Taking Guns Off Shelves May Not Be So Bad for Business After All
Walmart may have decided to keep guns on its shelves following the massacre that left 22 dead in one of its El Paso locations earlier this month, but not all firearm retailers are standing pat in response to America’s mass shooting epidemic. Dick’s Sporting Goods has been experimenting with ending firearm sales since it was revealed last year that the shooter who killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, purchased a gun at one of its stores.
Pulling some guns off the shelves may not be so bad for business. The company announced Thursday that sales rose 3.2 percent in the second quarter — the biggest upswing since 2016. “Our key strategies and investments are working, our major head winds are behind us and we’ve bent the curve on sales,” CEO Ed Stack said in a statement. “We are very enthusiastic about our business and are pleased to increase our full year sales and earnings outlook.”
Stack added that the company is “continuing the strategic review of its hunt business.”
Dick’s removed all hunting products, including firearms, from 10 of its stores last fall, and increased that number to 135 (our of 730 total stores) earlier this year. Though Stack did not draw any direct correlation between the company’s earnings and its retooled gun sales policy, the numbers seem to dispel the notion that restricting gun sales would hurt the company’s long-term health. After the Parkland shooting prompted Dick’s to stop selling assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in all of its stores last year, the company was criticized sharply by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups. “What is becoming increasingly clear … is that Dick’s has inserted itself into a tight spot from which it might not emerge unscathed, if it manages to survive at all,” read a post on the NRA’s website. The organization also tweeted that the move was “a strange business model,” and that it “feel[s] bad for the shareholders.”
But Dick’s shareholders were doing just fine, and on an earnings call late last May, Stack cited the company’s gun policy changes while discussing its rising stock price. “There’s been a number of people who have started shopping us, or said they’re going to shop us more, because of the policy,” he said. “There’s definitely been some benefit of people who joined us, so to speak, because of the policy.”
Though the move to remove assault-style rifles from shelves cost the company $150 million in sales last year, the hit seems to have been temporary, and its stock price remains healthy even as it has removed all guns from 135 of its stores. In addition to the robust second-quarter earnings numbers, Dick’s announced on Thursday that its stock price was up 4 percent. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Dick’s earnings numbers.
As to what the company’s firearm policy will look like going forward, Stack said said on Thursday that the issue is still under review. “As soon as we decide what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it, we’ll let you know,” he said.
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