Two major US and Canadian outdoor retailers have announced that they will stop selling some of mountain biking’s best known brands, including Bell, Camelbak, Giro and Blackburn. REI, which has 150 stores across the US, and the Mountain Equipment Co-op, which has 22 stores in Canada, have announced they will no longer be ordering products from brands owned by Vista Outdoor.
The move follows calls for a boycott of brands that support the National Rifle Association, in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. As we reported recently, Camelbak, Giro, Bell and Blackburn are are owned by Vista, many of whose businesses manufacture firearms, ammunitions and related accessories, and which supports the NRA, a high-profile lobbying group notorious for campaigning against restrictions on gun ownership. (You can read the background to the whole story here.)
In the cycling world, the campaign to boycott Vista’s brands began with New York-based bike advocate Aaron Naparstek, and has since been taken up by a number of media outlets and outdoor groups, including the 3 million-member Sierra Club. Vista also has a Canadian arm, and a petition asking Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) to stop selling its cycling products gathered 50,000 signatures in two weeks. REI followed suit shortly afterwards.
Aside from REI and MEC, the retailers boycotting Vista’s cycling products are mostly small independent bike shops. The link between the bigger businesses is that they’re membership co-operatives with a strong ethical and environmental stance. MEC has a reputation for being one of Canada’s greenest businesses (their Toronto store features solar panels and geothermal heating) while REI has a history of environmental advocacy, including outspoken opposition to President Trump’s shrinking of America’s National Monuments.
The last of these points might also have encouraged REI to cut its ties with Vista, who according to Deadspin magazine, made financial contributions to Utah congressmen trying to redraw the boundaries of protected land.
No public statement has been forthcoming from Vista Outdoor, and although we’ve approached Giro for a comment, they politely declined. Camelbak meanwhile has tried to distance itself from its parent company, issuing a statement last Friday on its website which said:
“As you may know, in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at a Florida school, there have been calls on social media for a boycott of CamelBak products because of its association with Vista Outdoor, a company that also owns separate businesses in the shooting sports industry. A major concern for the boycott centers around the incorrect assumption that the purchase of any of our products may support a cause that does not fit the mission/values of our brand. That is not the case. Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor’s Shooting Sports segment.”
The announcement that REI and MEC will end sales has itself triggered a wave of indignation from gun owners, with many online commenters saying that they won’t be shopping at these stores in future. At present though, it looks like the losers are Vista Outdoor – the Wall Street Journal reports that their stock dropped by 10% following REI’s announcement. The next question is what happens if the boycott has a long-term effect. Will Vista cut its ties with the NRA, or will it look to divest itself of its outdoor brands, and go back to gun ‘n’ ammo?