November 16, 2019

Ma Boyle's Amazing Outdoor Retailing Concept

Gert Boyle (Outside).
Reading a post in Outside online about Gert Boyle, who built Columbia Sportswear from a little hat company to what it is today — and who passed away November 3 at the age of 95, still involved with the business — I came across this observation from a competitor:
“She and [her son] Tim did something no one else was even trying,” says Jim Thomsen, co-founder of outdoor brand Wilderness Experience. “All the other real outdoor companies, including mine, looked at ourselves as so cool, making products for the elite. And we sold them only to the coolest stores. Then along came Gert and Tim and they made really good products, but they did something none of the rest of us would ever think of doing . . .  they sold products to sporting goods stores, those non-cool places that sold to people who didn’t even know how to climb. And they started selling a lot.”
Selling to the non-elite outdoors person. Not being a prisoner of "coolness." What a concept.

One of Columbia's first new products when they branched out was a fishing vest that Gert designed. Probably worth a bit if you have one, which I do not, but I like my Columbia upland hunting vest.


Galen Geer said...

When I was writing articles and a column for “Shooting Sports Retailer,” I interviewed Gert several time over those ten years. She always talked openly and freely about her company, the outdoors, hunting, fishing, you name it. Several times she said things in the interview that angered some of the other companies, one in particular was a camouflage clothing company and the owner threatened to pull his advertising from the magazine if my article was published with her comments. The publisher refused to back down and the article was published, no advertising was pulled but a couple of issues later I was “replaced” by a new editor who said I could continue to write for the magazine but I couldn’t write those “inflammatory” articles. I never wrote another article for SSR and the income loss was really severe and hurt. She was a great woman and I still have the tape recordings of my interviews with her. Glg

Jeremy Climer said...

I've loved Columbia products for years and only ever had one bad experience with their gear (a pair of boots). Even now, a bulk of our outdoor gear comes from Columbia outlet stores, if we can't find it there, then we look elsewhere. Great products for affordable prices. I've never thought about the "coolness" factor, but it makes sense, there are two brands in particular I'd rather not wear just because of the snobbery that I perceive from the companies, if not often the people who wear them (plus they're WAY more expensive).