Vista Outdoor to Sell Bell, Blackburn, Giro

Vista Outdoor to Sell Bell, Blackburn, Giro

Vista Outdoor, the owner of bike brands, Bell, Blackburn, Giro, CamelBak, Raskullz, Krashco, Copilot and Bollé, has decided to sell the majority of its bike industry holdings.

Bell, Blackburn, Giro, Raskullz, Krashco and Copilot are to be sold. Vista Outdoors will, however, retain CamelBak. Vista reports that a sale of eyewear maker Bollé is already in the works and it plans to sell its other optics brands, Cebe and Serengetti.

CEO Chris Metz announced during an investor conference call that the company would also sell its two firearms brands, Savage and Stevens, so that it could return to a “laser focus on its target consumer.” The upshot is that its strategy to expand out of ammunition in an effort to diversify and stabilize its revenue stream has been cast aside in an effort to return to its original strategy.

During the call Metz claimed that the company had been on the path to sell the bike brands before the Parkland shooting and the resulting boycott. According to Metz, REI represented less than 1 percent of Vista Outdoor’s total sales, so the falloff, he claims, didn’t hurt much; he also stated that while some other retailers sided with REI, there were others that stepped up and said they wanted to take advantage of the situation.

Despite Metz’ statements to the contrary, I can’t help but believe that the boycott had an effect. And of the many effects the boycott could have had, I’ll say that this is the best possible one, and also the one I thought was least likely. As I wrote previously, my concern was that good and talented people would be laid off as a result of a falloff in sales. And some of that did happen; some people have been laid off from Bell. I’m just grateful far more people didn’t lose their jobs.

Whether or not Vista Outdoors was on a path to shed their bike brands, it’s reasonable to conclude that the company was unwilling to make any announcement in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, lest it appear that they were cowed by public pressure. The only thing worse than a PR black eye is an investor black eye. Losing face to investors was the one outcome they couldn’t risk, which I believe is why two months passed before they announced a decision the CEO says was already in the works.

It would be pretty two-faced of me to do an about-face and tell the world how well the boycott worked. I think the bike industry got relatively lucky here, and that the outcome could have been really ugly. It’s a situation I sincerely hope we don’t encounter again, but I’m grateful that Vista will sell the companies. The real opportunity here is to find owners for those brands that will invest in them and give them a chance to do their jobs well.


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  1. Aar

    “The real opportunity here is to find owners for those brands that will invest in them and give them a chance to do their jobs well.”

    I fully agree with this in particular and this entire post in general. I have the best of wishes for all of the formerBell employees that they find better employment going forward. Looking forward to reinvigorated, innovative products from these brands as their new owners invest in them. Without such investment, I fear for their long-term viability.

    1. Author

      I need to say that Bell has been producing the best helmets they have ever produced lately. The Z20 is easily my favorite road helmet and the Super 3R is my favorite MTB helmet. Those folks didn’t need better employment; they needed better owners. It’s evident from the product line that they were getting a lot done; they just needed better support.

    2. Aar

      I appreciate your opinion and follow your recommendations frequently. Bell was the leader in helmets of all types (not just cycling), developed head protection technologies and set the bar very high for eons. So, I accept that Bell’s helmets are exceptional. With investment, I’m certain that we will see more energy and renewed innovation from them going forward.

    1. Competition is good

      I hope they are sold separately, but I think they are integrated enough now that it probably will be together.

  2. Barry Adam Johnson

    In the Salt Lake Tribune it was reported they are selling off their ammunition lines. Sort of like the opposite of what I’m reading here.

    1. Author

      I’m not one to say that other media outlets got it wrong, but if that’s what the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting, they got the story exactly wrong. You can read Vista Outdoor’s press release here, and I’m guessing that we can agree that they know what they plan to do.

  3. Tominalbany

    So, this is a stressful time at those companies. Being sold brings instability and change. Always a challenge. I hope they make it through to a successful transfer.

  4. Lebowski

    Lot of MBA-speak in that press release. Sounds like they’re in deep debt and need to sell the bicycle-related companies because the boycott is cutting sales to the point sales can’t support the debt.
    As for my Giro helmet/glove/shoe purchase not supporting their firearms lobbying efforts, that’s simply not so. Income from across the subsidiaries contribute to the same bottom line. They can spend $500,000 on gun promotion because they are taking in cash from bicycle gear sales and gun/ammo sales.

  5. Richard Sachs

    When the story was a story ?? months ago, I decided to stay with and by Giro because I’ve been a fan since Day One, and the people there always treated me well, and respectfully. I was not going to sever relationships despite the dots that were being connected this past winter.

  6. Nico

    Although REI was said to represent approximately 1% of Vista sales fallout from the bad press from the boycott resulted in greater liability.

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