Outdoor gear retailer MEC drops brands from Vista Outdoor Inc.
Mountain Equipment Co-op says it will stop selling all products supplied by Vista Outdoor Inc., a U.S. company that also markets guns similar to the type of rifle used in a recent mass shooting.
MEC says the decision came from an online petition calling on the company to cease its association with Vista Outdoor because the company develops and manufactures firearms similar to the one used in a shooting at a Florida school on February 14.
Bushnell, Camelbak, Camp Chef, Jimmy Styks and Bole are all of the brands from Vista that MEC carries. Officials say that all products currently in stock will remain on shelves until they are sold.
CEO of MEC, David Labistour, says that the company did not come to the decision quickly because they wanted to have all the facts in place.
“Normally, we have a strong for and against. This time around, it was more emotional and opinions were all over the place. It was really not just one side versus the other.”
He says it was more about making advances in gun control than making a statement about sport shooting or hunting.
“I think the gun control issue has been left and right and the middle ground has been devoid of good conversation at this point in time.”
Labistour says it is also about brand trust. “If we believe we lose brand trust, we will lose credibility which will impact our ability to have a viable business in the future.”
It’s that brand trust that some experts in Calgary say is key to MEC’s success in the outdoor recreation market.
Patti Derbyshire, a marketing professor at Mount Royal University, says that the company’s decision to drop Vista Outdoor shows a commitment to its brand and its values. She also says that consumers these days are savvier shoppers than they ever were before.
“We live in a pretty sophisticated consumer era and so it’s entirely possible that in the transition around helmets and goggles there would be no awareness of the other product lines. But we also live in this era of product justice where you’ve got consumer activists, you’ve got stakeholder activists and you’ve got shareholder activists. If you’re a company in 2018, you better know what the deep value alignments are or are not.”
Derbyshire says MEC’s move will show its members that it is taking its brand and the values that it stands for into account.
But when it comes down to it, customers have the choice of staying with MEC or finding what they’re looking for elsewhere.
“They will find that product out there, or they will find an alternative product. What MEC is masterful at in terms of their product lines is they offer a finite set of options and price points and when you become a MEC member, you understand that. Sometimes you forgo style choices or colour choices or 16 choices instead of five, but that is at the heart of MEC, it’s what MEC has done so well from the beginning.”
Customers of MEC in Calgary say that while the store made the right decision, it’s a disappointing how it ended up coming about.
“There was no reaction against REI out of Seattle. They carry the same products as MEC. It almost could be a competitor thing to do this, to force them to change their stock,” said Nigel, a MEC member.
He says that customers will end up going elsewhere to find the products they’re looking for, but he isn’t so sure he wants to go that route.
“I use Camelbak, I don’t know if I want to go to an untested model just because.”
The Running Room, a store that sells equipment and apparel for runners, has also said that it is cutting ties with Vista Outdoor.
In a statement released on Thursday, the company said:
As some of you may have read in the media recently one brand that is owned by gun manufacturer Vista is CamelBak. As such, The Running Room has stopped all purchases from Camelbak. We will allow existing stocks to deplete. Our management team is currently doing a full review of our suppliers and vendors for any other potential conflicts. The Running Room, unlike large multi-branded retailers, does not sell or condone the sale of firearms or ammunitions. We are a store for runners by runners promoting a health, safe and all-inclusive community.
(With files from Stephanie Wiebe and the Canadian Press)