Dick’s Sporting Goods was founded in 1948 by Dick Stack. In those days, it was a fairly modest bait and tackle outpost, the sort you see in just about any small town near a body of water. Since then, Dick’s has grown well beyond its humble roots in Binghamton, NY, to more than 600 retail megastores nationwide. How did they survive – even thrive – when so many other contenders have fallen away? It comes down to several very solid business decisions.
In its early days, bait and tackle stores mostly offered a limited range of goods. You could find fishing gear, camping gear and some hunting supplies. Dick’s was not willing to be type-cast. As consumer tastes expanded, Dick’s followed suit. Today, anyone going into a Dick’s probably isn’t expecting lures, stinkbait, and cast nets. In fact, given market shifts, Dick’s made the decision to break off their hunting and fishing specialties into stand-alone “Field and Stream” stores in 2013. A move the company made after acquiring the rights to the name.
According to Dick’s COO, Joe Schmidt, the company split the two lines in an effort to better serve more customers. “Dick’s Sporting Goods originally began as a bait and tackle shop. The Field & Stream store will build upon both brands’ heritage to provide an excellent customer experience for outdoor enthusiasts.”
The decision to expand while not forgetting their roots has served Dick’s well. Instead of customers coming in and wondering what was missing, the reaction is “I didn’t know they carried that too!” When you leave your customer excited and curious to return rather than disappointed, you have not only served them now, but given them a strong reason to come back and buy again. Plus, you have given them something clear and simple to tell their friends. They will go out and tell people: “Guess what I found there!” This simple, specific message is the best sort of “marketing” your business can buy.
Dick’s has also shown a willingness to be nimble with its product lines. In recent years, as armchair athletes and kids sports have boomed, Dick’s ceded more and more floor space to these items. Also, as golf sales dipped, Dick’s reduced that inventory and created a more boutique feel for the serious golfer.
In both cases, decisions were made to serve market conditions and create that sense of appreciation in their clientele. In an era when Amazon is leeching customers away from brick-and-mortar retail in staggering amounts, Dick’s keeps them coming back with creative merchandising and monitoring both market trends and customer buying habits, responding to both with practiced efficiency.