Almost nine months after the mass-shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack sent shock waves through the media and corporate America when he announced that his company would no longer sell the type of semiautomatic rifle used in the massacre, or any firearms to individuals younger than 21-years-old.
Following Dick’s decision, major companies such as Walmart, Hertz, and United Airlines also released statements in favor of strengthening gun control in the United States, a show of corporate advocacy that has forced consumers to re-examine the role they think businesses should take in influencing America’s legal and social policies.
Now, as we near the year anniversary of the shooting, the financial consequences of Dick’s decision are starting to emerge. In November 2018, the company reported a 3.9 percent dip in sales in the third quarter, dragged down in particular by the absence of hunting goods. However, Dick’s overall profit margin still improved slightly, likely due to the fact that hunting gear makes up a very small portion of overall sales.
While the societal implications of Dick’s decision will likely be studied for years, the immediate aftermath suggests that the company’s decision to advocate for stricter gun laws has not irrevocably impacted its overall success or long-term marketing capabilities. And, while Dick’s reported that 62 employees left the company in the wake of their policy change, there has been little impact to their bottom line.
When choosing to engage in politically charged issues, companies should consider their business’ overall objectives, as well as the potential consequences of their decision, in areas ranging from the impact on profit margins to the reaction of internal stakeholders. Most importantly, establish communications and constant feedback with your customers so you know what they do, and do not, look for in your company.