stores, with eight in the United States. The company went public in 1998. About two-thirds of the stock remains in the hands of the Boyle family.

1930s Origins

The Lanfrom family escaped from Nazi-controlled Germany before the start of World War II, resettling in Portland, Oregon, in 1937. The following year, the family, headed by Paul Lanfrom, purchased a small hat distributorship named Rosen-feld Hat Company and renamed it Columbia Hat Company. Such were the origins of Columbia Sportswear, a small, unknown hat company tucked away in a corner of the United States, one that half a century later would hold sway as a national leader in the sportswear market. Aside from the companys headquarters location in Portland, however, few vestiges of Columbia Sportswears past remained by the 1990s. The transition from a small, locally oriented hat distributorship into a corporation with a global reach took decades to complete, but it began early, starting a few short years after Paul Lanfrom took control of the company.

The first of the many changes that shaped Columbia Hat Company into Columbia Sportswear occurred when Paul Lanfrom encountered problems with his vendors. The solution, as Lanfrom perceived it, was to begin manufacturing his products on his own. Though the move into manufacturing represented a signal milestone in Columbia Sportswears development, it did not ignite the prolific growth that would later characterize the company. Rather, the company maintained a minor presence in the Portland area, operating as a small manufacturing concern capable of supporting Paul Lanfrom, his wife Marie, and their daughters in their new life in America.

A decade after Paul Lanfrom acquired Rosenfeld Hat Company, his daughter, Gertrude, married Neal Boyle, who subsequently joined the family business. Neal Boyles ascendancy to control over the family business occurred in 1963 when Paul Lanfrom died and Boyle became president. By the time Boyle took charge, Columbia had begun to carve a niche for itself in the hunting and fishing apparel market, thanks in large part to his wifes contributions. Three years before her father died, Gertrude Boyle designed and made a fishing vest jacket on her home sewing machine that paved the way for the companys future. The bolero-style vest, which was outfitted with numerous pockets, was revolutionary in concept and moved the company headlong into the market for fishing and hunting apparel. Neal Boyle expanded his companys presence into this market once he took control. His era as company president, however, was unexpectedly brief. In 1970, at age 47, Neal Boyle died of a heart attack, leaving Columbia in the hands of his wife, Gertrude Boyle.

1970s: Mother and Son Take Charge

At the time of Neal Boyles death, Columbia was generating $650,000 a year in sales, but was teetering on the brink of insolvency. Although the company had made headway into the market for fishing and hunting apparel, profitability in this line of business had been a problem for years, leaving Gertrude Boyle in the unenviable position of inheriting a floundering business. To make matters worse, Neal Boyle had offered three family-owned homes and his life insurance policy as collateral for a Small Business Administration loan several months before his death, which exacerbated the financial pressures Gertrude Boyle inherited in 1970. Despite the bleak prospects Columbia faced and despite her lack of any managerial experience, Gertrude Boyle showed up at the companys headquarters the day after her husbands funeral ready to take charge, vowing to keep the three-decade-old family business running under her command.

In the months that followed Neal Boyles death, Columbias financial health went from bad to worse. Bankers were reluctant to provide credit, some stores refused to stock Columbias merchandise, and others experienced delivery problems. By the end of Gertrude Boyles first year of leadership, the situation was grave, prompting the mother of three to sit down and negotiate for the sale of the company her family had owned since she was a child. From across the table came an offer of $1,400, which Boyle flatly refused, reportedly telling Columbias prospective buyer, For a lousy $1,400, Ill run the company into the ground myself. Boyle nearly did.

Gertrude Boyles son, Tim, who had been working part-time at the company, left his final semester at the University of Oregon to join Columbia full-time after his mother balked at what she perceived to be an insulting bid for her familys apparel manufacturing business. Two years later, mother and son could not point to anything positive. Columbia had a negative net worth of $300,000, and as Tim Boyle later remembered, both he and his mother were at fault. We really blew it, the younger Boyle admitted to Sporting Goods Business 20 years later. You name it, we did it wrong. We went in and fired everyone. We just didnt know what in the world we were doing.

Gradually, however, Columbias anemic financial health began to improve under the determined control of Gertrude and Tim Boyle. The mother and son team were given credit after pledging Columbias $200,000 manufacturing facility. Subsequently, they dramatically reduced the companys involvement in the wholesaling side of the apparel business, which had been stifling profits for years. Once this was done, the company was able to scrape by during the mid-1970s by targeting specialty catalog operators. In 1976, however, Tim Boyle made a decision about Columbias future course that put an end to the years of merely striving to eke out an existence in the sportswear apparel market. Boyle resolved to concentrate on building a brand-label presence in Columbias markets. From 1976 forward, marketing the Columbia label represented the number one priority and, as a consequence, nearly every available dollar was earmarked for advertising.

Columbia reached the $1 million mark in sales in 1978, as the company earned a reputation in specialized circles as a hunting and fishing apparel resource. The explosive growth that would catapult the company and the Columbia label toward global prominence was still several years away, but one of the key individuals for engendering such growth joined the Portland apparel manufacturer before the 1970s came to an end. In 1979, Don Santorufo began superintending all the purchasing of materials and the manufacturing of merchandise at Columbias manufacturing facility in Portland and then quickly expanded production by contracting out work to several independent Pacific Northwest contractors. It was a definitive move that marked the gradual decline of production activities in Portland and set the stage for years of exponential sales growth. Within ten years, all production in Portland would come to an end.

Explosive 1980s Growth

Columbias annual sales climbed robustly as production expanded, rising from the $1 million recorded in 1978 to $12 million by 1983, when Santorufo hired Korean nationals to oversee manufacturing overseas. The decision to manufacture overseas proved to be instrumental in Columbias resolute rise during the 1980s because offshore production enabled the company to make its apparel items at a significantly lower price. What we did was lower the price of quality, Boyle explained years later. There was no need for performance apparel to cost what most manufacturers were charging for it. We were able to source better-made goods off-shore and offer them to consumers at a reasonable price. Santorufos deal with the Koreans was pivotal, but equally important was the development of what Columbia designers christened the Interchange System. Introduced the year before Columbia began manufacturing overseas, the trademarked Interchange System consisted of a lightweight shell jacket and a warm liner that zipped together, giving the wearer three jackets for different weather conditions.

Company Perspectives:

Columbia Sportswear Company is a global leader in the design, sourcing, marketing and distribution of active outdoor apparel and footwear. As one of the largest outerwear manufacturers in the world and the leading seller of skiwear in the United States, the company has developed an international reputation for quality, performance, functionality and value. Outdoor Active Authentic American Value.

Together, the decision to manufacture offshore and the development of the Interchange System provided two key ingredients for the success Columbia achieved during the late 1980s and into the 1990s. One other decisive move spurred the exponential growth to follow: in 1986 Columbia entered the skiwear market with a parka called the Bugaboo, featuring the companys Interchange System of layered outerwear. The Bugaboo, which ranked as the greatest selling parka at its price point in the industry by the end of its debut year, put the company on the map, touching off prodigious growth that elevated Columbia into the elite of nationally recognized contenders. In the decade that followed the introduction of the Bugaboo, annual sales soared 1,600 percent as the Boyles inundated the skiwear market with their highly popular Interchange System products.

