Columbia sportswear

EXEC: Columbia Sportswear aims to “double” its wholesale growth

Speaking at Columbia Sportswear Investor Day, Tim Sheerin, senior vice president, global wholesale, Columbia said the outdoor brand plans to “double” wholesale growth, even though many other Active lifestyle brands emphasize DTC initiatives.

During the meeting, Sheerin said that when he first joined the company in 2016, CEO Tim Boyle described the Columbia brand as “humble, approachable, democratic. “Perhaps the most interesting of the three words for me was democratic,” said he, who previously led Nike’s North American sales. “We all know brands that want to be the most premium and many of them are moving towards a direct business model. At Columbia, we want our brands, we want our products, we want our distribution to be more democratic.

Drive growth with strategic wholesale partners
The top 50 strategic partners represent 75% of Columbia’s wholesale business, and this is expected to grow. Sheerin said, “Retail partners build great relationships with a broad consumer base and we believe these partners will be able to grow those consumer relationships for years to come.”

In the United States, top partners cited included Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, Bass Pro, Kohl’s, Amazon and Zappos. Sheerin also listed Tractor Supply as a new partner.

“We will work with these strategic partners to deliver more personalized products, more differentiated assortments, to deliver richer content and storytelling, and to be more responsive in our supply chain,” Sheerin said.

Explaining the brand’s overall market strategy, Sheerin said Columbia also works with smaller stories specializing in the outdoor and fashion space to support the credibility of the Columbia brand.

“Partners specializing in outdoor and fish activities such as Eagle Eye Outfitters in Alabama, an incredible experience for every consumer who walks through the door. And specialist street partners like Kith and Madhappy. All of these specialist partners help authenticate our product and they help sustain our brand,” he continued.

Focus on the digital market
Sheerin, however, said Columbia’s go-to-market strategy is “digitally-led,” not only because the fastest growth is expected to occur online, but also because Columbia.com is the first place consumers discover the Mark.

“We’re going to lead with Columbia.com,” he said, “It’s the face of the brand. It’s our story. It’s our party. It’s our product. It’s our innovation. It’s is where we focus our messaging and content.

Sheerin noted that, like most e-commerce sites, consumers “bounce around columbia.com without making a purchase,” so the priority remains improving online content. Says Sheerin, “We want them to walk away with an incredible Columbia brand experience so they will continue to buy our product in the months and years to come.”

Columbia.com is also where the Columbia brand engages its Columbia Great Rewards (CGR) members, who now contribute more than 60% of columbia.com sales.

As for physical stores, in the United States, Canada and Europe, the focus is on outlet stores with a focus on full price for wholesale accounts. Mr. Sheerin added, “We create our content with an eye on columbia.com, but the backbone of our business rests with our strategic partners. We’ll take that content, work with our partners, and help improve the Columbia shopping experience in their stores and on their website.

Overall, Columbia has a store base of 160 outlet doors in North America and Europe. In Asia and its distribution markets, the focus is on full-price stores. The brand has more than 700 branches in these regions.

Columbia’s focus on wholesaling runs counter to the growing direct-to-sell movement of The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx and Canada Goose in the outdoor space and Nike, Adidas, Polo Ralph Lauren and other major apparel players.

At the meeting, Columbia Sportswear set three-year growth targets, including the Columbia brand adding $700 million in sales over the next three years and growing at a rate of 7-9% based on growth rate. compound annual growth (CAGR).

Regional growth objectives
Discussing plans for its five regions, Sheerin said Canada is expected to see double-digit growth over the next three years.

“Canada is arguably where we have the best brand position. We’ve been Canada’s Most Trusted Activewear Brand for seven consecutive years. We are the market leader in outerwear with a market share of 23%. We have incredible partners, such as Sport Chek, Sport Experts and Mark’s, yet we still have tremendous opportunity for growth. We have the momentum to drive top growth in both footwear and everyday outerwear,” Sheerin said.

In Europe, Columbia is looking to grow mid-teens over the next three years. Sheerin said the company is “still relatively small, but we’re extremely well positioned for accelerated growth” in Europe, noting that Columbia recently captured the number two spot in the outdoor footwear market in France. The main strategic partners are Intersport, Decathlon and Zalando. For its online business, it’s Asos. JD Sports is a new partner. Says Sheerin, “Our brand goal is to build awareness and affinity, our business goal is to deepen our relationships with our strategic partners, and our geographic focus is France, Germany and the UK. .”

In Asia, the Columbia brand operates directly and has a “long history” in China, Japan and Korea. “It’s less about building brand awareness and more about deepening our connection and affinity with the consumer,” Sheerin said.

Sheerin said Columbia sees “significant growth opportunities” in all three markets, but pointed to potential in China, where local consumers have “discovered the outdoors” over the past two years amid many related challenges. to the pandemic. Sheerin said, “There is a wave of outdoor experience seekers in China and we are positioning the Columbia brand to be their trusted guide when traveling outdoors.

He said Columbia had built “an incredible team to drive the business forward” in China and was driving online growth through Tmall and JD. Columbia also opened a store on Tiktok in China and a PFG campaign on the 818 Shopping Festival generated more than 2 million views. China is also expected to show growth in the mid-teens over the next three years.

In its international distributor regions, Columbia partners with 26 distributors covering more than 70 countries. Channel partners have 300 branded stores and are expected to grow over the next three years. According to Sheerin, “Whether in Dubai, Turkey, Chile, Mexico or Israel, our partners have positioned our Columbia stores in the right environment with the right product to be able to connect deeply with the outdoor consumer.”

Finally, Sheerin said the U.S. market is “our largest, most complex, most developed market…it’s where we have the most heritage and it’s where the consumer trusts us. “.

He noted that Columbia last year ranked as the No. 1 brand on values ​​and trust in Forbes’ inaugural Halo 100 list, conducted in partnership with analytics firm Hundred X. Beyond consumer confidence, Columbia expects to continue to enjoy balanced growth in the United States.

“If you go to the Midwest and ask the consumer about Columbia Sportswear, they’ll show you their cold weather boots and cold weather outerwear,” he said. “When you come out West to Seattle and Portland, they’re going to talk about our rain jackets and hiking boots. In the East, you can’t get them to stop talking about the Columbia fleece. We’re an outdoor brand that competes in highly seasonal activities.”

He also cited the brand’s balanced positioning in the men’s and women’s, wholesale and DTC, physical and digital, and apparel and footwear sectors. He noted that while Columbia benefits as a major player in outerwear during winter seasons, its line of performance fishing gear (PFG) drives growth during the warmer times of the year and is popular. in the south. Sheerin said, “We have a unique and unfair advantage when the sun is up.”

Brand storytelling, relationships with loyal members, and closer collaborations with wholesale partners are also expected to be key drivers of growth in the United States. even deeper, and it is our intention to remain committed to mutual growth and partnership.

Photo courtesy of Columbia