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Vista Outdoor to sell Bell, Giro and Blackburn, along with firearms brands

Published May 1, 2018
CEO says canceled orders over firearms controversy had little effect on the company and that its plan was in development long before the dispute.

FARMINGTON, Utah (BRAIN) — Vista Outdoor Inc. plans to sell Bell, Giro and Blackburn — and its Savage and Stevens firearms brands — and return its focus to ammunition sales. 

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The company also said it will sell the Copilot bike baby carrier brand, Raskullz and Krashco child helmet brands and the Jimmy Styks paddleboard brand but retain CamelBak, Camp Chef and Bushnell, as well as its ammo' brands.

Vista's firearms and ammunition sales had already been soft for several quarters when the company found itself in the spotlight following the Parkland High School shooting in February. On March 1, REI, MEC and some independent retailers said they would stop ordering Vista products because of Vista's lack of response following the shooting. Although REI and MEC don't sell firearms, they sold Bell, Giro, Blackburn and other Vista Outdoor outdoor cooking and water sports brands.

"We have been on this path ... way before any of the noise came about eight weeks ago." — CEO Chris Metz

In an investor conference call Tuesday, Vista Outdoor CEO Chris Metz said the canceled orders had little effect on the company. Answering an investor question, Metz noted that REI represents less than 1 percent of the company's total sales. 

"As we look at the rest of it, there's been some puts and takes: So we've had some small independent dealers that sided with the REI side and we've had some independent dealers, frankly, that stepped up and said, 'We want to take advantage of this market opportunity and replace that volume.' In total it's built into our guidance and expectations, and fortunately we have been on this path of strategically determining where we wanted to guide the company way before any of the noise came about eight weeks ago."

The company announced last year that it planned to sell its Bollé eyewear and helmet brand. Metz said Tuesday that he expects to complete that sale, which also includes the Cebe and Serengetti eyewear brands, in the next fiscal first quarter. He said the company hopes to complete the sale of the other brands by the end of its 2020 fiscal year, 24 months from now.

Vista bought Bell, Giro, Blackburn and C-Preme from BRG Sports in 2016 for $400 million.

Vista released a statement Tuesday announcing the new plan and its financials for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended March 30, and its full-year results. 

"This transformation plan is a significant first step toward creating a portfolio of brands that is laser-focused on our target consumer and leverages the strengths of our combined platform," Metz said in the statement. "This renewed focus will allow us to invest in these categories and their natural adjacencies. Coupled with our previously announced sales and marketing reorganization to drive a founder's mentality back into our brands, this strategic orientation will also allow us to accelerate our efforts to expand e-commerce capabilities and increase our emphasis on market-leading product innovation. The end result will be a Vista Outdoor that lives up to the potential envisioned three years ago when the company was formed. We intend to begin the portfolio reshaping immediately, and anticipate executing any strategic alternatives by the end of fiscal year 2020."

In the quarter, sales were $571 million, down 1 percent from the prior-year quarter. The company said the decline was caused by lower prices across all ammunition categories due to market conditions, and lower sales in hydration, optics and water sports. It said those declines were partially offset by increased firearms sales due to a product refresh and improved sales in outdoor cooking and its sports protection business.

For the full year, sales were $2.3 billion, down 9 percent from the prior year. The company said the decline was caused by lower volume across all ammunition categories, lower pricing across the portfolio, and lower firearms sales as a result of decreased demand affecting the shooting sports industry. 

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Topics associated with this article: Earnings/Financial Reports

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