By 1989, after sales had swelled from $18 million the year before the Bugaboo entered the market to nearly $80 million two years later, Columbias ski sales outstripped all other competitors in the United States. It was a remarkable rise underpinned by aggressive and creative advertising that transformed the Columbia name into a widely recognized apparel label. The Boy les set aside large sums of cash for advertising, spending twice as much as their nearest competitor, and starred in their own humorous advertisements. In the series of commercials, which debuted in 1983, Gertrude Boyle put her son, Tim, through a series of tests designed to illustrate the durability of Columbias garments. The humorous advertising campaign featured Tim Boyle as the test dummy and Gertrude Boyle as One Tough Mother and proved to be highly effective. By the beginning of the 1990s, Columbia had eclipsed the $100 million sales mark and the Boy les were mapping ambitious plans for the future.

In 1991, Tim Boyle announced his intention to reach $1 billion in sales by the year 2000, informing a reporter from Sporting Goods Business, Im very serious about that figure. We have the management team in place and the product development to do it. To achieve this formidable objective, Boyle expanded the companys product lines during the first half of the 1990s, adding several different lines of apparel and accessories that contributed significantly to the companys revenue volume. In 1993, a line of denim apparel was introduced, featuring jeans, vests, and shirts marketed under the Tough Mother name. That same year, the company started a footwear division that manufactured the Bugaboot, a rugged, outdoor shoe worn by Gertrude Boyle in advertisements featuring the tag line, My Mother Wears Combat Boots. As the company moved into the mainstream of the apparel market with its line of denim wear, the awareness of the Columbia label grew significantly, aided by the perennially popular image of Mother Boyle, by then in her 70s, in print and television advertisements.

1990s Diversification

In response to the growing, broad-based appeal of the Columbia label, sales surged ahead. Record sales were recorded in 1991 and again in 1992, when the one millionth Bugaboo parka was sold, making it the best-selling parka in ski apparel history. Following the introduction of Tough Mother denim wear and footwear in 1993, record sales were once again recorded, fueling confidence at the companys Portland headquarters that the strength of the Columbia label could indeed carry the outerwear manufacturer toward $1 billion in sales by the end of the decade. In 1994, when Columbia was named the official supplier to CBS Sports for the Winter Olympic Games in Lille-hammer, Norway, the company entered the burgeoning market for snowboard apparel by introducing its Convert line of loose-fitting, insulated outerwear, which helped make 1994 a record year in sales.

By the mid-1990s, Columbia was growing by leaps and bounds, particularly overseas, where the companys revenue volume tripled between 1993 and 1995. At the end of 1995, President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Boyle made a move to steer Columbia in a new direction when he acquired retail space for the companys flagship store in Portland. The store opened the following year, showcasing the full range of Columbia apparel, footwear, and accessories. Next, Boyle sought to extend Columbias retail presence overseas by opening a retail store in Seoul, South Korea, where 14 years earlier Santorufo had negotiated the first deal that inaugurated Columbias offshore manufacturing.

The first Seoul store opened in 1997, with another 16 retail outlets slated for grand openings in Seoul by the end of 1997, giving Columbia a powerful new engine for sales growth as the late 1990s began and the company pursued its goal of $1 billion in sales by the decades conclusion. Although not halfway toward its lofty sales objective by the late 1990s, the company was nevertheless performing admirably as it neared its 60th year of business. With Gertrude and Tim Boyle still at the helm, it was expected that Columbia would continue to flourish into its seventh decade of business.

Key Dates:

1938:
Lanfrom family buys Rosenfeld Hat Company and renames it Columbia Hat Co.
1948:
Lanfroms daughter Gertrude marries Neal Boyle.
1960:
Gertrude Boyle designs a multi-pocketed hunting/fishing vest for the company to manufacture.
1963:
Neal Boyle becomes president of the company.
1970:
Neal Boyle dies, and control of company goes to Gertrude and their son, Tim.
1976:
After near bankruptcy, company refocuses on promoting the Columbia brand name of sportswear.
1978:
Sales pass $1 million mark.
1983:
Company moves its manufacturing overseas.
1989:
Columbia becomes leading U.S. ski wear manufacturer.
1998:
Company goes public.

Going Public: The Late 1990s and After

The company had been controlled by family since its inception in 1938. By the late 1990s, Gertrude Boyle was in her 70s, and Columbia had become a huge firm with distribution all over the world. In 1998, the company decided to sell a portion of its shares to the public, on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The initial public offering (IPO) was conceived as a way of compensating the Boyle family and chief operating officer Santorufo, and Columbia would not receive proceeds from the offering. Yet Wall Street was apparently anxious for a bite of the thriving company. The shares sold well above the starting price and brought the Columbia executives over $100 million. Though many fashion and apparel IPOs had not done as well as expected around the time Columbia went public, the company presented itself as a solid outdoor brand, and investors snapped it up. Its competitor, North Face Inc., had also had a successful IPO recently, and analysts seemed to think Columbia was in the same mold. In fact, Columbia continued to prosper over the next few years, building its tough and functional image by not bending to fashion. The company did try to expand its apparel lines into some more year-round products. Columbia began selling mens, womens, and childrens socks in 1999, through a licensing agreement with the Tennessee firm Crescent Hosiery Mills. It also spent money on a new distribution center, investing $33 million in 1999. The company continued to expand in overseas markets, and made inroads in the department store market in the United States. It made an agreement with the midwestern regional department store Kohls in 1999. Columbia also grew through expanding the number of in-store concept shops it sold through. These were store-within-a-store areas that displayed a complete line of Columbia goods. Columbia had about 350 concept shops in 1998, and increased this by about 200 shops by 2000.

Columbia went briefly into the red in 1999 because of the expense of its new distribution center. However, by 2000, the company looked strong all around. Its international sales were on the way up, with sharp gains in Japan and Europe. Domestic sales too continued to climb, even though the retail market overall was not in good shape. The outerwear category was flat in general, yet Columbia posted sales growth of close to 30 percent for 2000. Net income went up around 70 percent for that year. The company seemed to do well by giving valueits prices were significantly lower than its competitors, such as North Face. And Columbia did not try to be fashionable. A writer for Forbes (December 25, 2000) noted that Columbia had barely tweaked its popular Bugaboo coat in 17 years. By not trying to be trendy, Columbia reinforced its image of authenticity and practicality. An industry analyst who followed the company told WWD (Womens Wear Daily) in July 2000 that she believed theyre like Nike was ten years ago. They have a technically advanced product line with something for everyone. The company increased its footwear offerings by buying up the trademark rights to bankrupt Canadian boot maker Sorel in late 2000. It continued to concentrate on making inroads into year-round products, for instance signing a licensing agreement in 2001 to sell both sunglasses and ski goggles through a leading French eyewear manufacturer. With low debt, growing international and domestic sales, and a well-respected core brand, the company seemed in good shape to reach the financial goal Tim Boyle had set for it.

