Retailers win battle with NRA as Americans rally around their brands


Brands that take a stand on guns have nothing to fear from shoppers.

Shoppers are backing outlets that have taken a stand on guns.

Some of America's largest retailers stared down the NRA in the wake of last month's Florida school massacre, taking action while Republican politicians stalled.

Some got out of the military-style gun business altogether, like Dick's Sporting Goods, and others raised the gun-buying age at their stores to 21, like both Dick's and Walmart.

And, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which regularly tracks brand perception among consumers, "Consumer perception rose dramatically for both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart after the stores announced changes in their gun sales policies last week."

Reproduced from YouGov; Chart: Axios Visuals

Last month, after finding out that the school shooter in Parkland, Florida, had purchased a gun at Dick's, the retail giant declared it would no longer sell military-style guns like the AR-15, or high-capacity magazines.

"We’ve just decided that, based on what’s happened, and with these guns, we don’t want to be a part of this story," announced CEO Edward Stack.

Word of mouth regarding Dick's tripled in a very short time, according to the YouGov survey. Following the retailer's gun announcement, 25 percent of respondents said they had heard about the brand recently, up from 7 percent in a recent survey.

The surge in goodwill toward the brand was driven by Democrats and independent voters, according to YouGov. Dick's decision to ban assault-style weapons was mostly met with a shrug from conservative shoppers, as Republican feelings toward the sporting good chain haven't changed.

That actually tracks with recent polling data. Despite the public relations claim from the NRA and its allies that Republican voters see all guns laws as somehow being sacrosanct and untouchable, a poll last week shows that a majority of Republicans want assault weapons banned in the United States.

Nearly every Republican (97 percent) wants to see a universal background check bill passed by Congress.

Meanwhile, as retailers like Dick's and Walmart pull back on the guns, gun manufacturers are facing tough times. Last week, American Outdoor Brands, which manufactures the famous Smith & Wesson gun brand, announced that its year-over-year sales were down 33 percent, and that profits had plunged 65 percent.

There's a cultural shift underway regarding guns in America. And retailers who decide to take action now know, not only will consumers not penalize them, they'll likely reward brands that take a firm stand.