By Drew Dockstader, July 2015
From my perspective as a former sporting goods store owner and optics dealer as well as a short stint as a manufacturer’s sales rep, I would like to offer my opinion on what has made Vortex, as their tagline states, “The Force of Optics” and such a household name and campfire topic among hunters and outdoorsmen.
Back around 2007, I had a good friend and sales rep who was representing one of the major European optics companies. Paul Kendall was working for G. T. Cornell at the time, and his rep agency and Paul were one of the European company’s best agencies here in the West. However, due to realignment decisions with Cabela’s coming to Utah, the European company let G. T. Cornell go and went with another agency. Thus, Paul's agency ended up representing Vortex Optics in my area.
This gave Paul the determination and mission to make sure every one of his dealers knew about and carried Vortex Optics in their stores. He worked his tail off to promote and sell Vortex in his territory, and I feel this helped create the demand in the rest of the western states. This being said, it still takes a lot more than a good sales rep to build the Vortex brand into what it is today in, relatively speaking, a short time.
"Very Important Promise," that is what the Vortex VIP warranty stands for. It basically means that whatever happens to your Vortex product, it is covered for life and is fully transferable. This means there is no warranty card to fill out and no receipt to hang on to. It does not cover loss, theft, or deliberate damage to the product. The reason I have made such a big deal on covering this warranty is not to promote Vortex, but to show you one of the aspects of Vortex that has made them the 500 pound gorilla in the room with other optics companies. Most of the other companies had limited lifetime warranties, which meant that not all repairs or replacements were covered. I say “had” because in order to compete most have adopted warranties that mirror the Vortex warranty, including the big European companies. Even they will tell you, if they are being honest, that they have had to step up their warranty coverage to compete with Vortex. If you ask some of the hunters or outdoorsmen why they bought Vortex over some other brands, most will tell you because of the no-nonsense Vortex warranty. With others, it is perceived value and they say that if a company is going to stand behind a product the way Vortex does, they must have good products. The problem some of the other companies are having trying to jump on the warranty train is that Vortex has already pulled it out of the station and it has a head of steam.
I believe there are other optics brands that are as good and, in some cases, better than some of the Vortex products, but Vortex has treated their customers so well for so long now that they have a firm grip on the retailer’s shelf or counter space, making it hard for their competitors to convince the retailer to stock many of their products, and in the retail world, it is all about demand. With my short time as a sales rep, I had a couple of older, well-established optics lines, and even with the new no-fault warranties that both companies came up with to compete with Vortex, it was hard to convince the retailer why they should carry the other competing lines.
Dan and Margie Hamilton started and operated a small store back in 1986. This evolved to a mail order company, and due to various reasons, including dissatisfaction with how the optics companies were marketing their products to the dealer and consumer, shortly after the turn of the century, they created another company, Vortex Optics, which is a DBA of Sheltered Wings Inc. What Dan and his family’s goal was, and still is, was to create a line of optics that a retailer could make a fair buck on and still offer an exceptional value and quality product to the consumer. Even though their promise of an exceptional warranty got them through a lot of retail doors, they still had to prove up on it as well as offer some outstanding products for sale to the consumer. They have done all of this and then some.
For the occasional birder to the hardcore hunter, Vortex has products to fill their needs. Their binoculars range from the entry level price of the Vanquish or Raptor (starting price $119 MSRP) all the way up to the quality and functionality of the Razor HD (starting price $1,479 MSRP). Their riflescopes start with the entry level Crossfire II (starting price $169 MSRP) up to the ultimate precision Razor HD Gen II (starting price $1,999 MSRP). With the Diamondback (starting price $499 MSRP) to the Razor HD (starting price $999), they have everyone’s needs covered in spotting scopes as well. They also have their own line of Vortex tripods and mounts to support their spotting scope lineup, and to help round out their selection, they have a very good selling Ranger 1000 rangefinder.
Huntin’ Fool is very pleased and excited to have Vortex as one of our industry partners, and we value our relationship with them very much.