Principal Competitors

North Face, Inc.; The Timberland Co.; Lost Arrow Corporation.

Further Reading

Barren, Kelly, Tough Mama, Forbes, December 25, 2000, p. 232.

Black, Jeff, 3 Hot Houses in a Cool Retail Climate, Daily News Record, May 28, 1990, p. 16.

Black, Jennifer, Columbia Returns to Black in Quarter, WWD, July 27, 2000, p. 9.

Caminiti, Susan, When Your Back Is Against the Wall, Fortune, March 7, 1994, p. 139.

Carpenter, Kristin, So Big, So Fast, STN, December 1997, p. 1.

Columbia Sportswear Files IPO to Raise $92 Million, Daily News Record, January 2, 1998, p. 1.

Grüner, Stephanie, Our Company, Ourselves, Inc., April 1998, p. 127.

Hill, Luana Hellmann, Hot Flashes from a Hot Company, Oregon Business, October 1988, p. 34.

Leand, Judy, Columbia Sportswear Pacs Up Sorel, Sporting Goods Business, October 11, 2000, p. 10.

Kletter, Melanie, Columbia Sportswear Loses $238,000 in Second Quarter, WWD, July 29, 1999, p. 30.

Marks, Anita, Columbia Hopes Korean Climate Spells Hot Sales, Business Journal-Portland, May 31, 1996, p. 1.

Moffatt, Terrence, Hail Columbia, Sporting Goods Business, March 1991, p. 40.

Ryan, Thomas J., Columbia Sportswear IPO Opens at 36.1% Above Offering Price, Daily News Record, March 30, 1998, p. IB.

Slovak, Julianne, Columbia Sportswear, Fortune, April 24, 1989, p. 188.

Spector, Robert, Columbia Gets Street-Smart, WWD, March 16, 1995, p. 10.

Weitzman, Jennifer, Temperature Drop Boosts Columbias Net, Daily News Record, February 14, 2001, p. 16.

Yang, Dori Jones, This Grandma Wants to Keep You Warm, Business Week, December 5, 1994, p. 111.

Jeffrey L. Coveil
update: A. Woodward

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Columbia Sportswear Company

Columbia Sportswear Company

6600 North Baltimore
Portland, Oregon 97203
U.S.A.
(503) 286-3676
Fax: (503) 289-6602
Web site: http://www.columbia.com

Private Company
Incorporated:
1938 as Columbia Hat Company
Employees: 950
Sales: $299 million (1996)
SICs: 2329 Men/Boys Clothing, Not Elsewhere

Classified; 2339 Women/Misses Outerwear, Not Elsewhere Classified

The largest outerwear manufacturer in the world, Columbia Sportswear Company designs, manufactures, and markets outdoor apparel and footwear, distributing its merchandise to more than 10,000 retailers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia-New Zealand. Columbias rise to the top began during the 1980s, when Gertrude Boyle and her son, Tim, orchestrated the remarkable growth of their family-owned business nearly 50 years after the company began doing business as Columbia Hat Company. With mother and son at the helm, Columbias sales grew quickly after the company entered the ski wear market in 1986 with its trademarked Interchange System of layered outerwear. Building on the success achieved during the late 1980s, the company diversified during the 1990s, entering the footwear market in 1993 and the snowboard apparel market in 1994. In 1996, the company opened its flagship retail outlet in Portland, Oregon, and the following year it opened a store in Seoul, Korea.

1930s Origins

One family able to escape Nazi-controlled Germany before the start of World War II was the Lanfrom family, who fled their native country in 1937 and resettled in Portland, Oregon. The following year, the family, headed by Paul Lanfrom, purchased a small hat distributorship named Rosenfeld Hat Company and renamed it Columbia Hat Company. Such were the origins of Columbia Sportswear, a small, unknown hat company tucked away in a corner of the United States that half a century later held sway as a national leader in the sportswear market. Aside from the companys headquarters location in Portland, how-ever, few vestiges of Columbia Sportswears past remained during the 1990s. The transition from a small, locally oriented hat distributorship into a corporation with a global reach took decades to complete, but it began early, starting a few short years after Paul Lanfrom took control of the company.

The first of the many changes that shaped Columbia Hat Company into Columbia Sportswear occurred when Paul Lanfrom encountered problems with his vendors. The solution, as Lanfrom perceived it, was to begin manufacturing his products on his own. Though the move into manufacturing represented a signal milestone in Columbia Sports wears development, it did not ignite the prolific growth that would later characterize the company. Rather, the company maintained a minor presence in the Portland area, operating as a small manufacturing concern capable of supporting Paul Lanfrom, his wife Marie, and their daughters in their new life in America.

A decade after Paul Lanfrom acquired Rosenfeld Hat Company, his daughter, Gertrude, married Neal Boyle, who subsequently joined the family business he would later lead. Neal Boyles ascendancy to control over the family business occurred in 1963 when Paul Lanfrom died and Boyle became president. By the time Boyle took charge, Columbia had begun to carve a niche for itself in the hunting and fishing apparel market thanks in large part to his wifes contributions. Three years before her father died, Gertrude Boyle designed and made a fishing vest jacket on her home sewing machine that paved the way for the companys future. The bolero-style vest, which was outfitted with numerous pockets, was revolutionary in concept and moved the company headlong into the market for fishing and hunting apparel. Neal Boyle expanded his companys presence into this market once he took control. His era as company president, however, was unexpectedly brief. In 1970, at age 47, Neal Boyle died of a heart attack, leaving Columbia in the hands of his wife, Gertrude Boyle.

1970s: Mother and Son Take Charge

At the time of Neal Boyles death, Columbia was generating $650,000 a year in sales but was teetering on the brink of insolvency. Although the company had made headway into the market for fishing and hunting apparel, profitability in this line of business had been a problem for years, leaving Gertrude Boyle in the unenviable position of inheriting a floundering business. To make matters worse, Neal Boyle had offered three family-owned homes and his life insurance policy as collateral for a Small Business Administration loan several months before his death, which exacerbated the financial pressures Gertrude Boyle inherited in 1970. Despite the bleak prospects Columbia faced and despite her lack of any managerial experience, Gertrude Boyle showed up at the companys headquarters the day after her husbands funeral ready to take charge, vowing to keep the three-decade-old family business running under her command.

In the months that followed Neal Boyles death, Columbias financial health went from bad to worse. Bankers were reluctant to provide credit, some stores refused to stock Columbias merchandise, and others experienced delivery problems. By the end of Gertrude Boyles first year of leadership, the situation was grave, prompting the mother of three to sit down and negotiate for the sale of the company her family had owned since she was a child. From across the table came an offer of $1,400, which Boyle flatly refused, reportedly telling Columbias prospective buyer, For a lousy $1,400, Ill run the company into the ground myself. Boyle nearly did.

