REI announced Thursday it will halt all future orders from CamelBak, Giro, Camp Chef, and Blackburn. All those brands fall under a single parent company, Vista Outdoor, which also owns a semi-automatic rifle maker. Over the past week, consumer frustrations have mounted as information came out connecting Vista Outdoor with campaign donations to politicians who oppose gun regulation and public lands protection.
“This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI,” REI said in a statement. “This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.”
Late last week, customers started a petition asking REI to stop selling brands owned by Vista Outdoor. Within three days, the petition had more than 8,000 signatures (the petition now has 19,000). A similar petition for Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op got 54,194 signatures. On Thursday morning, MEC announced it was breaking ties with Vista Outdoor. REI announced its decision that evening.
REI’s decision comes amid a growing movement among large sports and outdoor-gear retailers to revisit supply chains and policies in the wake of last month's school shooting in Parkland, Florida. On Wednesday, Dick's Sporting Goods announced that it will stop selling assault-style rifles in its 35 field and stream stores (Dick’s had stopped carrying that style of gun in its other stores in 2012, after the Sandy Hook shooting). The sporting-goods giant also will no longer sell guns to anyone under the age of 21, and will stop carrying high-capacity magazines. That same day, Walmart announced that it, too, would institute the age limit for gun sales in its stores. (Walmart stopped selling AR-15s in 2015, claiming that it wasn't selling enough.)
In its statement Thursday, REI commended these other retailers for taking a stance in the debate over gun control. “We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month,” the statement reads. So far, Vista has remained silent on the topic of gun control and did not respond to Outside's request for comment.
REI's wording—calling for "a hold" on Vista orders—does leave room for REI to reinstate its contracts in the future, depending on how the parent company reacts. Today, though, the news has been met largely with praise. Many have taken to social media with promises to make their next gear purchases at REI.
However, for others, REI’s statement doesn’t go far enough. Nathan Bomey, a business reporter for USA Today, tweeted “REI, apparently now uncomfortable with its ties to gunmaker Vista Outdoor, says that Vista ‘recently acquired’ several brands it carries. I checked. Those deals were made in 2015 and 2016. ‘Recently’? No.”
Regardless, the policy changes by MEC and REI seem to be having an effect. As of this morning, Vista Outdoor stock was down more than 10 percent. Over the last five days, its stock has dropped more than 15 percent.