Dick's Sporting Goods: New gun policies haven't helped or hurt sales

Dick’s Sporting Goods faces uncertainty over new gun polices. (Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods/Facebook)

Dick’s Sporting Goods told investors this week its new firearm policies hurt sales, though top executives appeared to shrug off concerns over the company’s soured relationship with the gun industry.

“Well, we don’t have the best relationship with the firearms manufacturers right now,” said Chief Executive Officer Ed Stack during a conference call Wednesday. The retailer reported first quarter sales ending May 5 declined just under 1 percent over 2017. E-commerce sales spiked 24 percent, prompting the retailer’s share prices to skyrocket 25 percent during trading hours Wednesday.

“This is an exciting time for our Company as we focus on driving executional excellence, delivering an improved shopping experience and differentiating ourselves to create a premier omni-channel experience,” said Lauren R. Hobart, president of Dick’s Sporting Goods. “We continue to see significant opportunity to drive competitive marketplace advantage and win with our athletes longer-term.”

Stack didn’t provide investors with specifics regarding how much gun sales have declined since the retailer became “the corporate face of gun control” in the weeks after the Parkland shooting. The retailer led a wave of corporate activism against the gun industry, voluntarily implementing age restrictions on firearm sales and destroying its remaining inventory of modern sporting rifles.

Last month, the company hired a Washington lobbying firm to advocate for stricter firearm regulations on Capitol Hill, prompting high-profile gun makers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation to sever ties with the retailer entirely.

Stack told investors Wednesday Dick’s can buy discontinued firearm brands, such as Mossberg, from other sellers, though he’s not sure if the company will take that route.

“As far as the National Shooting Sports Foundation expelling us, we didn’t have a whole lot to do with them,” he said. “They primarily run the Shot Show. We would go to the Shot Show. So we don’t go to the Shot Show now. It’s really not that big of a deal.”

One retailer’s loss is another’s gain as competitor Sportsman’s Warehouse credited Dick’s new policies for boosting its gun sales by double digits.

“The recent changes in the competitive landscape are driving more customers into Sportsman’s Warehouse,” said Jon Barker, chief executive officer, during a conference call with shareholders last week. “This is creating market share opportunities by allowing us to engage with a broad range of customers from first-time users to seasoned hunters and shooters.”

Stack argues the opposite effect is driving sales in other categories at Dick’s Sporting Goods, telling investors some customers seek out the retailer as a result of its activism.

“There’s been a number of people who have started shopping with us or say they’re going to shop us more because of the policy,” he said.” So I guess overall I would say there’s definitely been some benefit of people who have joined us, so to speak, because of the policy.”

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