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Founded in 1938, Columbia Sportswear Company™ has grown from a small family-owned hat distributorship to one of the world's largest outerwear brands and the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. In 2008, the company reported net sales of approximately $1.32 billion. Columbia's extensive product line includes a wide variety of outerwear, sportswear, rugged footwear and accessories. Columbia is renowned for developing innovative products that are comfortable, protective, functional, stylish and offer great value.
Gert Boyle, and her son, Tim Boyle, have been a leading force in the success of developing Columbia Sportswear. Columbia's history began in the 1930s when Gert's parents fled Germany and settled in Portland, Oregon. They bought a small hat distributorship and named it Columbia Hat Company, after the river bordering the city. Frustrated by poor deliveries from suppliers, the family started manufacturing products themselves, and expanded the line to include jackets, fishing vests and shirts.
In 1948, Gert married college sweetheart Neal Boyle, who joined the family business and later took the helm of the growing company. In 1970, Neal died of a heart attack. He left behind three children, an expanding company leaning heavily on bank loans, and a wife without business experience.
The day after Neal's funeral, the phones at Columbia were ringing off the hook with salesmen and vendors who assumed that the company was going out of business. Then the bank called. Concerned with the thought that a housewife was going to run the company, the bank summoned a meeting with Gert. In this meeting she managed to buy herself a little time. Appeasing the bankers, she pledged Columbia's building as collateral for loans. She also trimmed the company a bit and Tim started hitting the trade shows. After a few years, profits went up. Gert's no nonsense approach was paying off.
Eventually, Gert took on the persona of the tough mother in Columbia advertising. Mother Boyle is often shown as the tyrant who makes sure that each of Columbia's products can stand up to her tough standards and the worst weather. The global marketing campaigns and Gert's "Tough Mother" persona turned her into an international celebrity. The mom-is-looking-out-for-you message is universally understood around the world.
Columbia is known as a product innovator and has an unparalleled reputation for quality and value. These basic principles guide Columbia through the creation of inventive and highly popular designs, including its famous Interchange System™. Columbia developed this revolutionary concept in 1982 and it has since propelled the company to the forefront of the outerwear industry. Columbia's first Interchange jackets were made for hunting and featured a weatherproof outer shell and an insulating inner jacket that could be worn together or separately. This allowed each parka to be several garments in one. The product was so popular that we applied the same concept to a ski parka and called it the Bugaboo™, which became one of the best-selling ski jackets in history. In 1991, the company introduced its Omni-Tech™ products, which feature waterproof breathable fabric. Columbia is now one of the world's largest providers of waterproof breathable performance products designed for authentic outdoor adventures. Other innovations include Omni-Shade™ clothing, recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation as effective protection from the sun's harmful effects on your skin.
Today Columbia products are available in more than 100 countries. Columbia owns and operates sales offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Additionally, Columbia wholly owns subsidiaries in Canada, Japan and Korea. The company's family of brands has grown to include Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, Pacific Trail and Sorel. Columbia corporate headquarters remain in Portland, Oregon, and the company employs approximately 3,200 people around the world.
As Columbia Sportswear has grown, so has its commitment to serving the expanding community. Locally and throughout the world, Columbia provides support to organizations that specialize in human assistance, conservation, the environment, the arts and education. The Rethreads program provides garments that are returned or slightly flawed, but still wearable, to people in need throughout the United States. Columbia is a member of the Conservation Alliance, a group of specialty outdoor businesses that has become a powerful source of grass roots conservation and environmental funding. Columbia employees also make a difference through a volunteer program that organizes groups of employees for causes like SMART (Start Making A Reader Today), the American Hiking Society and the American Heart Association.
Learn more at the Columbia Sportswear website http://www.columbia.com/.
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