Gertrude Boyles son, Tim, who had been working part-time at the company, left his final semester at the University of Oregon to join Columbia full-time after his mother balked at what she perceived to be an insulting bid for her familys apparel manufacturing business. Two years later, mother and son could not point to anything positive. Columbia had a negative net worth of $300,000, and as Tim Boyle later remembered, both he and his mother were at fault. We really blew it, the younger Boyle admitted to Sporting Goods Business 20 years later. You name it, we did it wrong. We went in and fired everyone. We just didnt know what in the world we were doing.

Gradually, however, Columbias anemic financial health began to improve under the determined control of Gertrude and Tim Boyle. The mother and son team were given credit after pledging Columbias $200,000 manufacturing facility. Subsequently, they dramatically reduced the companys involvement in the wholesaling side of the apparel business, which had been stifling profits for years. Once this was done, the company was able to scrape by during the mid-1970s by targeting specialty catalog operators. In 1976, however, Tim Boyle made a decision about Columbias future course that put an end to the years of merely striving to eke out an existence in the sportswear apparel market. Boyle resolved to concentrate on building a brand-label presence in Columbias markets. From 1976 for-ward, marketing the Columbia label represented the number one priority and, as a consequence, nearly every available dollar was earmarked for advertising.

Columbia reached the $1 million mark in sales in 1978, as the company earned a reputation in specialized circles as a hunting and fishing apparel resource. The explosive growth that would catapult the company and the Columbia label toward global prominence was still several years away, but one of the key individuals for engendering such growth joined the Port-land apparel manufacturer before the 1970s came to an end. In 1979, Don Santorufo began superintending all the purchasing of materials and the manufacturing of merchandise at Columbias manufacturing facility in Portland and then quickly expanded production by contracting out work to several independent Pacific Northwest contractors. It was a definitive move that marked the gradual decline of production activities in Portland and set the stage for years of exponential sales growth. Within ten years, all production in Portland would come to an end.

Explosive 1980s Growth

Columbias annual sales climbed robustly as production expanded, rising from the $1 million recorded in 1978 to $12 million by 1983, when Santorufo hired Korean nationals to oversee manufacturing overseas. The decision to manufacture overseas proved to be instrumental in Columbias resolute rise during the 1980s because offshore production enabled the company to make its apparel items at a significantly lower price. What we did was lower the price of quality, Boyle explained years later. There was no need for performance apparel to cost what most manufacturers were charging for it. We were able to source better-made goods off-shore and offer them to consumers at a reasonable price. Santorufos deal with the Koreans was pivotal, but equally important was the development of what Columbia designers christened the Interchange System. Introduced the year before Columbia began manufacturing overseas, the trademarked Interchange System consisted of a lightweight shell jacket and a warm liner that zipped together, giving the wearer three jackets for different weather conditions.

Together, the decision to manufacture offshore and the development of the Interchange System provided two key ingredients for the success Columbia achieved during the late 1980s and into the 1990s. One other decisive move spurred the exponential growth to follow: in 1986 Columbia entered the skiwear market with a parka called the Bugaboo, featuring the companys Interchange System of layered outerwear. The Bugaboo, which ranked as the greatest selling parka at its price point in the industry by the end of its debut year, put the company on the map, touching off prodigious growth that elevated Columbia into the elite of nationally recognized contenders. In the decade that followed the introduction of the Bugaboo, annual sales soared 1,600 percent as the Boyles inundated the skiwear market with their highly popular Interchange System products.

Company Perspectives:

Columbia Sportswear Company dedicates itself to the rugged outdoor industry by embracing the active sport enthusiast with quality apparel and footwear.

By 1989, after sales had swelled from $18 million the year before the Bugaboo entered the market to nearly $80 million two years later, Columbias ski sales outstripped all other competitors in the United States. It was a remarkable rise underpinned by aggressive and creative advertising that trans-formed the Columbia name into a widely recognized apparel label. The Boyles set aside large sums of cash for advertising, spending twice as much as their nearest competitor, and starred in their own humorous advertisements. In the series of commercials, which debuted in 1983, Gertrude Boyle put her son, Tim, through a series of tests designed to illustrate the durability of Columbias garments. The humorous advertising campaign featured Tim Boyle as the test dummy and Gertrude Boyle as One Tough Mother and proved to be highly effective. By the beginning of the 1990s, Columbia had eclipsed the $100 million sales mark and the Boyles were mapping ambitious plans for the future.

In 1991, Tim Boyle announced his intention to reach $1 billion in sales by the year 2000, informing a reporter from Sporting Goods Business, Im very serious about that figure. We have the management team in place and the product development to do it. To achieve this formidable objective, Boyle expanded the companys product lines during the first half of the 1990s, adding several different lines of apparel and accessories that contributed significantly to the companys revenue volume. In 1993, a line of denim apparel was introduced, featuring jeans, vests, and shirts marketed under the Tough Mother name. That same year, the company started a footwear division that manufactured the Bugaboot, a rugged, outdoor shoe worn by Gertrude Boyle in advertisements featuring the tag line, My Mother Wears Combat Boots. As the company moved into the mainstream of the apparel market with its line of denim wear, the awareness of the Columbia label grew significantly, aided by the perennially popular image of Mother Boyle, by then in her 70s, in print and television advertisements.

1990s Diversification

In response to the growing, broad-based appeal of the Columbia label, sales surged ahead. Record sales were recorded in 1991 and again in 1992, when the one millionth Bugaboo parka was sold, making it the best-selling parka in ski apparel history. Following the introduction of Tough Mother denim wear and footwear in 1993, record sales were once again recorded, fueling confidence at the companys Portland headquarters that the strength of the Columbia label could indeed carry the outer-wear manufacturer toward $ 1 billion in sales by the end of the decade. In 1994, when Columbia was named the official supplier to CBS Sports for the Winter Olympic Games in Lille-hammer, Norway, the company entered the burgeoning market for snowboard apparel by introducing its Convert line of loose-fitting, insulated outerwear, which helped make 1994 a record year in sales.

By the mid-1990s, Columbia was growing by leaps and bounds, particularly overseas, where the companys revenue volume tripled between 1993 and 1995. At the end of 1995, President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Boyle made a move to steer Columbia in a new direction when he acquired retail space for the companys flagship store in Portland. The store opened the following year, showcasing the full range of Columbia apparel, footwear, and accessories. Next, Boyle sought to extend Columbias retail presence overseas by opening a retail store in Seoul, South Korea, where 14 years earlier Santorufo had negotiated the first deal that inaugurated Columbias off-shore manufacturing.

The first Seoul store opened in 1997, with another 16 retail outlets slated for grand openings in Seoul by the end of 1997, giving Columbia a powerful new engine for sales growth as the late 1990s began and the company pursued its goal of $1 billion in sales by the decades conclusion. Although not halfway toward its lofty sales objective by the late 1990s, the company was nevertheless performing admirably as it neared its sixtieth year of business. With Gertrude and Tim Boyle still at the helm, it was expected that Columbia would continue to flourish into its seventh decade of business.

