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In response to pressure, MEC suspends business with Vista Outdoor

Published March 1, 2018
UPDATED: Canadian co-op carries five of Vista's brands. Meanwhile, Bell, Giro, Blackburn and CamelBak each address call for boycott on their websites.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (BRAIN) — Five days after Mountain Equipment Co-Op publicly acknowledged that thousands of members had asked it to stop selling Vista-owned outdoor and bike brands, the Canadian retailer said it is suspending further orders and selling through existing inventory. 

Vista Outdoor is the parent company of Bell, Giro, Blackburn and CamelBak. It also is a major supplier of gun and ammunition products. It owns Savage Arms, a leading manufacturer of assault-style rifles, among other brands.

In recent days, consumers and retailers had called for a boycott of Vista's bike brands as the political debate around gun control following the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting heats up. A petition asking that MEC stop carrying Vista's brands had garnered more than 50,000 signatures by Thursday. MEC carries Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, Camp Chef and Jimmy Styks. It does not sell Giro or Bell helmets. The Canadian co-op has more than 5 million members and operates 22 stores. 

While Vista hasn't issued a statement addressing the growing call for a boycott, Bell, Giro, Blackburn and CamelBak each posted a statement Thursday on their websites. Though individualized for every brand, the statements emphasized that each operates separately from Vista Outdoor's Shooting Sports segment and that consumers should decide what they purchase based on what they feel is important. 

David Labistour, CEO of MEC, noted in an open letter to members that the debate over gun control has involved them and the decision wasn't easy, with some members asking that they stop selling products made by these brands while others think that purchasing decisions should be left to individual consumers, not MEC.

Labistour, who noted in the letter that he served in the military and grew up in a rural area where hunting was common, said engagement on a polarizing issue like gun control is tough but a path to change. 

"From what we’ve heard, we know that no decision we make will satisfy everyone. We are in the midst of a complex and highly charged debate with as many opinions as there are people expressing them," he wrote. 

"I hope that you will see that the decision we made today is balanced and considered and positions us to inspire a wider discussion throughout our industry and North America," he added. 

Two separate petitions asking REI to stop carrying Vista's brands had drawn thousands of signatures in a week. The U.S.-based outdoor retailer has not provided a statement about Vista Outdoor or responded to BRAIN's calls or emails.

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