Smith & Wesson Changes Name, Seeks Growth as Outdoor Lifestyle Brand

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Smith & Wesson

“American Outdoor Brands and me.”

That dialogue, substituted for the original “Smith and Wesson…and me” line from Clint Eastwood’s tough guy Dirty Harry Callahan character just doesn’t have the same ring.

But that could be the future as Smith & Wesson has asked its board to approve a name change to American Outdoor Brands Corp. But why would one of the most iconic, most well known American brands want to dump its name after 164 years. For starters, because it is so well known.

In its official filing, Smith & Wesson stated that its name change “is not intended to diminish the importance of the Smith & Wesson brand in our portfolio. Rather, our new name will represent a broader and more inclusive platform from which to expand into the shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor markets.” In a statement, company CEO James Debney said, “We believe the name ‘American Outdoor Brands Corporation’ will better reflect our family of brands, our broad range of product offerings, and our plan to continue building upon our portfolio of strong American brands,”

Smith & Wesson is a great name in the world of firearms. But the company is aiming to expand into the booming outdoor gear market inhabited by both rugged survivalists as well as liberal weekend warriors. In that market, the Smith & Wesson brand name is as much an asset as a limitation.

In 2012, brandchannel reported that Smith & Wesson was moving to become a lifestyle brand. Then, it partnered with Wild Things Tactical to produce outdoor gear for “individuals who are knowledgeable about their outdoor activities.”

Brand extensions are not new to Smith & Wesson—the brand has stamped its name on grills, mountain bikes and colognes. But the company is now more interested in the estimated $60 billion outdoor activities market. As part of a five-year plan, American Outdoor Brands will identify sector brands for acquisition for growth. As part of the new name, it’s expected that the company will continue making guns under its iconic Smith & Wesson brand name.

smith wesson

It’s no surprise Smith & Wesson would go through the trouble of a name change just to nab a portion of the outdoor sector. This sector is seeing explosive growth from “casual camper” millennials, among other groups. Companies like REI are seeing 10 percent YOY growth. Smith & Wesson wants a share of that but it’s not going to get it under the existing brand name.

Smith & Wesson was founded in 1852 by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. It supplied guns during the Civil War. The brand was a household name for generations, thanks in part to its starring role in movies like Dirty Harry. But the brand hit a rough patch in 2000 when gun enthusiasts boycotted it after the brand signed a “code of conduct” deal with the outgoing Clinton administration. That led to the company almost going out of business and its acquisition by company Saf-T-Hammer. Since 2011, Smith & Wesson’s shares have enjoyed 300% growth.

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