Further Reading

Black, Jeff, 3 Hot Houses in a Cool Retail Climate, Daily News Record, May 28, 1990, p. 16.

Caminiti, Susan, When Your Back Is Against the Wall, Fortune, March 7, 1994, p. 139.

Hill, Luana Hellmann, Hot Flashes from a Hot Company, Oregon Business, October 1988, p. 34.

Marks, Anita, Columbia Hopes Korean Climate Spells Hot Sales, Business Journal-Portland, May 31, 1996, p. 1.

Moffatt, Terrence, Hail Columbia, Sporting Goods Business, March 1991, p. 40.

Slovak, Julianne, Columbia Sportswear, Fortune, April 24, 1989, p. 188.

Spector, Robert, Columbia Gets Street-Smart, WWD, March 16, 1995, p. 10.

Yang, Dori Jones, This Grandma Wants To Keep You Warm, Business Week, December 5, 1994, p. 111.

Jeffrey L. Covell

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Columbia Sportswear Company

Columbia Sportswear Company

founded: 1938



Contact Information:

headquarters: 6600 n. baltimore
portland, or 97203 phone: (503)286-3676 fax: (503)289-6602 toll free: (800)ma-boyle email: [email protected] url: http://www.columbia.com

OVERVIEW

Columbia Sportswear, a major marketer of outer-wear and sportswear, does everything from designing and manufacturing to marketing and distribution. From a small regional hat distributor, the company has grown to become one of the world's largest outerwear brands and the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. A family-owned business in existence for 60 years, Columbia Sportswear distributes products to more than 10,000 retailers in 30 countries.

Formerly focusing on durable outdoor hunting and fishing gear, Columbia Sportswear's new product development efforts in the 1990s resulted in its expansion into additional merchandise categories and, ultimately, the development of its "head-to-toe" outfitting approach.

Columbia Sportswear's merchandise can be broken down into four main product lines: sportswear, rugged footwear, accessories, and outerwear—all suitable for either casual wear or various outdoor activities, including snowboarding, golf, hunting, and fishing. Specific items include rainwear, T-shirts, sleeveless shirts, hiking shorts, and polo shirts. Some of the company's trademarks include Columbia Sportswear Company, Columbia, Bugaboo, and Bugabootoo. The company plans to continue growth by distributing to a wider international market and expanding categories of merchandise.

COMPANY FINANCES

In the 10-year period between 1987 and 1997, Columbia Sportswear's sales went from $18.8 to $353.5 million, an increase of 30.6 percent; operating income increased from $1.6 to $44.3 million in that same time period, representing a 35.1-percent increase. In 1997, Columbia Sportswear's sales outside of North America comprised 10 percent of total net sales, increasing from $9 million to over $35 million in the four-year period between 1993 and 1997. In that same time frame, sportswear sales went up by 221.5 percent, while outerwear sales increased by 43.7 percent. Rugged footwear, a new product in 1993, went from $1.2 million in sales that year to $24.3 million in 1997.

In the spring of 1998, Columbia Sportswear, a privately held company throughout its 60-year history, offered 5.6 million shares of stock to the public at an initial offering of $18.00 per share. After the offering, senior management owned nearly 77 percent of the outstanding common stock of the company.

ANALYSTS' OPINIONS

At the time of the stock offering in March 1998, analysts were uncertain whether an active trading market would result. Columbia Sportswear acknowledges that price fluctuations could occur as a result of competitive pressures, either through product development or financial strategies. In addition, its products are largely seasonal- and weather-based, causing fluctuations in sales and operations. Consequently, the financial data for any given quarter does not necessarily indicate a trend for future quarters. For example, Columbia Sportswear's ski-wear line obviously suffers a decline in summer months or during unseasonably warm winter weather. Additionally, the 1997 upset in the Asian market could have an effect on the company's success in that part of the world.

HISTORY

In 1937 Paul and Marie Lamfrom left their native Germany for the United States. They settled in Portland, Oregon, and bought a small hat distributorship. But after a few years, the Lamfroms were having difficulty getting products from suppliers and made the decision to manufacture the products themselves.

The Lamfroms' daughter, Gertrude, best known to all as Gert, got married in 1948 to Neal Boyle, who ultimately became president of Columbia Sportswear. When Neal died unexpectedly in 1970, Gert found herself at the head of a company that was "near bankruptcy." In the decade that followed, the company continued to struggle. Son Tim, who was about to finish his studies at the University of Oregon, left college to join his mother in the management of the company. Together they led the company out of its financial morass and put it on the road to profitability. As of 1998, the 74 year-old Gert remained chairman of the board, while son Tim served as president and chief executive officer.

In 1984 Columbia Sportswear developed an advertising campaign, which has endured through the 1990s. The ads portray Columbia Sportswear's infamous matriarch, Gert Boyle (or "Ma Boyle"), as a stern taskmaster who is tyrannizing her son, Tim. In the ads, Gert is having Tim test Columbia Sportswear products in ways that are dangerous or risky. For instance, in an ad from the mid-1990s, Gert is shown driving a 4 x 4 through rough terrain while son Tim is strapped to the roof—wearing Columbia Sportswear outerwear.

FAST FACTS: About Columbia Sportswear Company


Ownership: Columbia Sportswear became a publicly traded company in the spring of 1998 with its stock traded on NASDAQ.

Ticker symbol: COLM

Officers: Gertrude Boyle, Chmn., 74, 1997 base salary $153,920; Timothy P. Boyle, Pres., CEO, Treasurer, & Secretary, 48, 1997 base salary $323,733; Don Richard Santorufo, Exec. VP & COO, 51, 1997 base salary $286,946

Employees: 1,234

Principal Subsidiary Companies: Columbia Sportswear owns subsidiaries in Japan and Canada; a Canadian holding company called Columbia Sportswear Holdings Limited (CSHL); and GTS, Inc., a holding company in the United States. All of the subsidiaries are wholly owned by Columbia Sportswear.

Chief Competitors: Columbia Sportswear's major competitors include: Nike; L.L. Bean; Timberland; Patagonia; Marmot; Nikwax; Royal Robbins; and Woolrich.




Columbia Sportswear's diverse outerwear and sportswear product lines evolved from a focus on producing durable hunting and fishing gear. In the 1990s, Columbia Sportswear aggressively pursued the diversification of product lines; this is also when Columbia Sportswear developed the concept of "head-to-toe" outfitting so that consumers could rely on Columbia Sportswear to supply them with a coordinated and complete line of apparel and footwear.

The 1990s also marked the opening of Columbia Sportswear's flagship store in Portland, Oregon, as well as the success of the store-within-a-store concept. These "concept shops" are areas within a retail store that are dedicated to Columbia Sportswear merchandise. By the end of 1997, Columbia Sportswear had 164 concept shops; plans called for doubling the number of these shops by the end of 1998.

