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Retailers Use Gun Controls to Make Policy Statement and Manage Image, Experts Say

Three major U.S. retailers voluntarily restricted gun sales to make a policy statement and manage their image with consumers in the aftermath of the Florida school massacre, marketing experts said Thursday.

Walmart Inc., the nation's largest retailer, followed the lead of Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. and tightened restrictions on gun sales last week, including banning sales to customers under 21.

Kroger Co. followed suit Thursday, saying it was curbing firearm sales at its Fred Meyer general-merchandise stores. Kroger also is the parent of the Ralphs grocery chain.

The retailers are responding to the national uproar that followed the shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17, especially the feverish debate on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They are not waiting for legislative action to improve matters, analysts said.

"Gun violence is an epidemic," Edward Stack, Dick's chief executive, said in a statement, adding that "we have to help solve the problem that's in front of us."

The retailers "want to position themselves in the minds of consumers by taking steps like this," even if it means alienating some consumers who object to further gun controls, said Roger Beahm, executive director of Wake Forest University's Center for Retail Innovation.

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Walmart Inc., the nation's largest retailer, followed the lead of Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. and tightened restrictions on gun sales last week, including banning sales to customers under 21.

Kroger Co. followed suit Thursday, saying it was curbing firearm sales at its Fred Meyer general-merchandise stores. Kroger also is the parent of the Ralphs grocery chain.

The retailers are responding to the national uproar that followed the shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17, especially the feverish debate on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They are not waiting for legislative action to improve matters, analysts said.

"Gun violence is an epidemic," Edward Stack, Dick's chief executive, said in a statement, adding that "we have to help solve the problem that's in front of us."

The retailers "want to position themselves in the minds of consumers by taking steps like this," even if it means alienating some consumers who object to further gun controls, said Roger Beahm, executive director of Wake Forest University's Center for Retail Innovation.

Read full article