In February 2018, Ed Stack announced that his company, Dick’s Sporting Goods, would voluntarily remove assault-style weapons from their inventory and raise the age to purchase any other gun to 21. The announcement came just weeks after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. One of the guns used in the shooting was purchased at a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Stack’s announcement was predictably met with loud protestations from defenders of gun violence. Conservatives promised boycotts, the NRA gleefully celebrated when initial sales numbers declined, and the retailer’s competitors went out of their way to reiterate their support for firearm sales.
By the end of the year, Dicks attributed a sales decline of $150 million, or 1.7% of annual revenue, to the new policy. Stack continued to defend his stance, and said the economic cost was absolutely worth it for the company.
Late last week though, the company came forward with a different economic picture: sales rose 3.2% in the second quarter of 2019, outpacing the rest of the retail market by a comfortable margin, and the company’s highest single quarter sales boost in three years. The company’s stock spiked after the earning beat.
Rather than backtrack on their stance on firearms, the retailer doubled down, banishing all guns — including hunting rifles that they continued to sell after their assault-style rifle ban — from nearly 20% of their retail locations.
The sporting goods giant stands in sharp contrast with another retail behemoth: Walmart, which has refused to remove guns from its shelves even after the deadly shooting at an El Paso, Texas, location earlier this month.
And that incident is far from isolated. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been hundreds of shootings at or in Walmart locations in just the last 3 years.
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) August 25, 2019
Thus far, the only action Walmart has taken in the wake of the El Paso shooting is to ban “violent imagery” from its stores, a nod to the ridiculous notion that violent video games or movies are responsible for the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States. The company’s own employees were so perturbed by their lack of response to the shootings that several staged a walkout.
If concern over sales is the motivating factor for retailers not to act on guns, Dicks’ strong earnings and surging stock price should allay some of those fears. If retailers continue to do nothing, then customers are left to wonder exactly why executives are so comfortable aiding the murder of children.