STRATEGY

The company's strategy focuses on increasing sales to distributors and increasing concept shops located in larger retail outlets, such as department stores. Columbia Sportswear also initiated an inventory management system in the mid-1990s to reduce excess inventory. The strategy involved limiting the time between a customer order and the production cycle. The 1996 budget reflected Columbia Sportswear's cost-containment strategy by reducing the spending for advertising and discretionary projects and enacting a temporary hiring freeze.

Future strategies involve an aggressive focus on developing specific high-opportunity markets. Columbia Sportswear will target sales increases in its footwear and sportswear lines. For instance, MTV's popular "Road Rules" features a cast entirely outfitted by Columbia Sportswear. "Road Rules 5," which premiered in January 1998, featured the five participants involved in cattle driving, ski jumping, and caddying at a golf tournament. Columbia Sportswear has been supplying "Road Rules" with apparel since 1995.

Another strategic idea was to sign professional golfer Steve Jones to a three-year endorsement contract, beginning in 1998. Jones was named the PGA "Comeback Player of the Year" when he won the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club after recovering from a near-disastrous off-road motorcycle accident. As of January 1998, Jones began wearing Columbia brand sportswear and rainwear on professional golf tournaments. Tim Boyle, Columbia Sportswear's president, explained the rationale behind the company's agreement with Jones. "Golf has become a staple of today's active outdoor lifestyle, which also may include activities like hiking, fishing, and skiing. Steve Jones is an avid outdoorsman, which makes him the perfect representative for our company." Columbia Sportswear launched a line of golfwear in 1996 and is hoping the affiliation with Jones will boost its sales along with other merchandise lines.

However, Columbia Sportswear has no plans to change its ongoing award-winning advertising strategy featuring a cranky Chairman of the Board Ma Boyle putting son Tim through the mill.

INFLUENCES

Columbia Sportswear strives to create merchandise that is both functional and durable. By emphasizing these classic traits over faddish looks, Columbia Sportswear minimizes dated clothing that can occur from varying consumer tastes in fashion trends. Many products are actually a variation on existing designs.

Columbia Sportswear avoids high production costs by having independent manufacturers produce merchandise. These manufacturers are, however, under the control of Columbia Sportswear employees, who have authority over the selection process. This combination of independent manufacturers and Columbia Sportswear employees helps the company exercise flexibility and reduce expenditures. In fact, more than 85 manufacturers in 12 countries provide manufacturing for Columbia Sportswear, resulting in a total of over 85 percent of the company's products being produced outside the United States.

CHRONOLOGY: Key Dates for Columbia SportswearCompany


1938:

Founded by Paul Lamfrom

1948:

Gert Lamfrom, Paul Lamfrom's daughter, marries Neal Boyle

1964:

Neal Boyle takes over the company after Paul Lamfrom dies

1970:

Neal Boyle dies unexpectedly and his wife Gert Boyle—Paul Lamfrom's daughter—takes over

1982:

Interchange System is created; Bugaboo parka is introduced

1984:

Launches "Mother Boyle" ad campaign

1994:

Gert Boyle's son, Tim, takes over the CEO position

1996:

Launches golfwear line; opens flagship retail store in Portland, Oregon

1997:

Begins participating in Start Making a Reader Today

1998:

First public offering of stock


In the 1990s, Columbia Sportswear experienced an increase in expenses as a result of increased personnel costs. More staff was needed to handle the company's steady growth in the domestic market and its expansion in foreign markets.

In addition, this growth prompted the company to build a new distribution center in Portland, Oregon. Inventory had been previously handled by paper, through accounting ledgers. Technologically state-of-the-art, the new distribution center was 99 percent accurate in inventory and shipping. Within three weeks after becoming operational, shipping increased by 50 percent.

CURRENT TRENDS

Columbia Sportswear continues to build its hold on the domestic market, particularly in the area of outer-wear. Future commitments include expanding international markets and diversifying product lines with particular emphasis on rugged footwear and sportswear. Columbia Sportswear believes the existing trend to dress casually and for an active outdoor-oriented lifestyle will continue to benefit sales.

Columbia Sportswear's management information system is scheduled to be phased out and was expected to be totally replaced by 1999 with a more technologically advanced system that is more focused on inventory control.

Columbia Sportswear intends to capitalize on specific regions of foreign markets where the popularity of outdoor activities should boost sales, in particular France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In addition, sales counters were established in 15 stores in South Korea and the company will have full control of its product distribution in Japan by the end of 1998.

PRODUCTS

Some of Columbia Sportswear's products include Interchange System outerwear, Radial Sleeve designs, and high-performance Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable fabrics. All of these products are worn by professional golfer Steve Jones under his agreement to endorse Columbia Sportswear products on professional golf tours.

Hunters provided Columbia Sportswear with an interesting problem: When going outdoors in the very early hours of the morning on a hunt, temperatures would be low, but would increase significantly through the day making their traditional hunting garb impractical. They needed clothing that could be adapted to temperature fluctuations and would, at the same time, provide camouflage. In response, Columbia Sportswear created the Interchange System. The Interchange System, originally designed in 1982, has a waterproof outer shell with a warm zip-out lining. Hunting garments containing the Interchange System are camouflage, and in some products a reversible liner is offered. For skiers, these innovations were incorporated into the Bugaboo Parka, which has outsold all other ski jackets on the market.

The company's Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable fabrics, which rival Gore-Tex in their effectiveness, are treated with a water-repellent finish and can be found in a wide range of Columbia Sportswear merchandise, including footwear.

CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP

Columbia Sportswear began participating in Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) in 1997. Contributing $60,000 to the SMART program, which helps teach children to read and guides them from kindergarten through second grade, the company also provides volunteers from different departments. The program helps about 5,000 children in Oregon and was used as a prototype for national reading programs.

In 1996 Gertrude Boyle, chairman of Columbia Sportswear, was a recipient of the Astra Award, granted by Gateway to the Women's Market, which is a resource and support organization for businesswomen. The Astra Awards were given to 15 outstanding women achievers in Oregon. Also, the company is involved in local fund-raisers and contributes to nonprofit organizations and local schools.

GLOBAL PRESENCE

Columbia Sportswear markets to more than 10,000 retailers in 30 countries and plans to aggressively market products to those that exist in Europe and Asia. The company opened an office in Tokyo in the late 1990s and expanded existing markets in Russia and South Korea, including a 1,600-square foot retail store in Seoul. Columbia Sportswear also plans to seek expansion in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Outside of North America, sales rose from $9 million in 1993 to over $35 million in 1997, but as of 1997 those sales were only 10 percent of total net sales. Of the 5.6 million shares of common stock offered in 1998, 1.12 million shares were offered in a concurrent international offering.

EMPLOYMENT

As of December 31, 1997 Columbia Sportswear, employed 1,234 total full time employees, 863 of whom were located in the United States, 62 in Canada, 23 in Europe, and 286 in Asia.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Bibliography

"Columbia Sportswear." Hoover's Online, April 1998. Available at http://www.hoovers.com.

"Columbia Sportswear-Acucobol Partners in Success." Acucorp Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.acucobol.com/Partners/Success/ColumbiaSports.html.

Columbia Sportswear Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.columbia.com.

