Dick's Sporting Goods started restricting the sales of firearms after the killer at the Parkland school massacre used weapons from their store. The sales restrictions have cost the company a healthy chunk of change, but the CEO says that it's worth the cost.
Last February, when Dick’s Sporting Goods boss Ed Stack announced he was restricting gun sales at the country’s largest sports retailer, he knew it’d be costly.
At the time, Dick’s was a major seller of firearms. Guns also drove the sale of soft goods—boots, hats, jackets. What’s more, Stack, the retailer's chief executive officer, suspected the position could drive off some of his customers on political principle.
He was right. Dick’s estimates the policy change cost the company about $150 million in lost sales, an amount equivalent to 1.7 percent of annual revenue. Stack says it was worth it.
“The system does not work,” Stack said. “It’s important that when you know there’s something that’s not working, and it’s to the detriment of the public, you have to stand up.”
The 2018 school massacre at Parkland, Florida, touched a nerve for the company. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, had legally purchased a shotgun from Dick’s a few months before the attack. A day after Cruz was arrested, police in Vermont apprehended a teenager with plans to shoot up his high school. He, too, had legally purchased a shotgun from Dick’s.
The two incidents were a last straw for Stack, a one-time Republican donor who in 35 years had turned his father’s bait-and-tackle shop into the country’s largest sports retailer. Two weeks after those arrests, Stack announced he was pulling assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines out of all Dick’s stores. He vowed he’d never sell another firearm to anyone under 21.
The response was predictable. The National Rifle Association criticized his “strange business model.” The National Shooting Sports Foundation expelled Dick’s from its membership. Gun manufacturers like Mossberg refused to do business with him at all, and some shoppers followed suit.
Some people applauded the CEO’s decision and promised to show their appreciation with their business—a phenomenon called “buycotting”—but those people didn’t stick around. “Love is fleeting. Hate is forever,” Stack said.
What happened at Dick’s confirms new study results out of Stanford University. Respondents said they were more likely to buy a product to support a CEO’s political stance than they were to boycott in disagreement, but their actions revealed the opposite. When asked for specific examples, 69 percent could name a product they’d stopped buying, and only 21 percent could recall a product they started buying.
The stock price hasn’t suffered. Dick’s shares, which didn’t move much following the announcement last February, have climbed 14 percent in the 13 months since, outpacing the 4 percent rise in the benchmark Russell 3000 Index. On Friday, the company’s shares rose as much as 0.6 percent in New York.
It goes to show you just how much Americans spend on sporting equipment every year. It hasn't made a difference in the store's bottom line, or the number of firearms in the country. It's a start, but it's a drop in the ocean.
And that ocean is a blood-red as it gets.