Despite the potential impact on its earnings, Dick’s Sporting Goods is removing more firearms and other hunting products from 125 of its stores. This action follows the shootings last year in Parkland, FL that killed 17 people and prompted the company’s chief executive, Edward Stack, to stop selling guns to customers under 21 and stop selling assault-style weapons altogether.
Mr. Stack learned that the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz had previously bought a gun from Dick’s. It was not used in the attack, but Mr. Stack realized it could have been, and introduced measures making it harder to buy firearms at Dick’s stores. He made it clear that he felt his company needed to take a strong stance in America’s heated gun control debate.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Mr. Stack wrote in a widely shared statement after the Parkland shooting. “We have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America — our kids.”
Even though Mr. Stack stated that he is a supporter of the Second Amendment and a gun owner himself, the company’s actions angered the gun rights’ community. The National Rifle Association portrayed Dick’s as an enemy, tweeting that it was “punishing law-abiding citizens,” and the National Shooting Sports Foundation revoked the company’s membership.
Many major gun companies have also stopped doing business with Dick’s. In one statement, O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc., the parent company of Mossberg guns, urged shoppers to “visit one of the thousands of pro-Second Amendment firearm retailers to make their purchases.”
Dick’s has suffered financially, and as of November 2018, its sales were down almost 4 percent, and many gun rights advocates have pledged to stay away from its stores. In the investor call, Stack said that Dick’s continues “to see double-digit declines” in its gun business, and that the company “would expect that sales would continue to be down.”
Recently, the company said it would regionalize its store strategy by replacing hunting goods in underperforming locations with better selling merchandise like batting cages, ski apparel and other sports gear. This approach was successfully tested at 10 stores last fall and will be expanded further, depending on further success in the additional 125 stores. Dick’s has over 700 stores in the U.S.
This shift away from firearms is consistent with Dick’s branding and more appropriate for a company that works with Little League and school sports teams. As Paul Kemp, one of the board members of the group Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, said last year when Dick’s pulled assault-style weapons, “Dick’s market is oriented at America’s youth. This is a business decision that is good for their market. It’s a good message that they are sending to the large majority of their shoppers.”
It’s almost certain that Dick’s will face more backlash from angry shoppers and gun rights advocates when it phases out these gun sections. However, the company hopes to win over everyone else looking for kayaks, baseball gear, or sneakers. As Mr. Stack told one investor on the call, “We are really very, very confident and excited about our business.”
- Mr. Stack met with the Parkland victims’ families — privately, without any media coverage — to talk with them about what they had gone through, and why the company was taking the steps it did.
- He had been a relatively low-profile executive, but that changed when Mr. Stack took a stand on gun violence. He appeared on CNN and ABC’s “Good Morning America” to announce his decision two weeks after the Parkland shooting.
- The same day Dick’s announced its policy, Walmart said it would no longer sell guns to customers under 21 years old. It had previously dropped all sales of assault-style rifles. Retailer Fred Meyer, owned by grocer Kroger, dropped sales of all weapons after first stopping sales to those under 21.
- New Zealand’s government has agreed to reform the country’s gun laws in the wake of last Friday’s massacre at two mosques, in which 50 people were killed. “Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Quests and Actions (Q&A):
- Would universal background checks on gun sales save lives if mandated by law? Why or why not?
- Support for stricter gun control often spikes after a mass shooting, only to fall once the shooting has receded from the public consciousness. How can we break this repetitive cycle and finally make progress on gun control?
- Even though support has declined, a majority of U.S. adults still believe that restrictions on gun sales should be tighter. You can take action by contacting your representatives and senators and letting them know you are in favor of gun control legislation.