Stack has brought changing gun policies to the center of his role as chief executive. In the past year and a half, Dick’s has overhauled its gun sales policies, most recently pulling them out of 125 stores.
Dick’s hasn’t commented specifically on how those stores are performing. But speaking to The Washington Post on Tuesday, Stack said, “We’re happy we took [firearms] out of the 125.”
Even while the National Rifle Association, Republican lawmakers and critical customers have chastised Stack, he says the company’s entire firearms category is under “strategic review.” Dick’s has also opened new stores that don’t sell any firearms, Stack told The Post, bringing the total number of locations that don’t sell any firearms to roughly 200 out of about 730.
Part of that “strategic review” also included Dick’s’ recent sale of eight stores from its Field & Stream franchise, which specializes in fishing, outdoor and hunting gear. Those stores, located in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and Michigan, were sold to Sportsman’s Warehouse.
Tuesday marks the release of Stack’s memoir, in which he tracks the company’s evolution from a modest regional chain to one of the biggest players in the $70 billion sporting goods market. Stack often turns to gun reform as a particularly urgent issue facing his company, corporate America and the nation. Last month, he joined 145 chief executives who pressed Senate leaders to expand background checks to all firearms sales and enact stronger “red flag” laws. Signatories to a letter included the heads of major retailers, tech firms and financial institutions, such as Levi Strauss, Twitter and Bain Capital.
Earlier this year, the Democratic-majority House passed legislation that would require background checks on all gun transactions, including unlicensed sales arranged at gun shows or online. But similar efforts have stalled in the Senate.
Speaking to The Post, Stack criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for holding up further gun control legislation in Congress.
“I don’t know why he seems afraid to take it up,” Stack said.
Immediately after the Parkland shooting, Stack raised the possibility of getting Dick’s out of the gun business altogether, The Post reported earlier this year. In his memoir, Stack describes days of internal debates about the financial risk of such a drastic move. Even if the sales margin on guns was not terribly strong at Dick’s, the company knew hunters bought not only guns but also hunting coats, boots, socks and other big-ticket items. Plus, hunting had been a mainstay of the chain’s business since the company’s earliest days.
“If we stopped selling guns altogether, we’d be punishing those customers, some of whom had been with us for sixty years — men and women who knew to treat firearms with respect and who used them for legitimate sport,” Stack wrote. “Did it make sense to needlessly alienate loyal Dick’s customers who bought shotguns and deer rifles, and were law-abiding and do-right citizens?”
Ultimately, Dick’s pulled all military-style weapons from its stores and banned high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks” that could effectively convert semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. Stack also announced Dick’s would not sell firearms to people younger than 21.
But that strategy did not cushion the company entirely. The policy changes after Parkland cost the company about $250 million in sales, Stack said. (The company has never disclosed what share of its sales come from gun sales alone.) For the fiscal year ending Feb. 2, 2019, same-store sales fell 3.1 percent, according to company earnings, with Stack blaming much of the slump on gun issues. Customers boycotted the company, and more than 60 employees quit.
But there is evidence of a turnaround. In August, Dick’s announced same store sales jumped 3.2 percent in the second quarter — its strongest showing since 2016 — and the company raised its full-year guidance.
Some critics charge that Stack and Dick’s oppose Second Amendment rights, or that limiting sales of military-style weapons means all weapons will eventually be banned. The NRA on Monday tweeted a Breitbart article about Dick’s destroying its unsold military-style rifles “to keep them out of private hands.”
Democratic presidential candidate and former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) — who advocates for a ban on assault weapons and a mandatory buyback — responded. “Dick’s Sporting Goods is doing more to keep Americans safe from assault weapons than Congress,” he tweeted.
America’s largest retailers have drawn particular scrutiny for their gun policies. After 24 people were killed in shootings at Walmart stores this summer, the company announced it would stop selling ammunition for military-style weapons and no longer allow customers to openly carry firearms in stores. Other retailers also changed their open-carry policies, including Kroger, CVS and Walgreens.
Lawmakers may be stalled on major gun legislation, but there is broad public support for change. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks for gun buyers and allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals. The poll found 86 percent of Americans support implementing “red flag” provisions that allow guns to be taken from people judged to be a danger to themselves or others. In addition, 89 percent support expanding federal background checks to cover private sales and gun show transactions.