Limiting Gun Sales Cost Dick's $150 Million

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Dick’s Sporting Goods became a sporting good itself last year. The company decided that it was going to turn on gun owners–a major group of customers–so it could signal to anti-gunners that it held the right opinions. Dick’s began issuing company-level restrictions on who it would sell firearms to and employed a lobbying firm to push for a federal assault weapon ban.

This did not play well with that major group of customers I mentioned previously.

How badly? Try to the tune of $150 million.

Last February, when Dick’s Sporting Goods boss Ed Stack announced he was restricting gun sales at the country’s largest sports retailer, he knew it’d be costly.

It the time, Dick’s was a major seller of firearms. Guns also drove the sale of soft goods—boots, hats, jackets. What’s more, Stack, the retailer’s chief executive officer, suspected the position could drive off some of his customers on political principle.

He was right. Dick’s estimates the policy change cost the company about $150 million in lost sales, an amount equivalent to 1.7 percent of annual revenue. Stack says it was worth it.

“The system does not work,” Stack said. “It’s important that when you know there’s something that’s not working, and it’s to the detriment of the public, you have to stand up.”

And yet, Stack figures the best way to “stand up” is to discriminate against Americans who have done nothing wrong.

Yes, that’s right. Discriminate. After all, Stack’s stores won’t sell long guns to anyone under the age of 21, despite the law stating 18-year-olds can buy those particular types of firearms. Any time you make a decision based on a factor like age, it’s discrimination.

Stack’s decision cost the company. I know 1.7 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can be. Further, no one can argue that $150 million isn’t a lot of money.

While Stack took his father’s bait and tackle shop and turned it into a national chain, he needs to consider one very important thing. Dick’s is now a publicly traded company. How much more grandstanding can Stack do before the stockholders get fed up and demand his removal? It won’t matter how strongly he feels if that happens.

Nor will they look kindly on age discrimination lawsuits likely to be launched if the company doesn’t completely divest itself of gun sales in the rest of its stores.

But whatever.

For most gun owners, Dick’s is now kind of a non-factor in their decision making. They don’t consider Dick’s for anything. Because when a company makes a stance like that, what they do is tell some of their customers that they don’t want their business anymore. Dick’s made it clear that it wasn’t in the Second Amendment business, so the rest of us look elsewhere.

When looking for a camp stove late last year, the cheapest that was local to me at the time–I wasn’t in my hometown at the moment–was Dick’s. I got the stove from somewhere else. I know I’m far from unique in that regard.

That happens a lot of places, so expect that revenue to continue to remain low.

Stack gave gun owners the middle finger. We’re more than happy to return the favor.