Digital helps Columbia Sportswear boost revenue by $500M: 2011

Columbia Sportswear Co. has projected that its 2011 revenue will increase to $1.7 billion, compared with $1.2 billion in 2008, due to its digital innovations, said Michael McCormick, EVP of global sales and marketing at the company.

Speaking at the 2011 Annual Summit in Boston, McCormick said Columbia Sportswear refocused each of its four retail brands — Mountain Hardware, Sorel, Columbia and Montrail — after sales declined in 2008.

“We blamed the decline on the weather. Not that we had a bad plan and executed poorly,” McCormick said, sarcastically.

He explained that the company reevaluated each brand and used digital technology to drive differentiation.

Mountain Hardware suffered from low brand awareness and a stale product, said McCormick. Montrail didn’t clearly understand what type of company it wanted to be, and Sorel sold products that were relevant only during a 60-day season and only in markets with bad weather, he said. Columbia, said McCormick, had become “your mom and dad’s brand.”

“We needed to reposition all four of those brands. We needed one point of differentiation for each brand. We needed clarity about who our consumer was in each group,” he said. “We knew digital would be critical, but we didn’t know how critical it would be.”

Columbia Sportswear used technology to make Mountain Hardware’s products lighter and quicker. Montrail changed its website to more easily explain complicated products to runners. The company also repositioned Sorel from a men’s heavy utilitarian brand to a female fashion brand.

McCormick said Sorel used social media to communicate with the fashion-forward female demographic to promote the brand in the digital space.

“The old brand was too dependent on cold weather,” he said. “We repositioned, but a brand can’t talk to the fashion-forward female if you’re not in the digital space. She drives your brand as much as you drive your brand. We have to reach her where she wants to be reached.”

The Columbia brand has filed for more than 157 product patents in the past three years, including the yet-to-launch Omni-Heat Electric product, which will electronically warm boots, gloves and coats.

McCormick, who cited Demandware as a “spectacular partner,” said Columbia Sportswear operates 24 local e-commerce sites. Although he said Columbia Sportswear works with several e-commerce platform providers, he did not name any other partners.

Columbia Sportswear has approximately 1.5 million consumers in its CRM system, said McCormick.

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