FreeEDGAR Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.FreeEdgar.com.

"Gertrude Boyle." Gateway to the Women's Market, April 1998. Available at http://www.womensmarket.com/gateway/astra/1996/astra_gertrude_boyle.html#top.

"Oregon's Private 150: 18. Columbia Sportswear Co." Oregon Business Channel, April 1998. Available at http://www.oregonbusiness.com/Channel05/companies/P150-018.html.

Reseller's Source Kit Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.rs-kit.com/Camp5.htm.

Rose, Michael. "Columbia Sportswear Ramps Up Foreign Sales Push." The Business Journal, Portland, 22 September 1997. Available at http://www.amcity.com/portland/stories/092297/story7.html.

Round Rocks Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.roundrocks.com/others/dist/columbiasportsw.html.

"The Somerset WMS and Columbia Sportswear." Somerset Home Page, April 1998. Available at http://www.somersetwms.com/columbia.html.

For an annual report:

on the Internet at: http://www.columbia.com/columbia/investor/default.htm

For additional industry research:

Investigate companies by their Standard Industrial Classification Codes, also known as SICs. Columbia Sportswear's primary SIC is:

5130 Apparel, Piece Goods, and Notions

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Columbia Sportswear Company

Columbia Sportswear Company

14375 NW Science Park Drive
Portland, Oregon 97229-5418
USA
Telephone: (800) 547-8066
Fax: (503) 985-5960
Web site: www.columbia.com

MOTHER BOYLE CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW

By 2005 the Portland, Oregon—based Columbia Sportswear Company was the largest seller of skiwear in the United States and an industry leader worldwide. Founded in 1938 by German immigrants Paul and Marie Lamfrom and their daughter Gert, the company grew into a billion-dollar-a-year enterprise by 2003. Much of Columbia's growth was attributed to the 1984 launch of its signature "Mother Boyle" advertising campaign, which placed Gert Boyle, who became the company's CEO in 1970, front and center as the company's spokesperson. The grandmother with the fake "Born to Nag" tattoo proved an instant success as the personification of Columbia Sportswear's no-nonsense durability.

Beginning in 1984 the print ads and television spots created by Columbia's advertising agency, Portland-based Borders Perrin Norrander, cemented the company's reputation for manufacturing coats, hats, and other cold-weather apparel that could stand up to the harshest weather conditions. The implication of the humorous advertising, especially the television spots in which Gert inflicted torture on her real-life son, Tim, the company's president and CEO since 1995, was that Columbia's products, particularly the heavy-duty parkas, were as tough as the "one tough mother" who ran the company. A typical television spot from 2000 featured Gert driving a Zamboni across an ice rink. When she passed over a drinking straw poking through the ice, viewers saw Tim embedded in the ice, using the straw to breathe. Presumably his Columbia parka made the frigid temperature bearable. As Columbia's primary marketing campaign, "Mother Boyle" received the lion's share of the company's advertising budget over the years, which in 2004 alone amounted to $15 million.

The success of the campaign was evident through its longevity. For more than 20 years Gert Boyle played the company's stone-faced matriarch, exposing her son to heinous conditions in the television spots and scolding readers in print ads. When the campaign began in 1984, Columbia Sportswear's annual sales were $13 million; by 1997 that number had reached $358 million. Most importantly the campaign gave the company a recognizable public face. Gert Boyle proved irresistible to reporters, who flocked to profile her, thereby giving the company free publicity in magazines such as Time and Forbes, a writer from which dubbed her "a Leona Helmsley with humor." In 2005 Boyle capitalized on her popularity by publishing her autobiography, One Tough Mother: Success in Life, Business, and Apple Pies.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Columbia's marketing strategy relied heavily on Boyle's rags-to-riches life story and her supersized personality. The tale of a homemaker with three children who was thrust into the business world after her husband suddenly died was as American as apple pie. Having the moxie to stand up to the bankers and lawyers who wanted her to sell the company for pennies and persevering long enough to turn it into a major brand made her a hero in the business world. "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise" was her oft-stated motto.

Columbia Sportswear hit its stride in the early 1980s when it introduced the Bugaboo ski jacket, a two-in-one system comprising a detachable liner and an outer shell, both of which could be worn separately. Apart from the product, the timing was right. People were beginning to spend more time outdoors and were also adopting a more casual approach to outerwear than in previous years. The fitness craze made outdoor sports, skiing in particular, more popular than ever before. The Bugaboo jacket became the company's signature product, selling millions of units over the next two decades.

Gert Boyle assumed the helm of the company in 1970 following the unexpected death of her husband, Neal Boyle, who had taken over from Gert's father several years earlier. Lawyers urged her to sell the struggling company, but she refused. For the paltry sum they were willing to pay her, she figured it made more sense for her to run the company into the ground herself.

Growth was slow. For several years Columbia Sportswear subsisted by selling its designs to other companies, such as Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean. Then, as Tim Boyle explained to CNN/Money, the breakthrough came when he realized "that brands are really all you have to sell, and products are just extensions of the brand." With that thought in mind Columbia Sportswear set out to redefine their image.

By 1983 executives from Columbia, along with representatives from Borders Perrin Norrander, decided the company needed to distinguish itself from the competition. "Back in 1983," Gert told a writer for Inc. Magazine, "our advertising was about how our products weren't just manufactured, they were engineered. The trouble was, everybody else in our industry was advertising the same way. So our advertising agency asked us, 'What's different about Columbia Sportswear?'" The answer was Gert Boyle. Not everyone, however, was convinced that the self-described "little old lady" could win the brand loyalty of hard-core sportsmen and athletes. They gave it a shot anyhow. The first ad read, "Before it passes Mother Nature, it has to pass Mother Boyle." A campaign was born.

TARGET MARKET

The campaign targeted sports aficionados. Columbia's print ads ran predominantly in sports-themed magazines, such as Outdoors, Hiking, Backpacker, and Sports Illustrated, and many of its television spots ran on niche cable channels, including ESPN, MTV, and Comedy Central. Though Columbia Sportswear products were readily available at high-end sports retailers, such as REI and Cabela's, they were often also available at many department stores and even in the company's own flagship stores in Portland, Oregon; London, England; and Paris, France. Indeed the "Mother Boyle" campaign proved to have international appeal. Gert Boyle told a reporter for CNN/Money that the campaign was well received in Australia. "They have the same sense of humor as we do. You know, they all have mothers."

Apart from targeting those interested in sports, the "Mother Boyle" campaign appealed to people who lived and worked in cold climates and relied on quality outerwear to get them through long, frigid winters. By emphasizing durability over style, the advertising zeroed in on those who valued a reasonably priced product that served its purpose season after season. With casual dress becoming the standard in almost every sector of the population, Columbia's advertising capitalized on the middle-class consumer who was driven more by comfort and price than style.

