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|Articles - February 2013|
|Monday, January 28, 2013|
Page 6 of 6
This is Boyle’s plan for Columbia’s 75th birthday: to get the company back in line. He’s got his hands full. Fifty percent of Columbia product sold in Russia is counterfeit; last year’s warm winter has created an inventory backlog; and on top of everything else, McCormick, the architect of the company’s rebranding strategy, resigned last summer citing undisclosed personal reasons. “It’s increased my workload,” says Boyle, adding that the company has not yet decided if and how to reorganize in the aftermath of McCormick’s departure.
That sounds a bit like the Columbia ship is adrift. But despite recent disappointing sales results, Boyle is careful to say, Columbia is doing a better job managing expenses today than in the past. “I’m often asked by investors how big the company can get,” says Boyle. “The answer is simple: There’s no top.” On the subject of Columbia’s below-average profits, he is more specific: “We should at least be average.”
It’s a modest-sounding goal. Then again, striking a midpoint is Columbia’s modus operandi, be it balancing the innovative and the conservative, warm weather with cool, or high fashion with functionality. It’s a strategy that has brought the company tremendous success and a few setbacks.
In the 21st century, of course, most multibrand, multigeography apparel companies have something for everyone. But Columbia seems to wear the complexities and contradictions of globalization on its sleeve, a quality that makes the company appear more accessible than its competitors. At the same time, Columbia’s balancing act is now at a tipping point, as the company moves more aggressively to embrace its innovation and marketing side, while absorbing, more quietly, its solid and traditional Pacific Northwest heritage.
It’s a corporate dynamic that will continue to be shaped not only by global forces but by internal developments as well. Boyle’s son Joe works for Columbia as a merchandising manager. (A daughter, Molly, works for Gap.) But Columbia is not a family-owned company, and Boyle will not be appointing a fourth-generation successor. Asked about that succession, Boyle says pragmatically, “We have a lot of great employees with significant stakes in the company who are quite capable.”
Columbia Sportswear without the Boyles would be a very different Columbia indeed: slicker, perhaps, less straightforward, less Oregonian. It’s impossible to know. One thing is clear: For better or for worse, the Columbia of today straddles several identities, a trait perhaps best embodied by Boyle himself, a man with a signature ability to navigate different worlds.
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The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
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Remember the naysayers? Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle? Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?
Thursday, July 03, 2014
BY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS
The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Scott Kveton, the CEO of Urban Airship is taking a leave of absence from the company. As the story continues to unfold, here’s our perspective on a few of the key players.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
BY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER
Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?
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BY MONICA ENAND | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
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