MANILA — Business has been tough for travel and adventure wear brand Columbia Sportswear since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as its main market has been grounded by movement restrictions.
But as international borders gradually reopen with easing infections and rising vaccinations, the global apparel brand is gearing up for a revival as it looked to tap into the Philippine market.
"Like with most businesses, we were also very much affected by the pandemic. Columbia caters to the travel adventure market. We bring in products that will keep people protected and safe from the environment so they can have a better outdoor experience," said Tiffany Batungbacal, Assistant Vice President at Primer Group of Companies, Columbia Sportswear's distributor in the Philippines.
She cited how the lull in travel over the past 2 years had affected sales of its winter wear. The company was careful, too, not to encourage travel within the Philippines to help prevent further infections, she said.
"As much as there is big potential in outdoor, we also need to respect and protect the local communities. We have not encouraged hiking or camping in the Philippines because we want to make sure that we do not potentially bring COVID to these communities," said Batungbacal.
At the peak of the pandemic, the company boosted its e-commerce infrastructure, training its staff for the digital shift.
"From the beginning, we identified our priorities- keep our employees safe, save as many jobs as possible and prepare for business continuity," Batungbacal told ABS-CBN News.
With travel restrictions easing, Columbia Sportswear is optimistic that business would soon be back on track.
"It has been a tough past 2 years. But despite everything, Filipinos continue to be resilient. We know that the environment and the market continues to be volatile but we are hopeful that, as we come together from different industries to address this pandemic, the Philippines will get back on its feet. We are, after all, Tested Tough," Batungbacal said.
This week, the brand launched a new line of thermal wear technology, Omni-Heat™ Infinity, which it touts to be "the gold standard in warmth"— just in time for a resurgence of outdoor travel around the world.
Columbia's Omni-Heat™ Infinity prides in its gold metallic lining, which the company said is inspired by reflective technology used by NASA, and is "scientifically engineered to optimize warmth and breathability."
This new technology is coming in over 80 styles in jackets, boots and accessories, Columbia said. In the Philippines, Columbia Sportswear products are available online on its official website.