Covid, Unrest Drive Gun-Accessory Sales, Vista Outdoor CEO Says

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Americans’ newfound enthusiasm for going outdoors -- as well as civil unrest and a new Democratic administration -- is fueling Vista Outdoor Inc.’s booming sales of gun accessories, Chief Executive Officer Chris Metz said.

A recent spike in demand for firearms follows historic trends that occur when a Democratic administration takes office, Metz said. Gun owners have traditionally stocked up during a change of government due to concern that tighter regulations are on the way. The corresponding uptick in sales was “multifaceted,” he said.

Vista caters to enthusiasts of “shooting sports,” a category that accounted for almost 70% of its sales last quarter. Social distancing has led to renewed interest in outdoor activities, sending sales soaring 35% in the period, the company said this week.

“The primary driver is Covid, the increase in the desire to go outside,” Metz said in an interview. “But a secondary impact is the civil unrest, the desire to be self-sufficient in personal protection.”

In January, the FBI conducted about 4.3 million firearm background checks, up nearly 60% from a year earlier. While gun sales aren’t tracked in the U.S., NICS data is considered a proxy for sales by the firearms industry. A background check doesn’t mean a gun sale occurred.

The company, based in Anoka, Minnesota, makes and sells ammunition, holsters and other gun-related products, which have been the backbone of Vista Outdoor’s business since it stopped manufacturing firearms in 2019. It also produces bicycle and motorcycle helmets.

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