Long ago, in The Time Before, Dick’s Sporting Goods sold guns. Lots of guns. And then the son of the founder decided to get woke and stop selling guns at all but a handful of the chain’s stores. After being hailed as a progressive, forward-thinking responsible retailer, the company now admits that going woke and kicking guns to the curb cost it (and its shareholders) $250 million in revenue.
That’s probably an understatement. When the pandemic hit, gun stores saw lines of people waiting to buy firearms, ammo, and accessories. Meanwhile, over at No-Guns Dick’s, corporate was furloughing employees as fast as their printers could pump out the pink slips. They sent 40,000 employees home when sales fell off a cliff and gun retailers were doing land office business.
Rather than rolling in profits, Dick’s now touts its new “Public Lands” chain which it has created to replace many of its former Field & Stream stores. The new woke outlet sells premium-priced, socially-conscious outdoor apparel and gear (don’t tell their customers a lot of it is actually petroleum-based) representing the company’s latest new vision for a firm’s firearm-free sales strategy.
America is used to the “thoughts and prayers” routine that follows a mass shooting. But when a gunman murdered 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018—and Dick’s discovered that he had purchased a shotgun from one of its stores—the company abandoned the typical corporate script. Instead, then-CEO Ed Stack (son of founder Dick Stack) decided to permanently stop selling semiautomatic weapons.
Stack joined gun-reform group Everytown for Gun Safety, as part of its council of business leaders, and urged Congress to act on gun control. His stores, meanwhile, began systematically pulling all guns off their shelves. Today, just 13% of Dick’s stores sell firearms, and only those made specifically for hunting, and the company has drawn down its Field & Stream stores from 35 in 2018 to 21.
That was “a momentous time in our company’s history,” recalled Dick’s then-president and current CEO Lauren Hobart, speaking at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival in October. But it certainly wasn’t easy. Major gun companies cut ties, and the NRA proclaimed that the retailer was “punishing law-abiding citizens.” Dick’s was also the subject of a sustained, if not broad, customer boycott. “People who are angry have a longer memory, perhaps, than people who are supportive,” said Hobart. The company estimates that its decision to stop selling automatic weapons cost it about $250 million in revenue.
I’m not sure Dick’s ever sold automatic weapons, but I know they sold guns, especially at their Field & Stream stores. They also unilaterally began discriminating against younger Americans — where they still sold firearms — refusing to sell them guns or ammunition, even where state and local allows allowed it.
Even to the casual observer, it was easy to see how clumsily they tried to hide the empty shelf space formerly occupied by brisk-selling firearms and related gear.
After Stack abandoned the business of America’s gun owners and officially pulled the guns, magazines, and firearm accessories from its shelves, the stores became ghost towns in the midwest.
It’s no mystery why the company had to find another concept for it’s Field & Stream stores.
Recently, while killing time, I stopped by my local Dick’s in Bloomington, Illiniois to see what’s what. I didn’t recognize the interior. You would never have guessed they ever carried hunting, fishing or camping gear at all. It looked as though they were catering to youth sports participants and affluent yuppies buying trendy brand-name workout gear and expensive coats priced at $500 and up.
You have to wonder what Dick’s shareholders think about foregoing a quarter billion dollars of revenue, all to indulge the progressive ideals of the company’s ex CEO and ingratiate himself with the gun control industry.