Murphy's Law: October 15, 2003

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The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation is branching out into home decor, clothing and jewelry with a new catalog, just in time for Christmas. The parent company of the 151-year-old handgun maker already sells hunting gear such as binoculars and scopes, with licensing deals for products ranging from bicycles to golf clubs. 

The Crossings catalog features cowgirl pillows inset with beaded studs and faux pearls, silk blouses with handmade turquoise and sterling silver buttons, and bedding in a "rustic yet romantic print." Perhaps the catalog will also feature their hot pink anodized, pearl-handled versions of their revolvers. 

Smith & Wesson's move is just part of a general diversification trend throughout the arms industry, as civilian sales now face a hostile environment in most western nations. However, the post-Cold War decline in international weapons sales and subsequent tougher competition was more of a financial driver for many companies. For instance, Colt Industries, parent company to Colt Manufacturing, sold off the firearms branch. Rescued from bankruptcy in 1994, the company is about 83 percent owned by investment firm Zilkha & Co. 

The British government has been actively pursuing their own program since the 1990's, scrambling to get orders for many UK-based businesses but for a truly imaginative spread one has to give the prize to the Russians. In February 2003, the Mikhail Kalashnikov bought 30 percent of the MMI Company. The 83-year-old designer of the infamous assault rifle family never received royalties for his work, but he finally learned to capitalize on his name.

The German company specializes in umbrellas (which Kalashnikov likened to his rifle as "reliable, easy to use and low-maintenance"). Other products, like watches, tennis rackets, surfboards and energy drinks were contemplated for consumers looking for a rebellious brand name.

Vodka Kalashnikov has been around for a while, based on a select recipe approved by Kalashnikov (supposedly the first vodka ever to be created by combining salt, sugar, vanillin and glycerin). Negotiations were also underway with a drinks manufacturer in Dortmund with a view to producing Kalashnikov mineral water and an easier-to-market vodka-based cocktail. - Adam Geibel

 


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