Mountain Equipment Co-op to stop selling Vista Outdoor products

Mountain Equipment Co-op says it will stop selling products from Vista Outdoor, bowing to pressure to distance itself from the sports and recreation company, which makes and distributes items including guns and ammunition, after last month's school shooting in Florida.

Vancouver-based chain succumbs to pressure and distances itself from U.S. gun and ammunitions maker

MEC sells a variety of outdoor products made by Vista Outdoor, but not the guns and ammunition that the U.S. company also makes and distributes. On Thursday, MEC said it would stop using Vista as a supplier once current stock runs out. (Mark Matulis/CBC)

Mountain Equipment Co-op says it will stop selling products from Vista Outdoor, bowing to pressure to distance itself from the sports and recreation company, which makes and distributes items including guns and ammunition, after last month's school shooting in Florida.

Vancouver-based MEC announced Thursday morning its stores will stop using the U.S. company as a supplier.

MEC has been selling Vista-owned brands including Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak and Jimmy Styks for years, even before Vista acquired them. 

Vista was created in 2015 from a spinoff of aerospace and defence firm Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Vista also manufactures and sells guns and ammunition, including rifles under brand names such as Savage Arms, as well as Fox. Savage Arms in particular makes rapid-fire semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines, which are functionally similar to the weapon used in last month's attack, and others.

Major U.S. retailers including Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Kroger and others have in recent days pledged to stop selling that type of assault-style weapon, and also stop selling weapons and ammunition of any kind to anyone under 21.

Although MEC doesn't sell gun and ammunition products, it, too, has faced pressure to distance itself from the company.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op has 22 locations across Canada, and focuses on selling sports, fitness and other products. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"It has recently come to light that several brands MEC sells are owned by a corporation that has holdings in the manufacture of assault-style weapons," CEO David Labistour said in a release Thursday morning. "Thousands of MEC members have contacted us to express their concerns and to ask that we stop selling products made by these brands."

After days of consultation, MEC decided to stop selling brand names owned by Vista once its current inventory is gone.

"Existing inventory will remain on our shelves until it has sold through," the Canadian company said in a statement.

"It's been [a] really good exercise internally in taking the facts and coming up with an opinion that we believe is both balanced, and fair, and right," Labistour told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

MEC CEO David Labistour said the process of coming up with the new policy was 'balanced, and fair, and right.' (Briar Stewart/CBC)

​The move is a no-brainer for MEC, said Ken Wong, a marketing professor with the Smith School of Business at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

MEC, founded in 1971, is a consumer co-operative that sells health, fitness and outdoor living products to members. There are nearly two dozen stores across Canada.

"MEC is not a place I associate with hunting," Wong said in an interview this week. "It's hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.

"For MEC there really isn't a lot of risk of banning that company," Wong said. "In fact, one would almost argue it's consistent with their brand.

"From that perspective I think it would be a good move for MEC."

Customer Mary Ann Johnson agrees with that assessment, saying she's glad to support a store that made that decision. 

"I absolutely agree with that," she told the CBC News outside the MEC store in downtown Toronto. "I'm so thrilled that finally they're listening to what most people ... are saying.

"I absolutely agree that they should cut ties with Vista," she said.

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