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CamelBak To Ammo: Update On A Gear Giant

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[leadin]From backpacks and bow-hunting brands to ski goggle maker Bollé, Utah-based Vista Outdoor Inc. is among the world’s largest and most diverse outdoor-gear companies. Fresh off the acquisition of CamelBak, we got an update on the brand’s ambitions from CEO Mark DeYoung.[/leadin]

Vista Outdoor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market earlier this month

Vista Outdoor Inc. bills itself as “the leading outdoor sports and recreation company in the world.”

Previously operated as a group under Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK), Vista spun off in early 2015 to create a new company that now owns more than 40 brands that collectively employ about 6,000 people around the globe.

We last covered Vista in a profile of its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mark DeYoung (see “New Outdoors Company Among World’s Largest”). In the past six months, Vista made moves further into the outdoors-recreation space with the acquisition of CamelBak and standup-paddleboard brand Jimmy Styks.

40+ brands under the Vista Outdoor umbrella

Vista Outdoor counts revenues in the billions of dollars and competes with other “brand houses” in the industry like Amer Sports, Cascade Designs, Jarden (now part of Newell Rubbermaid), and Johnson Outdoors. (As noted, Vista is now among the biggest outdoor-gear companies, including owning brands that sell ski helmets, hunting gear, sunglasses, gun-cleaning kits, targets, binoculars, backpacks, water bottles, ammunition, and more.)

At the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, a major trade show in Utah earlier this month, we sat down again with DeYoung to catch up on the behemoth gear brand.

Hope you are doing well! On the adventure front, what have you personally been up to over the past few months?

It’s been a hellacious work year but I have still managed to get out. A duck hunt in Arkansas with my sons. A trip with the “Bone Collector” crew in Texas. At home in Utah we were stand-up paddleboarding all summer and now snowshoeing and getting into the mountains.

What is new with Vista?

Two acquisitions this past year, including CamelBak and Jimmy Styks. We strived to diversify our company more into the outdoor-rec area with these acquisitions. We hired a new company president, too, Kelly Grindle. He is formerly of Johnson Outdoors.


Vista is heavy in the hunting and shooting-sports brands. Why CamelBak and Jimmy Styks?

They are great companies and they appeal to our broader strategy focusing more on the outdoor-recreation category.

Also, we wanted a water-sports brand and Jimmy Styks is the no. 1 paddleboard supplier. CamelBak is a premier brand and applicable to a broad outdoor recreation market.

What are some goals for 2016 at Vista?

Focus on innovation of products. Continue to grow our business. Focus on diversification of the brand even more into the mainstream outdoor-rec market.

How is the brand being talked about at a place like the Outdoor Retailer trade show?

The acquisition of CamelBak got us attention and an immediate place here, as CamelBak is a major brand on the show floor. We are just beginning to hear Vista talked about in this space. We’re a long-term player in the industry.

You have 40+ brands. What Vista brands are doing well as of late, or what are you most excited about?

Savage Arms, Blackhawk, Primos, and Gold Tip Archery. Bushnell is beginning to regenerate with innovations. Jimmy Styks and CamelBak are strong.


How has the integration of CamelBak changed Vista?

It has repositioned the company in the mind of our employees. We are seen as more well-rounded and a more mainstream outdoor-rec brand. Less than 10% of our revenue now comes from firearms, where our shooting sports segment was more a focus in the past.

Have you seen a melding of the hunt/fish and shooting sports areas with the adventure or “silent sports” side of the outdoors world?

I grew up doing it all, hiking, skiing, hunting, fishing — they were all just “outdoors activities.” So, the division, if you call it that, is more a recent thing. I think there is a trend, though, of people seeking year-round opportunities to be outdoors, and any of these activities might be included, so there is less of a dividing line with some folks perhaps than a few years ago. We are certainly seeing that with our company.

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