The CEO of Dick's weighs in on why 'buycotts' didn't help out the sporting goods retailer when it was getting slammed by the NRA
- Dick's Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack said that "buycotts" in support of the company's decision to nix sales of AR-15-style rifles were "appreciated" but insignificant from a financial perspective.
- In a recent interview with Business Insider, Stack said that boycotts of Dick's ended up having a far greater impact on the chain's bottom line.
- Stack added that shareholders, unlike customers, had a far less intense reaction to the announcement.
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Dick's Sporting Goods contended with both boycotts and "buycotts" in the wake of its decision to draw back from the gun business.
But according to CEO Ed Stack, the consumers who gave the company the cold shoulder had a far greater effect on business than any newfound supporters.Spurred on by the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Dick's removed the AR-15 and similar rifles from its Field & Stream stores, which specifically cater to hunters. The National Rifle Association, other gun lobby groups, and conservative commentators condemned the sporting-goods retailer for the move, with right-wing figures and consumers predicting a boycott against Dick's. Meanwhile, gun-reform advocates praised Dick's for taking a stand on firearms.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Stack said that only the boycotts ended up affecting the company's bottom line, to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. In an era when consumers are increasingly demanding that companies align with their political values, Dick's experience with phasing out sales of AR-15-style guns serves as a reminder for retailers preparing to take a polarizing stance: buzz around a controversial position doesn't always easily translate into dollars and cents.
In his book "It's How We Play the Game," Stack writes that his company experienced a wave of support following its decision around guns. Shoppers brought in snacks and flowers for store employees, and one Los Angeles eatery even gave discounts to diners who could produce Dick's receipts.
Stack said while he was grateful for the acknowledgments, "buycotts" and online support from gun-reform advocates did little to staunch the exodus of customers who were upset over the news.
"The buycotts were really nice and we appreciated it, but they were kind of short-lived," Stack told Business Insider.
Stack said that alienated consumers included both hunters and non-hunters who felt "angry" over Dick's decision to back away from the gun business. All in all, striking guns from the stores ended up costing the company."By the time we got done, it was about a quarter of a billion dollars," Stack said.
That being said, Stack said it hasn't all been bad news for Dick's. The CEO called the pivot a "blessing in disguise," noting that the first slew of stores to nix AR-15-style rifles outperformed the rest of the fleet.
Stack also noted that the company's stock hasn't wobbled much since the announcement. Shareholders, by and large, had a far more muted reaction to the news.
"What was surprising is we didn't have any shareholder that I'm aware of, who called up and said, 'You know what, based on what you did, I'm selling my shares. Just wanted to let you know,'" Stack said. "Conversely, though, we didn't have anybody there call up and say, 'Hey, we love what you're doing. We're going to buy your stock.'"