ATK: A Worldwide Enterprise That's Branching Out

Shooting Sports Retailer interviews ATK Sporting Group president Jay Tibbets to see where the massive company is going and how it plans to dominate the hunting and shooting business.
ATK: A Worldwide Enterprise That's Branching Out

Here’s a quiz. It’s about ATK. (Did you know their real name is Alliant Techsystems, Inc. and their HQ is in Arlington, Virginia?) Choose the best answer from below.

ATK is:

A. A leader in ammunition, precision and strike weapons, missile-warning solutions and tactical rocket motors.

B. A leader in ammunition, firearms and accessories for the hunting, sporting, outdoor, military and law enforcement markets.

C. A leader in satellite components and systems, including composite structures that meet unprecedented thermal stability requirements.

D. All of the above.

Of course, if you answered “D” – all of the above – you would be correct. But rockets, schmockets. I’m interested in guns and ammo and all the cool, fun stuff that I can use outside and, as a member of the Baby Boom Generation, I’m a bit on the antique side for “strike weapons” and “thermal stability.” (Until I can employ my own fleet of drones, that is.)

Still, I admire what the people at ATK have done. They have taken a big company and made it gi-normous. According to some quick online research, ATK “operates in 22 states, Puerto Rico, and other countries.” Based on the work of 16,000 employees, its 2013 revenues are estimated at of about $4.4 billion. That’s billion, with a “B.”

Actually, ATK itself isn’t that old. It was formed in 1990 as a subsidiary of Honeywell. A decade later, ATK got our attention when it began to aggressively acquire companies in the shooting sports industry. Let’s list them, just for fun: Bushnell, BLACKHAWK!, Eagle, Alliant Powder, RCBS, Champion Target, Final Approach, Gunslick Pro, Primos, Bollé, Outers, Hoppe’s, Uncle Mike’s, Butler Creek and Weaver Optics. (By the time you read this there may be a couple more.) ATK’s ammunition brands include Federal Premium, CCI, Fusion, Speer Ammo, Speer Bullets, Estate Cartridge and Blazer. And who can forget last year’s purchase of Bushnell and the Caliber Company, which includes Savage Arms, Stevens and Savage Range Systems.

So, is ATK simply going to swallow the shooting and hunting industry whole? Will the SHOT Show go the way of the AT&T Cotton Bowl, to become the “ATK SHOT Show?”

For some answers, Shooting Sports Retailer turned to Jay Tibbets. Jay is the president of ATK’s Sporting Group. And so if anyone can give a heads up on ATK, it’s Tibbets.

Tibbets, by the way, is relatively new to this leadership position, having been in place only since February 2013. But just because he’s the new prez, don’t think he hasn’t been around. He also serves on the board of directors for SAAMI, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, and the board of governors for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Prior to that, he graduated from the University of Minnesota and served for 22 years as an ammunition officer in the Marine Corps.

SSR: ATK was already a huge company before last year’s acquisition of Savage and Bushnell. From all of the possible companies in the shooting sports, how were they selected?

Tibbets: ATK has been very involved in the hunting and shooting sports industry since 2001, beginning with the purchase of what we call “value-added foundational brands” like Federal Premium Ammunition, Weaver Optics, RCBS reloading equipment, Speer and CCI Ammunition.

Over the past few years, we’ve experienced exceptional growth in our core ammunition and accessories segments. We believe that firearms and exposure to new non-hunting, high-growth accessory categories is going to provide an avenue for additional growth.

As a leader in a highly competitive and challenging global marketplace, we have to continuously strive to improve our competitive position. We have to remain responsive to ever-changing market demands. Through our performance we have a proven record of delivering affordable, high quality and innovative products that meet consumer needs.

SSR: But why Savage?

Tibbets: Well, Savage was founded in 1894 so it’s one of the oldest and, we believe, most respected brands in the outdoor business. Today, it’s a market leader in bolt-action centerfire and rimfire rifles. Plus, Savage addressed the long-standing firearms gap in the ATK Sporting portfolio and it provides a complementary capability that strengthens our core businesses of ammunition and accessories.

SSR: And Bushnell? An optics company seems fringe to a barrel-boring, powder-mixing company.

