Farmington-based Vista Outdoor has found itself in the crosshairs of consumers calling to boycott companies supporting gun groups like the National Rifle Association.
Vista formed in 2015 when Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, split into two companies. Orbital ATK became its aerospace and defense group while Vista Outdoor spun off as its shooting and ammunitions group. Vista quickly began to diversify, acquiring well-known outdoor brands in paddleboarding, cycling and camping.
Before the backlash following the Feb. 14 high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, many outdoor enthusiasts didn’t realize popular brands like CamelBak, Camp Chef, Bell, Giro and Bollé fell under the same ownership as Savage Arms and Federal Premium Ammunition.
A full list of Vista Outdoor’s brands is available on its website. Calls to the company were not immediately returned Tuesday.
As gun control advocates began calling for boycotts of corporations supporting the NRA, the relationship among Vista Outdoor’s many brands came to light. It appears to have started with a thread on Twitter.
Bicycling friends: Did you know that @Giro, Bell, @CamelBak, Copilot and a few other bike gear brands that you may enjoy are owned by @VistaOutdoorInc, America's largest manufacturer of ammunition? https://t.co/BGXEjEvgvo— Aaron Naparstek (@Naparstek) February 21, 2018
Vista’s Savage Arms manufacturers the MSR-15, which is similar to an AR-15 rifle — the style of weapon the Florida shooter used to kill 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bloggers picked up on the chatter, claiming that buying Raskullz child bike helmets or CamelBak hydration packs was akin to supporting the gun lobby. Larger publications, like Outside Magazine, have since written about the dilemma some outdoor product customers face.
Since the shooting, many consumers of outdoor products — and cycling enthusiasts in particular — have pledged to boycott Vista’s brands. They’re also calling for big outdoor retailers like REI and Canada-based Mountain Equipment Co-op to stop carrying Vista Outdoor products. At least some of those retailers seem to be listening.
But, as MEC’s public affairs manager Tim Southam told CBCNews on Monday, many of these vendors began carrying brands like CamelBak when they were still independent companies — before their acquisition by Vista Outdoor.
“These are relationships with individual brands that in some cases go back many years,” Southam said in the CBC story.
We need to do this. Buying a helmet for my infant shouldn't support the NRA, and yet, that is exactly how Vista Outdoor spends its corporate profits. Boycott all of these: https://t.co/afSkB7rJrH https://t.co/4q6Af9VU2T— Will Handsfield (@WHands80) February 21, 2018
It’s hard to say whether all the boycott pledges are having an impact on the outdoor company, but Vista Outdoor’s stock has steadily declined since buzz about its brands began last week. Around the time of the Florida shooting, stocks gained ground, but that was only after an overall 62 percent drop in the company’s shares last year, the Motley Fool reported last month.
The company blamed its long-term decline in shares on the election of President Donald Trump and declining gun sales. According to CNN, Vista had banked on the election of Hillary Clinton instead, which lead them to stockpile products in anticipation of a “surge” in demand for firearms and ammunition.