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Vista Outdoor is keeping it big at NRA convention despite exiting gun making

  • Despite plans to exit gun manufacturing, Vista Outdoor is expected to have one of the largest spaces on the exhibitor floor at the National Rifle Association convention this week.
  • Vista has faced a challenging year given several retailers halted orders of its CamelBak and other non-gun brands following the Florida high school mass shooting in February.
A Vista Outdoor Savage gun
Source: Vista Outdoor
A Vista Outdoor Savage gun

Despite plans to exit gun manufacturing, Vista Outdoor will still have a large presence at the National Rifle Association convention this week in Dallas.

Vista, a sports and recreation company known for its Federal Premium ammunition brand as well as Savage and Stevens firearms, is expected to showcase not only the guns but ammunition, hunting gear and accessories. A map of the show floor reveals Vista has one of the largest single spaces.

"Our focus at the NRA Show is the same as it has always been: to interact with consumers and media and demonstrate new products that showcase our brands' commitment to our end users," Vista said in a statement.

The Utah-based company also said its Savage brand is still making and selling firearms and plans to continue doing so. "Savage is still a part of the Vista Outdoor portfolio, and like all of our brands, our focus is on developing innovative, new products that meet the needs of our consumers," the company said.

Vista generates more than half of its annual sales from shooting sports.

Overall, there are more than 800 companies exhibiting at the NRA show, taking place Thursday through Sunday, and many booked space a year in advance. In the case of Vista, it disclosed plans to exit the gun manufacturing business on Tuesday, leaving little time if any to change the exhibit space plans.

The gun-maker got caught in a retailer backlash after the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members.

REI and Canada's Mountain Equipment Co-op were among the outdoor retailers to halt orders for everything from Vista's CamelBak-branded water bottles to its Bell bicycle helmets.

Vista said Tuesday it will refocus its portfolio by exploring "strategic options" for its Savage and Stevens firearms businesses, which could include divestiture. The company also identified certain sports protection brands as "non-core," including Bell helmets, Giro ski-goggles and Blackburn cycling products as well as the Jimmy Styks paddle boards business.

"Election results turned the shooting sports industry upside down," CEO Christopher Metz told analysts during the company's conference call Tuesday. "All of this put tremendous market pressure on both our Shooting Sports segment in the hunt/shoot related portion of our Outdoor Products segment."

Yet the CEO expressed confidence the company can achieve meaningful growth by retaining its ammunition, hunting and shooting accessories businesses. The company also will retain its hydration bottles and outdoor cooking brands.

Shares of Vista fell 4 percent Wednesday, coming after a drop of 15 percent on Tuesday after management announced plans to exit the gun-making business as well as disappointing initial fiscal 2019 guidance. The company's fiscal third-quarter sales fell 21 percent, which management attributed to "persistent lower demand in the market for ammunition and firearms."

In all, Vista has about 50 brands and holds the top sales position in the U.S. for its ammunition, holster and trap-throwing devices. The company was formed in 2015 from the spinoff of Alliant Techsystems, a defense contractor.