ADVERTISING STRATEGY: BAWDY HUMOR

In 2002 Borders Perrin Norrander, Columbia Sportswear's longtime advertising agency, launched a print ad for the company's Jr. Fire Ridge Parka, a winter coat for children. The ad's copy offered the first of two major guffaws: "You can freeze your sperm. You can freeze your embryos. But last we checked it was still illegal to freeze your children." Mother Boyle piped in at the bottom: "Early signs of hypothermia include poor coordination and confusion. Two things best saved for puberty."

COMPETITION

In terms of sportswear, Columbia's closest competitors were Timberland and North Face, although it also competed with the apparel divisions of Reebok and Nike. Timberland's print and television advertising, including its catchphrase "Make It Better," focused on the durability of the company's products and featured the same rugged outdoor terrain that could be found in Columbia's advertising. The message was similar to Columbia's "Mother Boyle" ads, minus the humor and the indelible image of a no-holds-barred woman running the show.

North Face, a high-performance outerwear manufacturer, offered expensive items that attempted to keep pace with fashion trends, a strategy eschewed by Columbia. Part of Gert Boyle's appeal was her dedication to practicality over style, as evidenced by the fact that the design of Columbia's Bugaboo jacket never changed in more than 17 years of production. North Face, by comparison, focused its advertising around the stars of "extreme" sports, such as Alpine mountain climbing, and marketed its product as a "prestige" brand, as opposed to Columbia's dedication to its practicality, durability, and functionality. This made North Face more vulnerable to the finicky marketplace, as the company found out in the 1990s when its sales plummeted.

"Everybody else's ads in the outdoor-clothing business are the same," Gert Boyle told Inc. Magazine. "There's always a young, firm body. Sometimes, with a little luck, there are two firm bodies intertwined with each other … But if you put your finger over the name of the people who are advertising, you couldn't tell whose ad it is. Well, ours are different."

MARKETING STRATEGY

Gert Boyle credited the originality of the "Mother Boyle" campaign for Columbia's success. "You can look at nine-tenths of the manufacturers of outerwear, ski-wear, anything like that—they're all the same ads. All these gorgeous people who couldn't possibly do on skis what they're supposed to be doing. Then you've got the little old lady. That's what sets us apart. Not because we make better clothing, but because the advertising gets your attention," she told David Whitford of Fortune Small Business.

As Paul Swangard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center told Bryan Brumley of the Associated Press, corporate success "starts with leadership. And it starts with the company defining its brand through its ownership. Gert has been synonymous with the identity that one equates with Columbia." As the public face of Columbia, Boyle was an anomaly. "If you see any ad of an outdoor company, you see beautiful young people. What makes Columbia different—there is this little old lady," she told a reporter for the Financial Times. Yet her high profile was more than just vanity. Jack Peterson, of Borders Perrin Norrander, told a writer for Adweek that she also "embodies everything the brand is about—uncompromising quality, toughness."

In addition to toughness, the "Mother Boyle" ads occasionally employed ribald language that was unusual for the normally staid field of outerwear. "There's nothing motherly about mother nature," read the headline of a 2002 ad for Columbia's Boundary Peak Parka. "Except maybe her big mountainous breasts." Below that, Gert Boyle piped up, "I've got hot flashes to keep me warm. You'll need something that zips." For an industry typically consumed with testosterone-influenced machismo, this female-centric viewpoint was bold and funny. Peterson told Adweek that despite the controversial nature of the ads' text, research revealed 97 percent approval ratings for the campaign. The controversy also helped differentiate Columbia from marketing behemoths such as Nike. "It's always been a Columbia trademark to be a sharper nail rather than a heavier hammer," Peterson said.

The company's television spots for 2005 featured two new "Mother Boyle" ads. In one Gert Boyle operated a cement mixer, which excreted an assortment of odd objects down its trough. The last object was Tim Boyle, wearing a pristine Columbia parka. In the "Dart" spot Tim addressed a group of business associates in a conference room during a meeting. Mother Boyle took aim from the hallway and blew a dart into his neck. The next shot revealed Tim abandoned in a vast snowy wilderness as his mother departed in a helicopter.

Beyond Gert Boyle's charisma, the "Mother Boyle" television spots worked because of the dynamic between her and her son. Not many corporate CEOs would agree to be the punch line of a joke, but Tim Boyle was philosophical about it. "It's very effective, so I guess I have to suck it up," he told a reporter for CNN/Money.

OUTCOME

Over the years the "Mother Boyle" campaign not only increased Columbia Sportswear's sales but it also earned respect in the advertising business. Three of the ads were shortlisted for Clio Awards: 1998's print ad "Three Reasons to Own a Good Pair of Boots," 1998's "When You Are as Old as the Hills," and 2001's television spot "Sled Dogs."

ONE TOUGH MOTHER: THE BOOK

In 2005 Gert Boyle published her autobiography, One Tough Mother: Success in Life, Business, and Apple Pies. The book's cover showed Boyle brandishing the "Born to Nag" tattoo featured in early ads for Columbia's "Mother Boyle" campaign.

Anchored by the "Mother Boyle" campaign, the company showed earnings in 2000 that had increased 70 percent over the previous year, with revenues surpassing $600 million. By 2005 sales had reached $1 billion. As Gert Boyle entered her 80s (in 2004), she left the company's daily business to her son but continued to star in television spots and retained her position as chairman of the board, with no plans to retire. As she wrote in Fortune Small Business, "They asked Tim once, 'What's going to happen to the ad when your mother dies?' He said, 'We'll have her stuffed.'"

FURTHER READING

Barron, Kelly. "Tough Mama." Forbes, December 25, 2000,

p. 232. Boyle, Gert, and Tim Boyle. "Our Company, Ourselves." Inc. Magazine, April 1998.

Boyle, Gert, and Kerry Tymchuk. One Tough Mother: Success in Life, Business, and Apple Pies. Portland, Oregon: Westwinds Press, 2005.

Boyle, Gert, and David Whitford. "How We Got Started." Fortune Small Business, September 8, 2003.

Boyle, Tim. "Executive Life: The Boss." New York Times, January 18, 2004.

Brumley, Bryan. "She's Mother of All Sportswear Firms." Deseret Morning News, April 7, 2005.

"Columbia Sportswear Ads Lay It on the Line: Tough Clothes Made by a Tough Lady." CNN/Money, October 9, 1998. Available from 〉http://money.cnn.com/1998/10/09/busunu/columbia_pkg〉

Flass, Rebecca. "Columbia Sportswear Pushes Some More Buttons: Gert Boyle Again a Fixture of Irreverent $10 Mil. BPN Campaign." Adweek, September 23, 2002, p. 5.

Gert, Tim. "Return in Ads for Columbia Sportswear." Brandweek, September 19, 2005, p. 3.

Holmes, Stanley. "Gert Gets the Last Laugh." BusinessWeek, June 10, 2002, p. 100.

――――――. "Talking with One Tough Mother." BusinessWeek, April 7, 2005.

Jung, Helen. "Profits Tumble at Columbia Sportswear." Oregonian, July 29, 2005.

"Mother Boyle's Star Touch Keeps Columbia Shining." South China Morning Post, June 9, 2002.

                                     Kathy Wilson Peacock

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