Dick's Has Yet to Feel Gun Backlash, Despite CEO's Warning

(Bloomberg) -- Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ed Stack warned investors this week that its tougher stance on guns might hurt its business.

But so far, that hasn’t come to pass -- at least in the form of fewer store visits.

Trips to Dick’s locations have risen 0.3 percent in the two weeks since the company ended the sales of assault-style firearms and tightened age restrictions on other guns, according to InMarket, which tracks consumer traffic through mobile phones.

“It definitely shows they have a loyal customer base,” said Cameron Peebles, InMarket’s chief marketing officer. “Consumers vote with their feet.”

Shares of Dick’s climbed as much as 2.7 percent to $35.76 on Friday. Still, they remain down more than 26 percent in the past year.

If this trend holds, the traffic trends may be welcome news for the retailer, which has been trying to convince investors that it can revive growth. The company is dealing with increasing competition from its own suppliers, like Nike Inc., which have started to sell more merchandise through their own stores and websites.

The retailer’s revised gun policy, which raises the required purchasing age for all firearms to 21, will negatively impact sales, the company has said. The fear is that pro-gun activists would stage boycotts or at least cut back on their purchases.

“We’re going to have some blowback and some pushback on that businesses,” Stack said during an investor conference on Wednesday. “It’s going to be even softer than we had originally anticipated.”

However, InMarket’s data show the expected impact may not materialize.

On the other hand, the traffic doesn’t suggest that a bunch of people applauding Dick’s move are streaming into stores either.

“While Dick’s Sporting Goods might be preparing for a massive backlash, the early data suggests things might not be as bad as they seem,” InMarket said.

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