Hunting Gear To Snowsports… New Company Among World’s Largest

The montage below shows Bollé ski goggles strapped to a helmet, bow hunters, and a pro bike team. The mix of gear may seem random. But it is united under Vista Outdoor Inc., a company formed last month.

Vista Outdoor joins other “brand houses” in the industry like Amer Sports, Cascade Designs, Jarden, Johnson Outdoors, and VF Corporation. It is now among the world’s biggest outdoor gear companies.

Ski helmets, goggles, hunting gear, and sport sunglasses from Vista Outdoor brands

In all, Vista has more than 30 brands. It is unique because it encompasses active and outdoor-adventure sports brands like Bollé and Cébé as well as hunting and shooting companies, including Federal Premium, Savage Arms, Primos, BLACKHAWK!, and more. One of its major brands, Bushnell, rides in both. (See the full list of brands here.)

Where’d this company come from? The Vista brands previously operated as a group under Alliant Techsystems Inc. or ATK.

With headquarters just north of Salt Lake City, Vista Outdoor employs 5,800 people around the globe. Its FY14 annual revenue, when the company was a group under ATK, was about $2.3 billion.

For comparison, Johnson Outdoors Inc. cites an annual revenue last year of $425 million. Johnson owns brands including Eureka!, Jetboil, Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Necky, Carlisle, Extrasport, Silva (digital instruments), SCUBAPRO, Minn Kota, and Humminbird,

Another comparative, Amer Sports, garnered about $2.9 billion in revenue during 2014. Amer is the parent company of outdoor/rec brands Salomon, Arc’teryx, Suunto, Mavic, and Atomic, and it also owns Wilson Sports and the fitness brand Precor.

Vista Outdoor brands

Vista brands skew toward hunting and shooting related sports. But its products also include gear for camping, hiking, skiing, and biking, including flashlights, headlamps, camping lanterns, helmets, goggles, GPS devices, binoculars, and more.

GearJunkie got to know Vista Outdoor recently via our in-house agency, Monopoint Media, which helped with a video and graphics project.

At the New York Stock Exchange: Mark DeYoung, Vista Outdoor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

The spin-off last month from ATK created Vista as a standalone, publicly-traded company (“VSTO” on the New York Stock Exchange, where the company rang the opening bell on Tuesday, February 17th).

We caught up with Mark DeYoung, Vista Outdoor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, to talk about the company launch and to get a look at where Vista Outdoor is headed in 2015 and beyond.

GearJunkie: Congrats on the company launch! How long was the Vista Outdoor vision in the works?

Mark DeYoung: Thanks! The mechanics of the spin-off from ATK have been going for more than two years. Our acquisition of Bushnell and Savage Arms over the past year and a half helped bolster the portfolio and build the strategy toward the Vista Outdoor launch.

Talk about the company history. Why was Vista Outdoor created?

The Vista Outdoor brands were previously held under the Sporting Group within Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK). The creation of Vista Outdoor allows us to focus solely on the outdoor industry. It’s a different set of investors, too. As a secondary piece, but one I can’t ignore, I am personally a lifelong outdoorsman and have a deep passion for the outdoors.

From Bollé to BLACKHAWK!, Vista Outdoor has a broad portfolio. What unites these brands?

As a starting point, simply the theme of outdoor recreation. Most are consumer brands. And there is a lot of crossover — the person who skis in the winter, bikes in the summer, hunts in fall, and fishes and camps throughout the year. From a business side, there are “sister brands” in our portfolio that have product synergies and may be sold at the same stores. And all of the products are distributed through similar retail channels.

Mark DeYoung with a sockeye salmon caught on Lake Iliamna in Alaska

There are several “brand houses” in the outdoors industry, including Amer Sports, Cascade Designs, Jarden, Johnson Outdoors, VF Corporation, Black Diamond, and more. How does Vista Outdoor fit into this mix, or how is it different?

We are among the largest and most diverse of independent gear companies. We sell individual outdoor-recreation products. By choice we don’t sell much in apparel or footwear, so that is a distinguisher. We also bridge from shooting sports and hunting, to skiing, optics, and golf. We are broader than most brand houses.

You note acquisitions are a major part of the Vista Outdoor growth plan. Can you elaborate?

It is a significant part of our strategy. Camping, trail sports, snowsports, fishing, hydration — these are all areas we’re interested in but we don’t prioritize at this point. I can say to watch us this year as we hope to move quickly and have the resources to do so if an opportunity comes up.

How broad will Vista Outdoor become within the outdoor rec/sports world?

Gear is the focus. We are a gear company. I would say things like motor sports and apparel and footwear are not priorities, but I don’t rule anything out.

Looking ahead for this year, what to-be-released products are you most excited about?

Bushnell has a rangefinder for golf that is innovative. We introduced it at the PGA Show. The A17 rifle from Savage is big news — we sold out of a whole year’s capacity at the SHOT Show. Overall, there are about 130 new products coming this year from our brands so it’s hard to pick!

Vista products, from Bollé ski goggles strapped to a helmet, Bushnell binoculars, ammo from Federal Premium, arrows, a rifle, hunting decoys, and a camping lantern

What outdoor activities and sports do you participate in, and what are your passions?

I grew up fly fishing, bird hunting, canoeing, and I was an Eagle Scout by the age of 14. Now with my family we jet ski, mountain bike, ride ATVs, and ski at Utah resorts. I’ve been to Africa, New Zealand and Alaska. I camp and go RV’ing in the U.S. with my family.

Are you a gear junkie? If so, what gear do you love and geek out about?

I am into recreational shooting and can geek out on trajectories and wind at a range. That’s likely where I am the biggest gear junkie. I have trajectory apps on my phone and am into laser range finders, optics, GPS, night-vision scopes — I love that stuff!

—See the whole Vista Outdoor brand lineup at VistaOutdoor.com or follow the company on Facebook.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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