In the last decade alone, product innovations and unique marketing tactics have led strong sales growth as we continue to surge ahead in the development of functional, stylish apparel that offers great value. Columbia's extensive product offering now includes a wide variety of outerwear, sportswear, rugged footwear and accessories.
At the head of our family enterprise are 75 year-old matriarch and Chairman of the Board Gert Boyle and her son, Tim Boyle, who is Columbia's President and Chief Executive Officer.
Columbia's brand-building began more than 60 years ago when Gert's parents, Paul and Marie Lamfrom, fled Germany in 1937 and resettled in Portland, Oregon, where they purchased a small hat distributorship. Several years later, when Columbia began experiencing trouble with suppliers, the Lamfroms decided to start manufacturing products themselves.
In 1948, Gert married college sweetheart Neal Boyle, who joined the family business and eventually took over as its president. When Neal suddenly died of a heart attack in 1970, Gert enlisted help from Tim, who then was a senior at the University of Oregon. Together they led the company from near bankruptcy to become a world leader in the active outdoor apparel industry.
Columbia rose to new heights of brand awareness in 1984 when we launched a quirky and irreverently funny advertising campaign starring the Boyles. Establishing Gert as a cantankerous taskmaster with incredibly high standards, the ads featured "Mother" putting son Tim through the ringer to test the versatility and durability of Columbia garments. This unique campaign brought immediate and widespread attention to the company and continues to anchor our marketing program.
Today, Columbia Sportswear employs more than 1,000 people around the world, with our corporate headquarters and international distribution center located in Portland, Oregon. We distribute products through more than 10,000 retailers in over 30 countries.
Columbia owns and operates sales offices in North America, Europe and Asia, and has wholly owned subsidiaries in Canada and Japan. We work with 20 independent sales agencies in the United States, nine in Canada, and 20 independent distributors and sales agencies in Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. In addition, we own and operate a European sales and marketing office in Strasbourg, France, and a European distribution center in Waalwijk, Netherlands.