AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack will likely announce the retail chain is exiting the gun sales business completely on Thursday. CNN is reporting that Stack could make the announcement with the release of quarterly earnings reports while noting the company has been examining the impact of leaving the firearms market for some time.

As a test, Dick’s last fall stopped selling all hunting gear, including guns, in 10 stores. It replaced the guns with other goods, such as apparel of a local sports team and other popular items.
The experiment was a success. “Those stores outperformed the balance of the chain pretty meaningfully,” Stack said.

Earlier this year, the company pulled the hunting business out of another 125 stores, leaving sales in about 600 storesThe company said it would study the impact on overall store sales at those 125 stores and complete its review by August. The company declined to comment on the status of that review ahead of Thursday’s earnings announcement.

I personally don’t know anybody who’s bought a firearm from Dick’s Sporting Goods since their decision in 2018to drop semi-automatic rifles and “large capacity” magazines while raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21 (I know a couple of folks who’ve copped to buying ammo there), so this may not be much of a blow to gun sales overall.

We do know that it’ll be a boon to the company in terms of positive press. Expect glowing accolades from gun control groups, celebrity activists like Alyssa Milano, anti-gun politicians, and the media on Thursday. Many gun owners may decide to continue their boycott of the store, but Ed Stack seems to be at peace with that. After all, he still gets to play golf with his pal Michael Bloomberg.

The bigger issue is whether this likely move by Dick’s Sporting Goods will have any impact on Walmart’s policies on selling firearms and ammunition. The company says it sells about two percent of all firearms sold at retail but is responsible for 20% of all ammunition sales in the country. If Walmart bowed to protests and stopped selling guns, there would be an impact, but it wouldn’t be particularly large. If the company decided to remove ammunition from its shelves, on the other hand, many consumers would be left ordering online (already illegal in California), or driving dozens of miles to the closest firearms or ammunition retailer.

If Dick’s does pull out of the gun business on Thursday, I’d expect the gun control crowd to take a quick victory lap before turning their attention once again to the nation’s largest retailer. They’ll be happy to see Dick’s disappear from the world of gun sales, but they’ve got their eyes on a much bigger prize at the moment. Walmart’s CEO has recently come out in support of “common sense gun control”, some employees are walking out in protest of the company’s gun sales, and anti-gun groups recently held weekend protests outside of stores in an attempt to pressure the company to remove itself from the firearms industry. If Dick’s goes first, the perceived pressure on Walmart to follow suit will be intense, at least in the short term.