Battle Born Munitions (BBM), an international supplier of ammunition as well as duty products for governments, is demanding $5 million in damages from Dick’s Sporting Goods, accusing Dick’s of breach of contract, fraudulent promises, and “manipulat[ing] retail markets for its benefit and to the disadvantage of vendors and consumers.”
In the filing, BBM asserts that Dick’s failed to hold up their end of a contract worth over $3 million, resulting in a “substantial cash shortfall.” In the deal, BBM agreed to deliver a large shipment of Field & Stream branded ammunition, which Dick’s would accept by November of 2016. Forecasting a spike in demand for ammunition following the 2016 election, Dick’s wanted to delay retail sale of the Field & Stream ammo until it could charge a higher price. When that didn’t happen, Dick’s refused to accept the shipment or pay BBM for the ammo.
Here is a relevant excerpt from the 11-page, 25-item document of complaints (bold emphasis is ours):
Like most other large, publicly-owned, “bricks-and-mortar” retailers, the value of Dick’s stock is under pressure due to competition from internet-based retailers. Stock market analysts consider inventory turnover to be a vital measure of a retailer’s financial performance. The number of days inventory sits on a retailer’s shelves prior to sale is an important factor. The day sales of inventory (“DSI”) is a financial measure of a company’s performance that gives investors an idea of how long it takes a company to turn inventory into sales. A low DSI indicates that a retailer is achieving satisfactory inventory turnover and is attractive to investors.
In order to bolster the value of its stock in 2016 and 2017, Dick’s sought to lower its DSI by manipulating its branded inventory. BBM was a victim of this manipulation. BBM could not sell the branded ammunition to a third party. BBM was forced to warehouse Dick’s house-branded goods for more than 365 days. Meanwhile, since Dick’s refused to take delivery on the schedule it initially proposed, the house-branded goods were not counted as inventory for purposes of calculating Dick’s DSI. Through its manipulation of house branded inventory on a large scale Dick’s achieves twin goals: (i) a lower DSI since the branded goods are not counted as inventory, and (ii) a ready-supply of branded goods (warehoused at the vendor’s expense) that it can draw down at its convenience. BBM’s branded ammunition is just one incidence among Case 2:18-cv-01418-NBF Document 1 Filed 10/23/18 Page 6 of 11 many of “house” goods caught up in Dick’s efforts to manipulate its market value.
[…] Market manipulation is a business practice used by Dick’s in the past. In October 2008, Dick’s settled FTC charges that of market manipulation in the market for the retail sale of golf merchandise. Dick’s has engaged in a pattern of unreasonable and unlawful business practices designed to manipulate retail markets for its benefit and to the disadvantage of vendors and consumers.
As a result of these unethical practices, attorneys argue, BBM lost out on an international contract, worth $48 million dollars, to supply twelve helicopters to the government of Lebanon. This transaction had been approved by The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, an export license had been issued, and BBM personnel had spent over 12 months and $65,000 in travel expenses in order to negotiate this agreement.
The helicopter manufacturer, Bell Helicopters, required a deposit of $3.72 million (10% of the wholesale price) from BBM in order to secure the shipment. However, because Dick’s had unexpectedly kept BBM from liquidating over $4.4 million, BBM was unable to pay that deposit and could not fulfill the helicopter contract. As the suit filing reads, “BBM would have had sufficient cash to make the deposit if it were not for Dick’s failure to perform and BBM’s detrimental reliance on Dick’s misrepresentation.”
If this storyline is true, it does look like dishonest business practice on Dick’s part. Whether it was indeed a breach of contract, or simply a misunderstanding used to Dick’s advantage, remains to be seen. We’ll be watching for the outcome of this suit.