Tibbets: Well, Bushnell has led the high performance sports optics market for 60 years or more. With 19 iconic brands, Bushnell’s product lines also complement the ATK accessories portfolio. Bushnell provides ATK Sporting Group with the opportunity to present a more complete offering of leading accessories to the retailers and distributors who will drive our continued revenue growth.

Our broad product portfolio includes well-known brands in riflescopes, binoculars, rangefinders, trail cameras, night vision and GPS devices. So Bushnell isn’t that far out of our broad scope, you might say. And Bushnell also expands ATK’s accessory offerings into some other attractive outdoor markets, like golf (GPS and rangefinders), camping (GPS and portable power) and skiing (goggles and helmets).

SSR: What about BLACKHAWK!?

Tibbets: We acquired BLACKHAWK! in 2010. In a short period — BLACKHAWK! Was founded in 1993 — it’s become a premier tactical gear and apparel company and it has a devoted following in the military, law enforcement and shooting enthusiasts markets.

The BLACKHAWK! brand is well positioned with its “HONOR as a way of life” message. It connects high-quality functional products to multiple markets while adding significant capability to capitalize on crossover opportunities in adjacent markets.

SSR: What else is ATK searching for? What can the industry expect by way of announcements this year, I mean, additional acquisitions?

Tibbets: As always, we continually study the market and watch for opportunities that might add new capabilities, complement our portfolio, and/or enhance our value proposition to customers and shareholders. With the acquisitions of Bushnell and Savage Arms, the strategic investment in the Sporting Group affirms ATK’s commitment to solidifying our position in this industry.

SSR: How do the Bushnell, Savage Arms, BLACKHAWK! and Federal Premium Ammunition brands and products complement each other, or do they, really? How is ATK going to integrate these acquired businesses for enhanced consumer value?

Tibbets: Federal Premium Ammunition plus Bushnell plus BLACKHAWK! plus Savage results in a highly relevant offering of complementary products: ammo, accessories and firearms. For example, picture the combination of a Savage rifle accessorized with a Bushnell riflescope, a BLACKHAWK! sling and loaded with Federal ammunition. Now picture that well-equipped Savage rifle in a hunting or shooting situation with other ATK branded products: Bushnell laser range finders, Primos trail cameras or Champion traps and targets, a BLACKHAWK! range bag …. I think you get the idea!

And what’s more, the combined entity which is ATK, gives each of the smaller companies collaborative innovation and that accelerates new product introductions, enables efficiencies in marketing, brand and product line management — while leveraging synergies in sourcing and distribution to maximize our competitive offering.

SSR: So how will all of these companies be managed? Are they essentially separate under the ATK umbrella or will there be further merging of functions and people.

Tibbets: ATK is integrating its acquired businesses into a centralized management approach and cross-functional integration team to maximize effectiveness. We have an experienced and respected management team that fosters innovation and creativity, and is supported by passionate, loyal and hard-working employees who are committed to excellence. We have a focused integration plan that’s going to let ATK leverage the respective strengths and capabilities of these organizations; optimizing key activities across the business, while minimizing disruption.

SSR: What announcements can retailers and distributors expect from ATK and its companies this coming year? And what do all the acquisitions mean for dealer support and pricing … if any changes indeed are anticipated?

Tibbets: As I mentioned, ATK’s product offering and customer service model is a unique market value proposition. Our customers can expect class-leading sales service and marketing support to drive continued revenue growth — for us and them. Our operations model is tailored to improve output and increase order fill rates.

Plus, if you remember the movie Moneyball from a couple years ago, well, we use both old fashioned insights with sophisticated analytics. That means when our sales team calls, we have already refined a range of product assortment strategies so that together we can ensure that the right product is available at the right time to meet consumers needs.

SSR: How strong can retailers expect the ATK brands to be in the future?

Tibbets: Our primary focus is to continue building on the trust and loyalty of consumers who value our products. We work really hard to maintain that relationship and the integrity of our brands, so we’re going to strengthen the equity of our flagship brands through innovative product development and by elevating brand awareness. There’s no let-down ahead. Our ultimate goal is to position our brands and products with our retail and distribution partners for long-term success.


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