Firearms giant Smith & Wesson saw gun sales rise 15.2% to $124.9m in the past three months as a spate of mass shootings in the US put tougher gun controls back in the national spotlight.
The gun company announced sales were up 32.1% year-over-year (comfortably beating analysts estimates of a 27% rise) for the three months ending on 31 October . Net income was $14.2m, close to three times the $5.2m the company made for the same period last year.
The company’s stock has soared over 125% in the past 12 months and in the wake of a series of mass shootings and jumped again after Barack Obama’s call for greater regulations iafter 14 people were killed in a shooting in San Bernardino, California, last week.
James Debney, S&W’s chief executive officer, was asked about the rising share price on a call with analysts. “Obviously there have been some tragic recent events but we’re in the holiday season with people shopping for firearms,” he said. Debney told investors that this most recent Black Friday was “the highest single day in NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] history,” he said.
Background checks for guns hit a record two per second on Black Friday, the FBI reported last week.
Debney attributed S&W’s climb to higher revenue in the firearms division, especially polymer pistols, as opposed to the company’s signature Dirty Harry-style revolvers. The company announced it had sold its millionth 9mm Shield pistol, designed for concealed carry, the day of the San Bernardino massacre.
The company’s revenue growth was robust: sales for the quarter brought in $143m, up from $108m in 2014, and for the company’s fiscal year (scheduled to end in April), the low end of its predicted range in net sales alone is fully $625m.
“The combined strength of our firearms and accessories divisions delivered results that exceeded our financial guidance for sales and net income, reflecting the successful implementation of our growth strategy,” said Debney in a statement.
“There’s a huge amount of demand in the United states when you get 50 to 75 miles away from coastal big cities,” said Brian Ruttenbur, analyst with BB&T. “There’s a lot of fear.” Consumers feel that “it’s an unsafe world, and I need to be armed,” Ruttenbur said, adding that the industry overall might well be down.
But Smith & Wesson’s aggressive marketing of cheap handguns appears to be enough to make up for the shortfall in rifle sales that has cut into gun industry profit margins.
And the suspicion, especially with respect to Obama, that gun confiscation laws are just moments away, has kept sales robust.
The surge is enough to keep investors calm about the ongoing SEC investigation at the company (the nature of which neither the regulator nor the firearms maker has disclosed). It’s also become reliable enough for savvy investors to ride the stock every time there are new calls for gun control, or as Seeking Alpha analyst Adam Alvarez put it earlier this year, “Chance Of Surge In Gun Sales Greater Than Chance Of Surge In Gun Regulations.”
But memory among second amendment aficionados is long, said Ruttenbur. “The Brady Bill [a 1993 bill that mandated background checks and a five day waiting period] was very restrictive and there’s concerns that that will come back,” he said.
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