Dicks Sporting Goods announced it will be pulling guns and ammunition off the shelves at 125 of its locations. Dick’s, the nation’s largest sporting goods retailer, felt the pressure by other big-box stores desiring to get their hands on a piece of the ever-growing “athleisure” market, which resulted in the company’s decision to pull these items.
According to experts, the decision is also part of a trend that is “redefining what belongs in a sporting goods store.” What once was a place for consumers to shop for fishing tackle, camping tents and shotgun slugs, has now become a place for parents and children to browse for sneakers, soccer balls and sports attire.
“Dick’s is really the last man standing among the national sporting goods chains and what you’re seeing it do is adjust its merchandise to meet consumer preferences in a shifting retail landscape,” said Brian Nagel, senior equity research analyst at investment bank Oppenheimer.
It’s also fair to note that gun buyers are straying away from sporting goods stores such as Dick’s for their firearms. According to Southwick Associates’ study of segmentation in the firearms market, only 6 percent of rifle buyers purchased their weapons from sporting goods retailers in 2018.
Rather than going to a sporting goods store, more than one in three consumers purchased guns from local firearm-specific shops, while more than 25 percent purchased online. Gun buyers were twice as likely to buy from outdoors specialty stores, such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s or Field & Stream, compared to a general sporting goods store.
“Guns are a real technical product. The array of choices is pretty enormous. Add to that the array of accessories and ammunition that go with it,” said Marc Cohen, director of retail studies at the Columbia University Business School. “Customers gravitate based on their outlook to the most expedient location. They’ve probably gravitated away from Dick’s for a few years.”
Dick’s chairman and chief executive, Ed Stack, had halted the company’s sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines after the school shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida in February 2018. While the assailant of this tragedy purchased a gun legally from a Dick’s location prior to the attack, he didn’t use that particular firearm in the assault.
Stack notes, however, that last week’s decision is not political. “This is around having productive space,” he said. “There are some places that the hunting business is very good, other places that it’s not very good. And we’re just allocating floor space to make our [products] more productive.”
He continued saying, “The traditional definition of sporting goods are products that you’ve used for sport or other recreational activities and now there’s been a fusion with fashion.”
“You have a lot more people who might wear sports tops to wear casually or who will buy sneakers for fashion. I think that has confused the category a bit,” he said.