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Dick's Sporting Goods CEO expects to lose customers over company's tougher gun rule

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/14/2018 Kevin McCoy

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Dick's Sporting Goods expects to lose customers over its decision to eliminate sales of assault-style weapons and require buyers of other guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines to be 21 or older.

Company CEO and Chairman Edward Stack told financial analysts Tuesday that while Dick's received a surprise "outpouring of support" over the Feb. 28 decision, it's "too early" to quantify the longer-term financial impact.

However, Stack acknowledged that some of the sporting goods chain's customers could vote with their feet.

"There has been some negative pushback on this and some of those customers that buy firearms buy other things also," Stack said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts. "We've had some pushback ... we try to have that in our (2018 financial) guidance —  that there's going to be people who just don't shop us anymore for anything."

The Coraopolis, Pa.-based sporting goods chain will give a more precise forecast of 2018 sales when it reports first-quarter earnings in three months, said Stack.

Dick's on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings that came in slightly higher than Wall Street's forecasts. However, the retailer's revenue and same-store sales — which included the 2016 holiday shopping season — came in lower than predicted.

Excluding one-time charges, the retailer earned $1.22 per share on $115.9 million in net income. The company's shares closed nearly 1% higher at $32.88 Tuesday, reversing earlier losses.

More: 18-year-old sues Dick's Sporting Goods in second-known gun policy lawsuit

Dick's announced the company's new restriction on firearms sales following the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In all, 17 died in the rampage allegedly carried out by a former student armed with an assault-style rifle.

The retailer ended sales of assault-style weapons after the similar shooting massacre at a Newtown, Conn. school in 2012. However, Dick's had still sold those firearms at the company's 35 Field & Stream locations, which specialize in hunting and outdoors products.

"As we looked at what happened down in Parkland, we were so disturbed and saddened, we felt we really needed to do something," Stack said during a Feb. 28 appearance on ABC News' Good Morning America broadcast.

The accused Parkland shooter bought a shotgun at one of the retailer's stores in November, Stack acknowledged. Although the alleged gunman did not use that weapon in the attack, the realization helped sparked a change in corporate policy.

Walmart and L.L. Bean similarly raised their required age for gun purchases to 21.

The decisions have been hailed by gun-control advocates and criticized by the National Rifle Association and other groups dedicated to upholding the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"Rather than serving to protect the nation’s schools from violence, the recent corporate outburst against rifles and firearm purchasers serves to reveal an anti-freedom agenda," the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action said in a March 9 statement.

Additionally, at least two would-be buyers under age 21 have filed lawsuits in recent weeks that accuse Dick's or other retailers of violating their rights by refusing to sell them a rifle or shotgun.

Contributing: Nathan Bomey

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc

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