Management Shift May Have Spurred Smith & Wesson to Cancel Crossings

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A management change at handgun producer Smith & Wesson prompted the closing of the company's Crossings catalog, according to a source familiar with the book.


Smith & Wesson announced the close of the catalog last week. But the book's end, after an October launch, apparently came much earlier.


"Colt Melby, who was the president, was in favor of it," the source said. "But he was replaced by Roy Cuny, [and] the new management dropped the catalog like a hot potato."


The company announced Dec. 5 that Cuny had been named chairman and president/CEO of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and would continue as president/CEO of the company's wholly owned subsidiary, Smith & Wesson Corp. It also said Melby had resigned as president.


"Roy Cuny in December asked me, 'Why was this catalog done?'" the source said. "It was almost like he was questioning his own people, and I told him that 'over time it could be an additional source of revenue, but more importantly, it was supposed to be a way to open the doors to consumers -- to put the Smith & Wesson name in mailboxes in a way that related to home products and not firearms, to make it more acceptable and appealing since the company indicated that there were other areas they were getting into.'"


Amy Armstrong, senior vice president of corporate communications at Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., echoed those thoughts in October when Crossings launched.


"The name Smith & Wesson opens a lot of doors," she said. "You only associate the company with guns, but this is a great way to extend the brand as being about more than just guns."


But Cuny's philosophy was, "We're gun manufacturers," said the source, adding that "the call center was told to stop taking calls, and the Crossings site was shut down, in January, I believe."


Cuny did not respond to requests for comment.


Crossingsbysw.com last week contained this message: "Dear valued Crossings by Smith & Wesson customer: The Crossings by Smith & Wesson catalog program has been discontinued. Please go to www.smith-wesson.com for other quality Smith & Wesson products. Thank you for your continued support of Smith & Wesson."


"Whenever you have a bigger company where cataloging is not part of their core business, you've got a tentative situation," the source said. "You've got people in many cases who are enamored with the idea of doing a catalog because, to a lot of people who are not in the catalog business, cataloging looks fun and easy and it has a little bit of sexiness to it. It doesn't feel like manufacturing.


"What happened in the case of Smith & Wesson is one management group bought into the catalog," the source said. "They spearheaded and supported it. They were told the principles of catalog marketing and accepted them. I know they expected that 'since our brand is so strong, we'll have a winning catalog after one year.'"


The Crossings catalog business generated an after-tax loss of $600,000 through the third quarter of fiscal 2004. The company took a one-time after-tax charge of about $100,000 in the third quarter, which closed Jan. 31, for costs associated with discontinuing the operation.


"The catalog itself, as well as the mailing and any tests that were done, were all done with large enough numbers and in a very professional way," the source said. "It had excellent potential [and] a very strong brand name. We were learning what products sold best and which lists worked best."


DM News reported in October that the company has produced catalogs such as Smith & Wesson Handguns and Smith & Wesson Accessories for about six years that market its firearms as well as target the law enforcement community with items such as handcuffs and other restraints. The source added that the company "will probably continue" publishing those books.


Last week's announcement regarding the end of the Crossings business came the same day that The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story about former Smith & Wesson chairman James Minder, who stepped down last month after it was revealed that he spent the better part of the 1950s and 1960s in prison for a string of armed robberies.


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