With its public announcement Feb. 10 that it was spinning off from parent company Alliant Techsystems, Vista Outdoor Inc. has become a standalone, publicly traded outdoor sports and recreation company — and the implications for the firearms, ammunition, archery, and hunting markets could be big.
Today Vista Outdoor Inc. — traded on the NYSE under the symbol VSTO — is the parent of 30 different, well-recognized brands, as well as a handful of smaller brands. All have a footprint in the outdoor recreation market.
The company will employ some 5800 people, with most spread throughout the United States. Company headquarters, currently in leased office space in Clearfield, Utah, will be relocated to an as yet to be determined permanent site in the Salt Lake City area.
At the end of the company’s first day of business Vista Chairman and CEO, Mark DeYoung, gave Grand View Outdoors an exclusive insight into the new company, its corporate philosophy, and how its business practices might impact both dealers and consumers in the hunting, shooting, and archery markets.
SSR: Why Vista Outdoor as the new company name? What does it signify?
MDY: Vista is aspirational, speaking to a broad long-term view of things. When you look over the vista, that means we will be forward thinking and looking. We wanted to have a name that expresses the vision of a new, exciting and expansive company.
SSR: You are a native Utahan and a life-long outdoorsman, hunter and shooter, among other interests. You’ve also recently assumed the duties as chairman of Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation board of directors and are a member of several prominent national conservation and gun rights organizations. How does this help shape your company philosophy?
MDY: The overall strategy is to get people outside and engage in outdoor recreation. We want to be the world leader in outdoor recreation, defined as anything the individual wants to do outdoors, which includes team and individual sports as well as hunting and shooting. We have built this really impressive portfolio of leading entrepreneurial brands and focus on unique consumer needs — I believe right now, 21 of our brands are number 1 in their category — and we’ll be more focused in the future to give unique brands and unique solutions. But along the way we are going maintain our core values, which form the foundation for our behavior, how we conduct business, make decisions and treat others. No success is worth the expense of compromising our integrity.
SSR: Last year firearms sales softened, and ATK laid off 120 people from Savage Arms, mirroring layoffs from competitors that included Remington, Sig Sauer and Century Arms. Where do you see the firearms business heading in the next year or two? How about the sporting ammunition business?
MDY: No doubt about it, gun sales were on fire for a few years, but sporting rifle sales — which is our niche — not so much. Currently that business has been down maybe 20 percent for us, so we had to make a correction in our staffing. Downstream we think that sporting arms sales will still be there for us, but the heyday is over. On the other hand, the ammunition business has shifted.
Today instead of it being primarily a hunting-focused industry, it is now a target/recreational shooter-focused industry. This is also good for the accessory businesses, we feel. I think the ammo business will perform way better than the gun business. And we have this covered with everything from premium hunting brands to lower-priced plinking and target shooting-type brands.
Read more of the interview with Mark DeYoung at the Shooting Sports Retailer website.