Vista Outdoor considering dropping assault-style firearms, helmet, and SUP brands

The announcement comes only a few months after the global gun control debate that resulted in REI and MEC dropping Vista brands from store's shelves.
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Savage Arms MSR 15 Competition

Savage Arms Modern Sporting Rifle 15

Today, Vista Outdoor Inc. reported that it’s exploring the idea of selling off Savage Arms, the maker of semi-automatic weapons and the brand that was at the heart of a boycott back in early March.

According to a press release issued by Vista’s media relations department, the move is part of a strategic business transformation plan. The corporation wants to focus on growing its ammunition, hunting and shooting accessories, hydration bottles and packs, and outdoor cooking products.

Not semi-automatic, assault style weapons.

The announcement follows a tumultuous start to the year for Vista, when after a school shooting in Florida, REI and Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op dropped Vista’s outdoor brands, including CamelBak, Camp Chef, and Bollé, following major pressure from members.

“Many of you have told us you want us to immediately stop carrying products from any brands owned by Vista Outdoor, because of their support for the NRA and ownership of other brands that manufacture automatic weapons and ammunitions,” MEC wrote on Twitter on Feb. 26. “We’ve also heard from many of you who disagree: members who still want to be able to buy brands like CamelBak at MEC, and who think purchasing decisions should be up to individual consumers.”

According to Vista’s news release, the “strategic business transformation planning” began long before the debate, in November 2017 as a result of a comprehensive strategic review. The implication is that this is decision is not a reaction to the boycott movement.

In fact, Vista Outdoor Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz said during an investor conference call that the boycott had little effect on the corporation. He said that the impact of REI's decision represented less than 1 percent of the company's total sales. 

"Vista Outdoor began its strategic review in November 2017, when our new CEO Chris Metz joined the company," spokeswoman Amanda Convington told SNEWS. "He enlisted management and highly recognized consulting firm to analyze and review the strategic process and plan. Chris told our investment community in November and early February that we would share our plan in early May during our full-year earnings call. Our plan is a thoughtful and reasonable approach based on data, and we believe this will help us realize the company’s full potential."

It explains why Vista has been mum throughout the controversy, despite REI specifically asking for a statement from Vista in a March 1 blog post.

“This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action," said REI. "As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds. Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that.”

Vista’s new emphasis will be clear and focused on its core, according to today's statement.

"Vista Outdoor is excited about the potential of each of our core businesses, particularly ammunition, which is our largest core business,” said Metz. "An increased focus on our heritage ammunition business will manifest itself in more innovative and breakthrough new products introduced over the next few years. We also anticipate that by prioritizing this business, we will be able to invest more capital to further enhance and expand our global leadership position."

“Our review identified product categories that are core to the company’s long-term business strategy,” said Metz. “We believe future investment should focus on categories where Vista Outdoor can achieve sustainable growth, maximize operational efficiencies, deliver leadership economics, and drive shareholder value.”

Specifically, Vista is considering splitting from its Sports Protection Brands—Giro, Bell, and Blackburn—and Jimmy Styks paddle boards, and Savage and Stevens firearms.

Reached Tuesday, an REI spokesperson said the cooperative has no update on whether or not it will reconsider its hold on ordering products from brands under Vista.

In conducting the strategic review, Vista Outdoor evaluated brands within its current portfolio based on their ability to do the following:

· Serve the company’s target consumer – the outdoor enthusiast

· Create cross-selling and other similar synergy opportunities

· Achieve market leading positions and leadership economics

· Demonstrate omni-channel distribution capabilities

Separately, Vista (VSTO) reported that sales were down 9 percent at $2.3 billion this fiscal year compared to the prior year. The decline, according to Vista, was caused by lower volume in Shooting Sports across all ammunition categories, lower pricing across the portfolio, and lower firearms sales as a result of decreased demand.

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