Dick’s is still figuring out what to do with its gun business

Dick’s Sporting Goods said it is still reviewing whether to continue to sell firearms as it weighs results from 135 of its stores that no longer carry guns.

The nation’s largest sporting goods-only retailer reported strong results from its other businesses: athletic equipment, clothing and footwear. Its sales were not significantly hit in stores where it replaced its “hunt” business with other items.

Dick’s pulled hunting products, including firearms, out of 10 stores last fall as an initial test. It expanded that test to 125 more stores earlier this year. It still has about 600 stores that sell hunting products, including firearms.

“Like the initial stores, we replaced (hunt) with categories and products that can drive growth. Though it’s too early to discuss performance, we’re optimistic these changes will better serve our athletes in these communities and generate positive results,” said CEO Ed Stack in a call with investors Thursday.

Stack said the hunting business hasn’t been a particularly good one for either Dick’s or the industry as a whole recently. Gun sales are down over the last two years. And the margins in the firearm business is lower than the margins for other products that Dick’s sells.

“The hunt business … was kind of what we had anticipated. It was less bad, but that’s going to continue to be soft as the industry as a whole is soft right now,” said Stack.

But Stack said the company isn’t ready to make a decision about whether to drop the hunt business altogether. One reason to wait on a decision is that the second quarter wasn’t the “main” hunt season, which is starting soon, he noted.

Dick’s made headlines last year in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. It stopped selling assault-style weapons or high-capacity magazines that can allow shooters to fire many more bullets without stopping to reload. It also stopped selling any weapon to buyers younger than 21 years old.

The moves were praised by gun control advocates but attacked by gun enthusiasts, which may have added to the drop in sales of guns it continued to sell.

Dick’s stock was up about 4% Thursday on strong quarterly results that beat Wall Street expectations. Shares also got a boost from the company raising its earnings guidance for the remainder of its fiscal year.