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Bell, Giro, CamelBak, Blackburn face backlash for parent company’s affiliation with the NRA

Published February 26, 2018
An image tweeted by @skibums supporting the Vista Outdoors boycott

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (BRAIN) — The debate over gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school has sent rippling waves that have reached the bike industry. Consumers and retailers began calling for a boycott of bike brands owned by gun and ammo supplier Vista Outdoor last week, and the movement continues to gain steam on social media under the hashtag #vistaoutdoor.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op, an outdoor retailer with more than 20 stores that sell bicycles along with other outdoor gear throughout Canada, issued a statement on Twitter this morning in response to mounting pressure from the co-op’s members to drop brands owned by Vista. 

A petition on Change.org asking that Mountain Equipment Co-Op stop selling Vista-owned brands had nearly 2,000 signatures by Monday morning.

MEC issued a statement on Twitter:

A similar petition on Change.org addressed to REI’s CEO Jerry Stritzke was launched shortly after.

Attempts to reach REI for comment were not immediately answered.

Meanwhile, several bike shops in Portland, Oregon, told BikePortland.org last week that they would stop buying or carrying the brands.

Many also went public with their position on Vista Outdoor on social media. Portland retailer Velo Cult Bike Shop posted on its Facebook page, “Velo Cult does not and will never carry any products from Bell, Giro, Blackburn, CamelBak, Copilot or any other subsidiaries of Vista Outdoor. Any company which manufactures guns and ammunition is profiting directly from the NRA and is complicit in its agenda. Let’s keep this about the NRA and not the guns. The NRA sucks.”

Sellwood Cycle owner Eric Tonkin posted on the store’s Facebook page, “Sellwood Cycle Repair will support a boycott of Vista Outdoor. This means we will not buy products from Bell, Giro, Blackburn and CoPilot — and that we could even return existing inventory, which is substantial.”

Dealers in other parts of the country also voiced their anti-gun/anti-NRA stance with their stores. Jimmy Flaherty of Parkside Bikes with two stores in Louisville, Kentucky, said the stores would stop carrying all Vista brands and return their entire preseason order.

“We just found out about Vista’s gun and ammunition business,” Flaherty told BRAIN in an email. “As far as percentage of sales, we were essentially 99 percent Giro for helmet sales. Not sure where we are moving that section of the business to yet.”

Kent Cranford, owner of Motion Makers Bicycle Shop in Asheville, North Carolina, said he’s keeping his ears open and listening to customers. His store only carries one of Vista’s brands, CamelBak, and he isn’t boycotting the brand just yet.

Cranford, who also serves as second vice chair on the NBDA board of directors, said he hopes dealers use their voice to persuade Vista to take a stand for gun control laws. “Hopefully it doesn’t hurt anyone’s business because this winter has already done that,” he added.

Vista Outdoor acquired the BRG Action Sports businesses, including Bell, Giro and Blackburn, in February 2016 for $400 million. It bought CamelBak in July 2015 for $412 million, and also owns eyewear brand Bollé, which it hopes to sell off. The company, which trades on the NYSE under the VSTO symbol, has seen slumping sales in its core ammunition and firearms segments.

Shooting sports, which comprises its firearms and ammunition brands, saw third-quarter sales decline 21 percent to $286 million. Gross profits were down 47 percent in that segment, according to its latest financial earnings. Vista Outdoor owns 13 shooting sports brands.

BRAIN’s calls and emails to Vista Outdoor for comment on the potential impact from consumer and retail boycotts were not immediately returned. 

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