Vista Outdoor hit another milestone in its meteoric financial recovery Thursday, posting record-breaking earnings of $266 million for its 2021 fiscal year.
That performance included a net income of $67 million for its fourth quarter that ended March 31, according to a Thursday news release from Vista Outdoor, the parent company of Lewiston’s CCI/Speer ammunition-making operations.
“The Vista Outdoor team finished the most profitable year in the company’s history, capped off with a record-breaking fourth quarter,” said CEO Chris Metz in a conference call for stock market analysts after the earnings report was issued.
In the last 12 months, Metz’s company has dramatically rebounded after losing $155 million in its 2020 fiscal year, which was preceded by three consecutive years of losses.
What happened in fiscal year 2021 was the result of a multi-year business transformation that involved reducing debt, attracting talented leaders and changing company culture to be more disciplined and nimble, Metz said.
A number of factors are working in the favor of the company that is doing well in both of its segments.
Lewiston’s ammunition plants are part of the shooting sports segment that has factories in other parts of the country.
It had sales of $1.52 billion in fiscal year 2021 while outdoor products had sales of $707 million for the same time period.
Camp Chef and Camelbak are in that segment, as well as brands that make gear for a variety of activities such as bicycling.
Vista Outdoor’s Lewiston operations are playing an important part in the company’s success, Metz said.
The Department of Homeland Security awarded Speer a $112 million contract, the largest in company history, for 9-millimeter service ammunition. Vista’s Federal plant near Minneapolis and Speer won a major duty and training contract in Australia, he said.
The company is benefiting from trends the pandemic accelerated that are expected to fuel more success, such as 8.4 million new entrants into shooting sports in 2020, Metz said.
Hunting licences grew 8 percent in 2020 and the pace of entrants into shooting sports hasn’t slowed in 2021, he said.
“In fact, 38.9 million hunters is the highest level on record going back to 1958,” Metz said. “This trend in 2020 is a reversal from the prior decadelong decline in hunting participation and points to people embracing the field-to-table movement.”
At the same time, demand for shooting sports products grew each quarter of the fiscal year, resulting in the highest backlog in Vista Outdoor’s history, he said.
“Low channel inventories, combined with heightened consumer demand, continues to pressure supply,” Metz said. “Our ... (ammunition plants) are working 24/7 so that we can deliver more product to the marketplace and reduce our growing sales backlog.”
Ammunition is moving briskly in stores, and the dynamic is different than previous surges, he said.
In the years that preceded Donald Trump becoming president, ammunition sales were fueled by stockpiling over what turned out to be unfounded fears that Democrats would win tougher gun restrictions when Barack Obama was in the White House.
Now Vista Outdoor is seeing evidence of people using the ammunition they buy, taking hunting trips and going to shooting ranges, he said.
“That’s not to say that people aren’t buying what they can and when they can,” Metz said. “But given the low levels of inventory throughout all of the channels, it makes it much more difficult for consumers to stockpile.”
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