Q&A With Crimson Trace President Lane Tobiassen

Crimson Trace has been a market leader for more than 20 years in consumer, military and law enforcement laser-sighting optics. It delivers approximately $44 Million in yearly revenue for the company. With more than 200 products, Crimson Trace is widely recognized as the world’s leading laser sight brand. The company has developed award-winning innovations including the Lasergrip, Laserguard, Defender Series, new LiNQ wireless activation system and Rail Master platforms.

The company maintains a product development team that has an established track record of launching high-quality, innovative laser-sighting products. Crimson Trace has earned the trust of large and small retailers with its product assortment, quality, service and margins. There are now hundreds of independent retailers selling Crimson Trace products.

As a laser-sighting company, there is a need to make products for more than one brand. Crimson Trace answers that call with models designed specifically for 20 firearms manufacturers with hundreds of models to choose from. And also the universal fit models add fitment to hundreds of additional models. Their OEM partnerships have been strong with many companies, however with 25 percent of its overall revenue coming from Smith & Wesson (S&W) related sales, a relationship with S&W has an already proven track record. This year Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation made that relationship permanent with its purchase and acquisition of Crimson Trace. Crimson Trace appears to be an excellent acquisition target for S&W with organically generated 10-year compound annual revenue growth rate in excess of 10 percent.

crimson trace

James Debney, Smith & Wesson President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “As the undisputed leader in the market for laser sighting products, Crimson Trace serves as an ideal platform for our new Electro-Optics Division. Firearms purchasers frequently buy electro-optic accessories to enhance the capabilities and performance of their firearms. The growth that Crimson Trace has delivered is a testament to the high product quality and the robust product development capability that Lane Tobiassen and his team have established. That capability, combined with Crimson Trace’s leadership position in the market, provides a solid framework for organic and inorganic growth.”

The market takes notice of these types of acquisitions simply because, in this example, the other 75 percent of Crimson Trace’s revenue is derived from products developed for other non-S&W brands like H&K, Glock, Kahr and others. The industry wants to understand how this acquisition will change how retailers, distributors and other firearms manufacturers work with Crimson Trace now under the S&W umbrella. Another acquisition should not be surprising since S&W has been acquiring companies for some time and currently owns S&W, Thompson Center, Taylor Brands and Battenfeld Technologies. Shooting Sports Retailer had an opportunity to interview Lane Tobiassen, President of Crimson Trace and the newly appointed the President of the new Electro-Optics Division of Smith & Wesson, to understand his strategy going forward for Crimson Trace and the new division.

SSR: The expectation is that things change each time a company is purchased by a firearms conglomerate. How will the overall marketing strategy of Crimson Trace change for retailers and distributors under the S&W brand?

Tobiaseen: S&W is an incredible brand with vast and deep customer support capabilities which we plan to leverage. Crimson Trace is now the foundation and focal point of the electro-optics division of S&W, but Crimson Trace will continue to go forward (with support) just as we have also have. We have over 2000 retail customers of all sizes and still have the same field strategy and resources. Our retailers, distributors and OEM partners can expect that support will not change from a subtraction of product support but actually should see an increase of support through the capabilities now available with S&W.

SSR: Will the Crimson Trace management team, workforce and operations remain in Wilsonville, Oregon?

Tobiassen: Yes, the plan is to continue the operation in Wilsonville, Oregon. There are no plans at all to move the operations.  We have some highly trained assembly workers which are dedicated to assembly. Under S&W, we do have some shared services components such as finance, HR and IT support which we will integrate into the Crimson Trace infrastructure.

SSR: Can you elaborate on what the market can expect would change with your OEM relationships and/or competitive (non-S&W) pistol models?

Tobiassen: S&W was an OEM customer prior to the acquisition, however we have 50 other OEM SKUs (stock keeping units) of other non-S&W manufacturer focused products, and we are committed to grow and continue to pursue these opportunities. S&W was strongly in support of continual growth of these relationships and models. A significant percentage of our growth is with new products and the expectation is that those products should serve more than just Smith & Wesson’s markets. We introduced the LinQ. It’s the first wireless laser-sighting system that is applicable to any AR platform. That type of innovation will definitely continue into the future product beyond S&W branded firearms.

SSR: It was noted that you would become the President of the new Electro-Optics Division of Smith & Wesson. As the new Electro-
Optics President, would you like to see S&W expand beyond laser-based optics to other types of optics?

Tobiassen: Certainly. The long-term strategy is to expand far beyond just laser optics. Expansion of the product line was the very reason why an electro-optics division was created. The S&W strategy is to identify complementary products to the S&W core business. Crimson Trace was the first of those products identified and ultimately acquired. Due to the large percentage of shared business the fit between our companies was natural. However, there are many more products on the market that fit into that mindset. The vision for the electro-optics business is beyond just Crimson Trace’s existing laser sighting. It’ll include electric, laser, tritium, scope, magnifiers, rangefinders, integrated systems, night vision and thermal. Some of that growth will be organic and some of that will be in-organic acquisitions of other companies.

LG-660_M&P_classicThe future growth piece is something we are very excited about. The acquisition is the start of something which we will continue to grow on as we identify and develop new market opportunities. The growth will not be immediate into those other markets. Right now the focus is on lights and lasers, but we will look for opportunities to expand beyond that. S&W has a growing portfolio of the brands which it rigorously strives to preserve. Very deliberately, the expansion of the electro-optics division model requires the right execution and timing. We will do it in the right way and do it at the right time.

SSR: What types of resources does the Crimson Trace team now have available as part of the S&W team?

Tobiassen: S&W is an enormously powerful brand with so many marketing, sales and support opportunities. Our existing resources will stay in place; however, we can draft off of being associated with an expansively connected company. Being directly integrated into S&W infrastructure is not something Crimson Trace had access to before the acquisition.

SSR: Crimson Trace had a strong marketing presence before the acquisition. How will that change?

Tobiassen: Crimson Trace was already executing at a high level from a marketing perspective before the execution. We don’t see there was a lot of unmet opportunity that we were missing with the capabilities he had available, but under the S&W umbrella we have plans to expand and build on that.

SSR: Is there anything you specifically want retailers, distributors and other manufacturers to know?

Tobiassen: Crimson Trace was established over 20 years ago, we continue to want people understand there is high continuity of the Crimson Trace line and support which S&W and my team are dedicated to continue to expand. Our commitment is to continue to support all our customers without interruption.

Final Thoughts

One of the prominent points during the interview was how important and strategic S&W considered the
Crimson Trace acquisition.

Unlike many purchased companies who are simply rolled up into a holding company, S&W has created an entirely new electro-optics division to further expand beyond Crimson Trace’s current product line.

Beyond the other previous S&W acquisitions, retailers should expect that S&W’s catalog may be significantly bigger in the coming years.

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