Boycotts mount against bike brands tied to gun maker
Consumer boycotts are mounting against bicycle industry brands owned by parent company Vista Outdoor, which also owns multiple gun and ammunition brands and has strong connections to the National Rifle Association.
The cycling brands in question are helmet brands Bell and Giro; hydration pack brand Camelbak; sunglasses brand Bolle; child safety seat maker Copilot; and Blackburn, which sells a wide variety of pumps, bicycle bags, lights, and other accessories.
Vista Outdoors’s media relations representative did not respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday retail giant REI announced it would place a hold on future orders of Vista’s outdoor brands, joining Canadian outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). Throughout the week, a smattering of independent bicycle dealers across the country also revealed they would boycott, including Boulder, Colorado-based Boulder Cycle Sport, Louisville, Kentucky-based Parkside Bikes, and Velo Cult and Sellwood Cycle Repair, both based in Portland, Oregon.
“Thousands of MEC members have contacted us to express their concerns and to ask that we stop selling products made by these brands,” wrote David Labistour, CEO of MEC, on the company’s website. “We’ve also heard from members who believe that purchasing decisions like these should be left to individual consumers and that MEC should not get involved. The fact is, the debate has involved us and as a member-based organization we are compelled to respond.”
The boycotts stem from Vista Outdoor’s business in the gun and ammunition space, which it calls “shooting sports” on its website. In addition to its various cycling and outdoor brands, Vista owns 13 different ammunition and firearm brands. One of its brands, Savage Arms, sells a line of semi-automatic assault rifles similar to the AR-15, which was allegedly used in the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed 17 lives. Another Vista brand, Federal Premium Ammunition, is an advertiser on the NRA’s online television channel.
According to the trade website Ammoland.com, Vista Outdoor is also an exhibitor at the NRA’s annual trade show.
The REI and MEC boycotts came after thousands of customers signed petitions to persuade the retailers to stop carrying the Vista Outdoor brands.
“I’m an REI member that will no longer be purchasing items sold by manufactures that support the NRA,” wrote a petitioner who identified himself as “Kevin O.”
On Thursday afternoon, Camelbak released a statement addressing the boycotts.
“A major concern for the boycott centers around the incorrect assumption that the purchase of any of our products may support a cause that does not fit the mission/values of our brand,” the statement reads. “That is not the case. Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor’s Shooting Sports segment.”
The news set Vista Outdoor’s stocks tumbling. On Friday, shares fell nearly 10% to $15.91.
Vista Outdoor has spent nearly $1 billion in recent years to acquire popular brands in the cycling and outdoor sports space. The company was spun off from ammunition company Alliant Techsystems in January 2015, and soon after began acquiring brands in the outdoor and cycling space. In July of that year it purchased Camelbak and Jimmy Styks, a brand that makes stand-up paddle boards and accessories. The following year Vista Outdoor acquired Easton-Bell Sports, which sells the Bell and Giro brands.
The acquisitions helped the company grow its earnings from the outdoor sports category. According to Vista Outdoor’s investor overview report, shooting sports accounted for 65 percent of its sales in 2015, compared to 35 percent for outdoor products. For 2017, shooting sports generated 55 percent, compared to 45 percent for outdoor products.