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New home for Columbia | Brand ID distributor| South African market
July 2015

A new home for Columbia

One of the world’s most successful outdoor active brands is set to claim its place as a major player in the South African market, promises the new distributor, Brand ID

In May this year Columbia became part of the impressive brand portfolio distributed by Brand ID in South Africa and Africa, when an exclusive agreement with Columbia International to control the brand came into effect.

“I have for some time been interested in the brand and given the potential of the outdoor, fishing and recreational sport categories in the market, I believe firmly that there exists a wonderful opportunity to build on the foundation of what has been created and revive the brand in the market,” says Brand ID CEO Wayne Bebb.

He believes that with 25 lifestyle and sports brands Brand ID is ideally suited to develop and build the brand in the local market, as one of their main strengths is “an unrivalled distribution business. I am tremendously excited about the synergies across customers, supply chain, distribution and brand marketing awareness within our business and have no doubt, that under our leadership, the Columbia brand will flourish beyond all expectations.”

Columbia Sportswear is now one of the biggest outdoor clothing brands in the world, with sales topping more than $2-bn in 2014. The success of the brand is contributed to the current chairperson, Gert Boyle, and CEO Tim Boyle, who took over the brand after the death of their husband and father respectively in 1970. Their rescue of the brand from near-bankruptcy and building it into a leading global brand is one of the industry’s great success stories.

Columbia was introduced into South Africa in 2004, but initially only through retailer Due South. Pieter Strobos of Wild Elements Apparel subsequently gave the brand a broader footprint, and also opened several brand stores, which they will continue to run on a franchise basis under license to Brand ID.

Columbia will join brands like Canterbury, Skins, Mizuno and SKLZ in the Performance Brands unit of their business. The unit’s Brand President Du Toit Botes will initially be responsible for Columbia, and will report to Bebb directly. Roger Noades, who was part of the previous distributorship, has joined Brand ID and will help make the brand’s transition as smooth as possible.

“This will allow us to share best practices best suited for this brand in our business,” continues Bebb. “We aim to secure Columbia as a preferred outdoor and fishing brand in the market and ensure we provide an absolute quality product, on time, and in full. We pride ourselves in our business on our ability to deliver with precision, to ensure product is delivered as required on the date it is required.

“We want to get the right product in the right place for the right consumer,” he adds. “We can distribute to a mom and pop store who sells to the farmer, as well as to the biggest outdoor store.” They also have the ability to take the brand into the rest of Africa and manage and grow it there.

“The market is quite hungry for stock,” says Botes, and they will be sourcing product internationally to meet this demand to ensure that the brand continues to keep a presence in retail. The new season’s ranges will, however, be introduced in the second half of the year for delivery December 2015 to June 2016.

Columbia has a very rich heritage and the brand has stayed true to this heritage, Bebb explains. It is a very technical brand — the PFG fishing shirts, for example offer 50+ UV sun protection and the long sleeves can keep a fisherman cool for a whole day in the sun —but it offers these technologies at a good price point and in a fashionable style.

“There are many Columbia products that have been available overseas that will show the local market that the range is much wider than what has been seen so far,” he says.

Apart from the outdoorsman (or woman) the brand has product ranges that will appeal to cyclists, trail runners, anglers, hikers and the everyday Joe who likes fashionable casualwear with comfort technologies. They will be positioning the brand across four retail categories: outdoor/hunting stores; the agricultural co-op market; fishing and cycling stores.

The brand’s partnership with the Cape Epic cycle tour, for example, offers exciting options for other Brand ID brands, like Skins compression gear. They will also look for these synergies for brands like Skins and Mizuno in events like Wine to Whales, mountain biking at Fancourt and trail running events. “We now have the brands to supply the official footwear and become the official clothing and compression partner in all these events,” says Botes.

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