Columbia Sportswear's operations are divided into 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'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 shops and stores (Columbia-operated and dealer-operated) as well as online (launched in 2009). 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.
Columbia Sportswear's 2012 sales declined more than 1% versus the prior year, while net income fell 3.5% over the same period. Depressing sales was a 10% decline in the footwear category, which the company blamed on a mild winter. Sales of apparel, accessories, and equipment increased by about 1% in 2012 versus 2011. The decline in sales followed two years of positive annual sales comparisons and rising profits. While sales in the US, the company's largest market, were essentially flat, Latin America and Asia-Pacific (LAAP) drove growth with an 11% increase in sales in 2012. The double-digit jump in sales in the LAAP region was led by sales increases in apparel, accessories, and equipment, and footwear, particularly in Japan and Korea.