Dick’s Says Firearms Policy Hurt Their Hunting Business, Will Continue to Hurt Going Forward

CEO says Dick's may stop selling firearms altogether

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Dick's Sporting Goods announced on Wednesday that their recent endorsement of gun control policies and hiring of gun control lobbyists has hurt their sales of firearms and hunting accessories.

The company did not reveal specifics about how much their firearms business had fallen during their first quarter earnings call but said it was directly connected to their decision to embrace certain gun control policies. "As expected, our firearms policy changes impacted our hunt business which saw an accelerated decline in an already challenged category," Dick's CFO Lee Belitsky told analysts. "We expect these businesses to remain under significant pressure throughout the remainder of the year."

The store announced in February it would be reinstituting a ban on sales of AR-15s and similar rifles as well as certain firearms magazines after abandoning a nearly identical policy it announced in 2012. The company then embraced gun control, banning the sale of firearms to adults under 21 years of age and hiring lobbyists to advocate for stricter gun laws.

When asked by an analyst whether he believed Dick's firearms business could rebound later in the year, CEO Edward Stack said the company does not see that segment of the business improving any time soon.

"We expect, based on our firearms policy, it's going to continue to be challenged through the balance of the year," he said. "We don't see a big change."

Stack went so far as to say Dick's may get out of the firearms business altogether depending on whether sales pick up in the long term.

"That depends on a lot of things that have to be determined yet," he said when asked about Dick's commitment to long-term firearms sales. "That is how the business plays out, how the manufactures decide they want to do business together. There's a number of things that are yet to be determined. The one thing we do know is that it will continue to be challenged."

Stack said that industry-wide struggles were at least partially to blame for Dick's struggles in selling firearms. However, gun-related background checks set records in both March and April and competitor Sportsman's Warehouse reported gun sales boomed for them in the first quarter. They said customers were driven to them by Dick's policy changes.

"We have a diverse mix of product and the recent changes in the competitive landscape are driving more customers into Sportsman's Warehouse," Jon Barker, the company's CEO, said last week during an earnings call, according to Guns.com. "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."

Dick's addressed Mossberg's recent decision to end their relationship with the retailer. Stack said "we don't have the best relationship with the firearms manufacturers right now" but indicated the company may still buy Mossberg products from third-party distributers.

Stack also addressed the company being expelled from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade group, by saying "it's really not that big of a deal."

"As far as the National Shooting Sports Federation [sic] expelling us, we didn't have a whole lot to do with them," Stack said. "They primarily run the SHOT Show. We would go to the SHOT Show. We don't go to the SHOT Show now."

Mark Oliva, an NSSF spokesperson, told the Washington Free Beacon the organization did not wish to weigh in on Dick's comments because "they're no longer members." The group explained its decision to expel the retailer earlier this month as one based on Dick's decision to lobby for laws that would force other retailers to adopt the gun control policies they favor.

"They went beyond simply making decisions for their own company and are trying to impose their view and their decisions on other companies in the industry by hiring a lobbyist to lobby for gun control," Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, told the Free Beacon. "The CEO of Dick's, which owns Field and Stream, is on the record as saying he wants to see a ban on modern sporting rifles, he wants to see restrictions on magazines, and also wants to see an unconstitutional restriction on the ability of young adults to purchase any firearm."

Despite the drop in gun sales, Dick's reported better-than-expected earnings. The company saw a drop of 2.5% in same store sales but an increase of 24% in online sales for a 4.6% increase in net sales. They cited increased sales of their generic brands, the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl, and a more refined assortment of products as reasons for the results.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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