Last week, Running Room announced that its more than 100 locations across Canada and the US would no longer carry CamelBak branded products.
The decision was a response to the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students dead. The official statement from the Running Room can be read here, but the primary reason stemmed from CamelBak’s ownership by Vista Outdoor Inc., which owns companies that manufacture assault weapons, including the AR-15 used in the Parkland massacre.
Running Room founder John Stanton took the time to speak with iRun and elaborate on the decision and the response so far.
Stanton explains that the decision began at the customer level. “1400 employees have interaction with customers regularly and there was an overwhelming sense that the culture of Running Room is a safe and inclusive one that promotes a healthy lifestyle,” Stanton told me over the phone from Ottawa.
CamelBak has been stocked by Running Room for the last ten years, but was purchased by Vista three years ago. Vista also owns Savage, which manufactures the AR-15. “As a Canadian company, our challenge is that we purchased CamelBak from a Canadian supplier so it didn’t even dawn on us that it was associated with weapons,” Stanton says, adding that it was customers who brought the connection to Running Room’s attention.
Stanton admits that the decision wasn’t easy, especially as it raised the question of just how many products might be deemed inappropriate, but is ultimately satisfied with the decision as a matter of ethics.
CamelBak, Stanton says, constitutes a small portion of Running Room’s sales, but, “Ethics is something you do or don’t have. We deliberated and considered the feedback from our customers and felt it wasn’t right to send profits to a company making a gun that isn’t even legal in Canada.”
In terms of hydration packs, Stanton emphasizes that customers will have other options. The remainder of CamelBak stock will remain on Running Room shelves until sold, but no further orders will be made.
Stanton says he also heard the calls from the students rising up in the wake of Parkland and felt that as an organization with a strong commitment to working with youth, it once again wasn’t right to silently condone the manufacturing and sale of the AR-15.
In terms of a running specialty store making a statement, Stanton says that there are advocacy groups capable of handling the political aspect of this issue, but for Running Room, “Our position was that it simply wasn’t appropriate to sell that kind of product.”
Stanton understands that hunting and shooting are activities carried out by outdoor enthusiasts, including biathletes who may be among Running Room’s clientele. Stanton is not concerned, however, citing that “Hunters have other options for firearms and ammunition under the controls we have in Canada, but we are so far removed that it just wasn’t appropriate for us. The AR-15 is not a hunting rifle; it’s a weapon of war that does its job.”
Thus far, Stanton says the decision to drop CamelBak has been “80-90 percent positive on social media.” Stanton adds, “There has been some pushback from pro-gun people, but most who express concern understand once we explain that our decision was a cultural one.”
No response other than what Stanton calls the typical corporate response has come from Vista.