Dick's Sporting Goods braces for financial impact of new gun policies

(Photo: Dick's Sporting Goods/Facebook)

Leadership at Dick’s Sporting Goods isn’t entirely sure how new firearm policies will impact sales, but the outlook isn’t bright. (Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods/Facebook)

Dick’s Sporting Goods predicts 2018 could see a single digit decrease in store sales as a result of the company’s new firearm policies announced last month.

Chief Executive Officer Edward Stack said although he’s received a “surprising outpouring of support” for the new rules, the company expects flat same store sales, at best, throughout 2018.

“The announcement we made two weeks ago regarding our firearms policy is not going to be positive from a traffic standpoint and a sales standpoint,” he told investors Tuesday. “There’s going to be the people who just don’t shop us anymore for anything.”

Stack’s Feb. 28 announcement indicated the company would ban gun sales to customers under 21 and permanently discontinue its inventory of “assault-style” rifles. Dick’s operates more than 700 locations nationwide, including 26 Field & Stream stores. The company removed AR rifles from its Dicks locations in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, but will pull all remaining stock from its Field & Stream locations, too, Stack said.

The policy changes come as a response to the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and 15 wounded. Accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, attacked his former classmates and teachers armed with an AR-15 — a fact which has spawned calls nationwide for age restrictions on rifle sales.

“We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens,” Stack said in a news release last month. “But 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.”

Walmart, Kroger and L.L. Bean announced similar policies later the same week. REI and Mountain Equipment Co-op even temporarily cut ties with gun manufacturer Vista Outdoor due to the company’s close dealings with the National Rifle Association.

“We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month,” REI said in a statement earlier this month. “In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership.”

In the meantime, Stack told investors “its too early to tell” how deep the impact of the new policies will be felt. “We’ve seen a bit of a difference in the hunt business, not an awful lot,” he said. “It’s too early to tell how this is going to be impacted, but we’ve got what we think the impact will be backed into our guidance.”

President Lauren Hobart likewise told investors Tuesday the sporting goods retailer’s anticipated recovery in its hunting category didn’t materialize last quarter as weak demand for guns persists.

“The improvement was not as much as we have expected,” she said. “We expect the hunting headwind to continue throughout 2018 and will likely be more impactful as a result of our recently announced changes in our firearms policies.”

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