In a second quarter announcement this week, Dick’s Sporting Goods confirmed that at least 10 stores would begin pulling hunting products from the shelves after disappointing returns from that sector. CEO Ed Stack told investors that the hunting category took a beating in the second quarter and forced the store into a 4% decline over the economic period. Curiously, though, Stack insisted that the decline had nothing to do with the chain’s decision to eliminate modern sporting rifles, implement an age-based restriction on gun purchases, and join forces with a major gun control lobbying group in the wake of the Parkland, FL massacre.
“Later this quarter, we will remove virtually all of the hunt products from 10 Dick’s stores with the category with significant underperformance and replace it with products and in-store experiences that are most relevant to our athletes in those markets,” Stack said on Wednesday.
Instead of admitting accountability stemming from the massive anti-gun shift of which Dick’s was a significant part, Stack said the sporting goods store could see the sagging gun sales coming after the election of Donald Trump.
“Right after the election, you go back and take a look at others in this industry that were public – or the manufacturers – and the quarter or so after the election, those businesses started to have a problem,” he said. “So we’ve seen this coming on the gun piece.”
There is some truth to what Stack is saying there, to be fair. It’s been said in the gun industry that Barack Obama was one of the most effective firearms salesmen in history; his desire to see gun banned from U.S. soil sent consumers to the gun store much more often than they might have otherwise felt necessary. Nothing energizes an industry like the prospect of seeing it disappear tomorrow. With Trump, who has proven to be a capable and determined Second Amendment advocate (save a bad quote here or there), the urgency to go out and stock up just isn’t there.
Still, it takes a willful sort of CEO to deny that policies that were implemented to make Dick’s a tremendously unfriendly store for the gun-buying public had nothing to do with plummeting sales in the hunting sector. And while Stack may be correct in saying that Dick’s can make up the difference with other products, it takes a remarkably foolish businessman to kill a profitable corner due to political ideology.
Hey, they can do whatever they want. But shareholders shouldn’t be misled as to the effect.