Dick's Sporting Goods stores saw a 3.7% increase in foot traffic weekend over weekend after the company opted to stop selling assault-style rifles, according to a study by Reveal Mobile emailed to Retail Dive.
In states that voted blue during the last presidential election, Reveal Mobile found that foot traffic increased by 7.59% between February 23-25 and March 2-4, compared to a 2.84% increase in red states.
In particular, New York and Florida saw massive increases in foot traffic at 14.1% and 9% respectively, while Virginia and California both increased around 4% (4.4% and 4.6% respectively) and Texas saw traffic decline 5.8%.
The recent school shooting in Parkland, FL has sparked various reactions from retailers (and shoppers), with Dick's Sporting Goods, L.L. Bean, Kroger and REI all taking firm stances on the issue by either cutting ties with suppliers, raising the age to buy guns or stopping the sale of assault-style weapons altogether.
Reveal Mobile's data seems to indicate that, at least in the case of Dick's Sporting Goods, taking a stance on the issue has driven more store traffic, ostensibly from customers who support the retailer's decision. Dick's CEO Ed Stack also commented on how customers reacted to the move in an earnings call on Tuesday.
"We were actually surprised [by] the outpouring of support that we received from this," Stack said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "It hasn't been long, it's only been two weeks. And we've seen a bit of a difference in the hunt business, not an awful lot, but it's too early to tell how this is going to be impacted."
Indeed, a study by YouGov also found that Dick's perception rose after making the announcement, with 7% of adults discussing the sports retailer on Feb. 28 (the day the announcement was made) compared to 25% the weekend of March 3-4.
Retailers in general have become less shy about attaching activist causes to their brand's message, from environmentalist movements like Patagonia's Black Friday grassroots donation a few years ago to charity efforts and, yes, even politics.
While in the past taking a stance on social or political issues was essentially taboo in the retail world, a January study by Sprout Social seems to suggest that's changing in a big way. According to that study, over half (58%) of consumers are open to seeing political messages from brands, and what stance a brand takes on an issue can also have a big impact on a given customer's loyalty.
Nearly half (44%) of shoppers would buy more from a brand if they agreed with the brand's stance on a political issue and 28% said they would publicly praise a brand for the same reasons. That's particularly true of younger consumers, the majority of whom choose brands based on how socially responsible they are.
While that works both ways, and retailers risk isolating certain demographics by taking a political stance on something, it's worth noting that politics is not quite the untouchable sphere it once was for retailers.