EOTech takes aim at scope market

We speak with EOTech's Director of Marketing and Product Development, John Bailey, about the new direction the company is taking with rifle scopes.
EOTech takes aim at scope market

EOTech is not only a leader of modern holographic reflex sight technology, but ERIM, its founding company in the 1950s that  later formed EOTech, invented the HUD (Heads Up Display) technology. Currently, HUD-based reflex optics represents more than 50 percent of yearly total firearm optics sales. The commercial line of EOTech HWS (Holographic Weapon Sights) we know today launched in 2000.

The famed EOTech circle-dot is renowned for its speed and is regarded as the fastest reticle-to-target acquisition sighting system in the world. The 65 MOA ring was scientifically tested to allow the eye to acquire the image faster than any single dot or solid image. That allows users to move the sighting image (reticle) onto the target faster with less time spent searching for the sighting image. At the same time, the 1 MOA dot in the center of the reticle is a very small image that allows for precise shot placement.  Now equipped with electronic weapon sights, our troops have the highest hit ratios in U.S. military history. Quality and durability is also a core feature of the EOTech sights, which remain fully functional and hold zero even if the glass is shattered or covered with debris.

In 2016, EOTech unveiled its Vudu line of variable powered premium tier optics that have made quite a splash in the industry as EOTech’s first non-reflex sight offering. And at this year’s SHOT Show, EOTech introduced a new logo and new look across the entire brand. Tactical Retailer was able to catch up with John Bailey, the director of marketing and product development for EOTech, to understand the new direction of the company.

Can you elaborate on where EOTech is heading?

Bailey: EOTech has been a recognized category leader in reflex optics since its first introduction, but there is more to the market than just reflex sights. The Vudu variable optics line was a response to that demand and was a necessary step for EOTech to grow. Along with offering a broader product line, we also wanted a new, fresh, updated brand image to back up our mission of becoming the category leader in optics. Over the past two years, we have continued our commitment to continually refine our holographic line through some new process and manufacturing improvements. Many of our new processes have greatly improved ongoing quality.

Why variable optics from EOTech?

Bailey: It was a customer request-driven product line. From our perspective, the customer request matched well with our market expansion goals. This optics category allows us to expand our existing product penetration into hunting, LEO and competition segments. We chose the 1-6x, 2.5-10x and 3.5-18x magnification ranges, which align to the needs of our core commercial buyers.

Are the new Vudu optics made in the U.S. like the HWS models?

Bailey: We agonized over this point. We wanted very much to be able to offer a premium U.S.-made variable optic. However, the startup costs, production costs, product offer flexibility and final retail price point were all factors to leverage Japanese industrial design manufacturing. Japan is well known for producing some of the finest optics in the world. We are using the same manufacturing source to produce our optics as almost every other super premium firearm optics manufacturer. Our goal was to go toe-to-toe with those companies from a quality perspective, but beat them on price. By going to Japan and the same source for our optics manufacturing, we are delivering the same high-grade quality with a price that is more competitive.

Low profile turrets minimize the optic profile while still providing enough height for easy adjustments.

How has the Vudu line been received?

Bailey: Customers are loving them, but it is a very competitive market at this tier of optic. We are going after the $1,500 to $2,500 range, and there is a very small but well-established set of brands that customers look to when spending this kind of money on an optic.  Our new branding strategy helps, but getting these optics in customers’ hands is what sells them.

We feel the Vudu line is doing well building up the brand with an industry leading price for premium optics. Our goal is to deliver a $500 to $600 lower priced optic for like or higher quality than competing $2,000 to $3,000 optics. Once customers see side-by-side comparisons, they understand they are getting the same or better quality, as well as features with Vudu for a lot less money. Part of that competitive ability is because we are not relying solely on the revenue of variable optics and so we can be more competitive on the MSRP.

Which model has been the most popular?

Bailey: Definitely the 1-6x Precision Rifle Scope has been the most popular. In a market where there is not a lot of difference in low-power variable optics, we merged a lot of very innovative features into this optic. We started with a first focal plane reticle and incorporated the fast shooting holographic style EOTech donut ring visible at 1x.

