Columbia Sportswear is planning to open its new distribution centre in Robards, Kentucky, in January 2005.

The centre, which cost around $49 million, will mostly house footwear from Columbia and its subsidiary brand Sorel, and will contain systems that can keep track of over 1800 cartons per hour.

New sorting and tracking technology will allow associates to locate any carton in the 520,000 square foot facility at any time, allowing accurate and timely shipments.

Tim Boyle, chief executive officer and president of Columbia Sportswear said: "We're very excited about this opportunity to accommodate our growth in footwear".

He added that the facility would allow cost-effective two-day product delivery to the east coast and midwest markets, which make up around 70 per cent of the company's footwear business.

Columbia Sportswear currently distributes footwear and apparel from its 829,000 square foot facility in Portland, Oregon.

The company began construction of the Robards facility in autumn 2003, after direct net sales of footwear saw an annual growth rate of around 25 per cent between 1998 and 2003.