Dick's Sporting Goods said during an earnings call on Tuesday that it plans to remove firearms and ammunition from 125 of its stores in the coming year and will remove them from more stores over the next few years.
The company said the 10 stores they had removed guns from in the fall had performed up to their expectations and that they now plan to remove guns from 125 of their 858 stores nationwide over the next six months. They said they likely would continue removing guns from the rest of their stores over a period of several years.
"We look at this as a multiyear initiative," Edward W. Stack, Dick's chairman and chief executive officer, told investors during the call. "The 10 stores we were very pleased with, we're expanding it to 120-some stores. We'll see how that goes. If it goes as well as expected, we would probably take another batch of stores next year."
Dick's, one of the nation's largest gun retailers, has, by their own account, alienated many customers and manufacturers within the gun industry over the last few years. Their trouble in the industry began after they announced in response to the Sandy Hook shooting that they would no longer sell certain semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15. Within a year, the company reversed course when it opened the firearms-centric Field and Stream store chain. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, the company reversed themselves again and announced they would not sell AR-15s or similar rifles. In addition, the company instituted a policy of age discrimination aimed at adults between the ages of 18 and 21 and hired lobbyists to advocate for new gun-control legislation.
As a result, Dick's was expelled from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, faced boycotts from customers, and saw their sales of firearms decline.
"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 last year. "We expect these businesses to remain under significant pressure throughout the remainder of the year."
In their last earnings call the company said it was considering ending their gun sales business altogether and possibly closing 35 Field and Stream stores across 16 states.
Tuesday's announcement that 125 additional Dick's stores will remove guns appears to be the next step on the company's path to getting out of the gun business. Stack said, however, the company has not decided what to do with the remaining 700 or so stores still selling guns. He said the company is focused on making their stores as productive as possible.
"This is around having productive space," Stack said on the call. "There's some places that the hunt business is very good, other places that it's not very good. We're just allocating floor space to make our boxes more productive. The 10 stores, we were pretty enthusiastic about the response we had there."
Stack said he expects their gun business will continue to be down in 2019.
The company's earnings report shows it only opened 19 new stores last year, while closing six, and only plans to open another nine in 2019, a significant retreat from previous years. Additionally, Dick's total square footage declined slightly from 42.4 million square feet to 42.2 in the fourth quarter.
Dick's said it won't open any new Field and Stream stores in 2019 and, while they don't view the chain as "a drain on the company," they may still end up closing the chain.
"We're not sure exactly what we're going to do with it," Stack said. "We're going to let it play out for a little while longer. We're not opening any new Field and Stream stores, though."