As a shooter dials to 6x, the ring goes out of frame but a BDC or Mildot reticle comes into focus, which ties it well to the familiarization of our old reticle. Customers are loving this feature and the magnification range fits a huge variety of shooting applications.

Who are the primary Vudu optics buyers so far?

Bailey: The LEO and military folks like the optic line a lot, but we are really focusing first on the home defense, tactical and competitive shooter markets. Those markets drive the products back into LEO and military. For years, the military has been driving sales, and now we are seeing that the competitive shooting and hunting markets are driving what LEO and military are using. Most people believe that we are primarily a military company, but in reality, our mainstay of sales are predominantly the commercial hunter, shooter and competitor, then LEO and then military. We own the majority of optic contracts for the special forces teams, which are not huge from a sales perspective, but they have a strong trickle down into the commercial markets.

Are these the only product categories EOTech is focused on going forward.

Bailey: We are offering a very nice line of optic rings and cantilever mounts in 30mm and 34mm to compliment the Vudu optics. As a division of Level 3, we have direct access to some of the leading edge technologies, which happen to be our sister division’s including thermal, laser and night vision optics.

We are definitely including these products and integrating the technology where appropriate. However,  many of these products are hardened military-level equipment, which is beyond the financial reach of typical consumers. Price plays a huge part in the hunting market, and having a $4,000 thermal or night vision optic is not enough. Usually, monocular/binocular is needed on top of the optic. Not a lot of shooters can drop $8,000-plus on a thermal or night vision setup. We are seeing this as a growing market, but getting to an affordable price for shooters is key.

What should dealers expect when working with EOTech?

Bailey: Our goal is to assure there is a level playing field for everyone, and we do not have a tiered discount program like other manufactures. We have just one program for everyone, which provides an even playing field for all the retailers, a fairly easy yearly buy-in and access to co-op marketing programs signage. We also provide images and videos via our dealer portal, copies of all the programs, logos and free POP displays with Vudu optics stocking. Our MAP pricing is set and we do heavily monitor the policy and are very strict with MAP deviations. We want to assure all the dealers can maintain the stated margins.

EOTech’s EXPS2-2 is a great optic for the new breed of AR-15 PDWs like the PWS MOD2MK107, and the Vudu 1-6 delivers the perfect flexible optic for this Barnes Precision AR-15.

What is your perspective on the state of the industry?

Bailey: The industry is in a correction course. There are dealers who bought a lot going into the election cycle, as did manufacturers filling distribution. No one likes the peaks and valleys from a sales forecast, manufacturing and planning perspective.  The industry is on a good track, but we are in a correction where dealers, distributors and manufacturers are all correcting from the election results and the glut of deeply discounted firearms on the market.

Did EOTech see a rush in sales before the election?

Bailey: We did, but with optics there is a delay because customers buy firearms first, then optics, lasers and other accessories. We definitely saw a spike, but a lot of that spending was on the firearms. We feel the discounted firearms pricing allows consumers have more money to spend on optics. 

Many dealers and manufacturers are noting a growth in the PWD, AR-15 pistol and SBR Market. How has this impacted EOTech?

Bailey: In general, this category is all short-range firearms where the EOTech sight shines. We are seeing this as a big growth category because customers are not shy about spending money on these historically more expensive firearms. The newer 9mm rifle carbines, AR-15 pistols, PDWs, SB Tactical’s influence on the pistol market and CMMG’s .45 Carbine are all drivers of this category.

Can you tell dealers a little about the new logo and brand introduced?

Bailey: After 17 years, the brand needed an update. We contracted a deep brand study on our brand and logo. Our old logo was really about the old reticle sight, and it lacked the updated image we wanted to carry forward. We are a proud, American company and wanted to show that in our logo.  The shape of the “E” is the same window shape of the original holographic sight and the
new logos stylized U.S. flag look can actually spell out EOTech. It’s cool, subtle and a simpler, cleaner design representing our new path and brand of expanded products.

Featured image: The new logo for EOTech is looking pretty sharp on one of their new Vudu scopes.


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