sale of firearms. Parkland was the
straw that broke the camel’s back.
Those kids and those parents had
such a profound impact on me.
Watching those kids, how brave they
were to talk about it, those survivors,
and listening about the kids who lost
their lives, and listening to those
parents. It was, “Somebody needs to
do something about this.” The more
they talked about somebody needing
to do something about it, the more
I thought, “We need to do something
about it.” I sat down and wrote a
paper on what I thought our response
should be. Anytime I talked about
these kids, I would get choked up.
I was in the conference room at this
roundtable, and I said, “Do we really
have to wait for this to happen to one
of our kids before we do something?”
How did you handle that process?
Where did you go, where did you
take your own thoughts, whom did
I trust our management team implic-
Initially, you kept stocking assault
itly. As soon as I started to write this
response down, I sent it to Lauren
Hobart, our president, and Lee
Belitsky, our CFO, and asked for
their comments. We kind of went
through it, and when we came back
into the o;ce on Monday, I sat down
with our entire management team.
We had a great conversation about it.
Everybody agreed that this was the
direction we wanted to go in. Our
CFO said, “Let me run some num-
bers and see what this is going to
cost us,” which we agreed to do. Our
whole management team was abso-
lutely on board that we should do
this. Nobody questioned it, other
than what the financial ramifications
would be, and how we would have to
guide the Street.
rifles at Field & Stream stores,
and later decided to remove them.
What had changed?
Field & Stream opened the August
after Sandy Hook [which happened in
December 2012]. We had meaningful
discussions about whether we should
put assault rifles in. Ultimately, we
decided to. Then, after Parkland, I
said, we’re done. We’re not selling
these guns, we’re not selling high-capacity magazines, we’re not going to
sell any guns to anyone who’s under
21. That was it. We’re never going
to change our mind on any of that.
Walmart, L.L. Bean, Kroger,
and others have followed your
lead. Do you sense a desire on
corporate America’s part to
step up now?
I think it’s an obligation for
corporate America. There’s not
much leadership coming out of
Washington. There are a lot of
sound bites. There’s a lot of talking
back and forth. The country is so
thirsty for someone, for leadership
to come from somewhere. Right
now, leadership is coming from the
private sector, and it’s going to
continue to come from the private
sector, because I don’t see things
changing in Washington very quickly.
All the business you lost has
returned, and then some. How
has the company changed?
We’ve done a lot of di;erent things
in our business. We’ve reallocated
some floor space. We reallocated
marketing dollars out of the hunt
business into other areas. Last year,
we took hunt out of 10 stores completely as a test, and those stores did
significantly better than the balance
of the chain. We just started taking
it out of another 125 stores, and
we’re very happy with that so far.
So you could get out of that
business in a few years?
We’ve got the whole hunt business
under strategic review, and that
includes what we’re going to do with
Field & Stream. Do we want to be
in the gun business? Every time
there’s another one of these shootings, we wait and wait and wait until
the shooter’s name is revealed, and
then we go through our records to
see if we were the ones who sold the
shooter the gun. I said to George
Stephanopoulos on Good Morning
America, “I just don’t want to be a
part of this story anymore. We’ve got
a few things to work through, but I
just don’t want to be part of this story
BILL SAPORITO is an Inc. editor-at-large.
STILL ON TOP
Dick’s has grown a lot since opening its first store on Binghamton’s
Court Street (below). Removing assault rifles cost it some business,
but the retailer has bounced back: Sales have risen in 2019.