Vista CEO says 'change is hard' as sales decline, again

Vista Outdoor struggles with sales as the company navigates a new strategic plan sans firearms. (Photo: Vista Outdoor/Facebook)

Vista Outdoor’s “year of transformation” came with some growing pains this week as the company reported declining sales and stagnating demand.

Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz told investors Thursday he remains “pleased” with employees’ “efforts, accomplishments, passion and determination to ensure we achieve success,” despite the 7 percent downturn in sales through its first quarter ending July 1.

“We have initiated and implemented a significant amount of change within Vista Outdoor, and as we all know, change is hard,” he said. “They have truly embraced the vision. I am proud of our progress so far and confident that this transformation will result in a dramatically more focused and profitable Vista Outdoor that will generate significant shareholder value in years to come.”

The “vision” Metz unveiled for investors in May recommits Vista to ammo innovation and includes divesting some of its most high-profile brands, such as Savage Arms, Bell-Giro, Bollé, Serengeti and Cébé. A private equity firm in Europe bought the latter three brands for $158 million last month, while Metz told investors Thursday interest in the sale of Savage Arms remains high.

Vista owns 55 companies in firearms, ammunition and shooting accessories, including Federal Premium, Speer and American Eagle. It also holds brands in the outdoor lifestyle market. In the weeks after taking over Vista last year, Metz warned quick, “decisive” action laid ahead in order to turn around double digit earnings losses.

He told investors earlier this year “the company grew too fast and beyond its core” since splitting with Orbital ATK in 2015. A downturn in sales post-election only compounded the situation, he added.

The decision sell ownership of Savage Arms, announced in early May, however, drew some criticism for appearing to appease investors connected to the corporate backlash against the gun industry in the wake of the Parkland massacre. A Vista spokesperson told Guns.com while the news came at a bad time, it was decided late last year — long before major banks and retailers began limiting interaction with manufacturers.

Now, however, Metz said the future looks bright for Vista as it continues shedding brands no longer apropos to its “core business” of ammunition, shooting sport accessories, hydration solutions and outdoor cooking.

“Despite this challenging environment, we are confident we can leverage our leadership position to capture market share primarily by offering new and innovative ammunition products that will position the company to compete and win,” he said.

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