Dick’s Sporting Goods to test new ‘Public Lands’ outdoor concept

Discussion
Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dec 01, 2020
Tom Ryan

Dick’s Sporting Goods plans to test a new outdoors concept, called Public Lands, in 2021 as scores of Americans’ have embraced outdoor activities during the pandemic.

“We’ve been working on this even prior to COVID and now with what’s happened with the virus, I think it’s even more timely,” said Ed Stack, Dick’s CEO, last week on the retailer’s third-quarter earnings call with investors.

Public Lands will play up a strong environmental message and carry about 20 percent of the outdoor brands Dick’s flagship offers, with more of a premium positioning. “We think there’s a real opportunity from people getting outdoors — camp, hike, bike, kayaking, fishing, etc. It will be different than what you would see with REI and carve out a different niche,” said Mr. Stack.

Dick’s third-quarter same-store sales jumped 23.2 percent due to continued positive trends across golf, outdoor activities, home fitness and active lifestyle. People are seeking out activities that can be done in open spaces because of the lower risks of COVID-19 transmission as well as the mental and wellness benefits.

NPD reported category sales in June grew 63 percent in cycling, 56 percent in paddle sports and 31 percent across camping.

REI in late October said demand for products like bikes and outdoor furniture have been “off the charts” since the pandemic’s start, and sales of winter gear like cross-country skis and snowshoes were already up more than three and four times, respectively, over last year. Heightened interest in entry-level gear categories also pointed to more people prioritizing outdoor recreation.

“Getting out into nature is one of the best ways to stay balanced during this stressful time, and our numbers are showing more Americans are doing just that,” said Ben Johns, REI general merchandising manager for action sports, in a statement.

A number of executives in the outdoor space have expressed confidence that the surge in outdoor interest will continue after the vaccine arrives as habits are formed. Stephen Smith, L.L. Bean’s CEO, told CNBC last week, “We feel like this is not a trend, this is a connection back to nature.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is now a ripe time for Dick’s to launch an outdoors-themed concept? How confident are you that interest in outdoor activities will remain at elevated levels long after a vaccine for COVID-19 arrives?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s fun, healthy, and all of it is socially distanced. Go for it!"
"The jury seems to be unanimous at the time of this writing. And the value of getting out there with the right gear is unarguable."
"This is a great idea, of course, but you have to wonder if Dick’s has the brand cred to pull it off. REI? Yes. Patagonia? Goes without saying. Dicks? Hmmm."

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17 Comments on "Dick’s Sporting Goods to test new ‘Public Lands’ outdoor concept"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The time is ripe and Dick’s is well positioned to compete in the outdoor market. There’s no question that the pandemic has been a catalyst for an increase in demand for outdoor activities, and so this presents an opportunity in the short-term. However there’s a much bigger, sustainable opportunity for Dick’s in this market. While the competitive landscape is certainly robust, Dick’s size and capabilities will make them a formidable player. Good move.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Outdoor leisure products have grown rapidly during the pandemic and, while growth may flatten next year due to lapping tough comparatives, sales will likely remain elevated. As such, it is sensible for Dick’s to try a more focused format that is narrower than its huge sporting goods warehouses. That said, this does sound very REI-like and I will be interested to see how Dick’s meets its promise of making it differentiated.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Well, as someone who paid double for an inflatable kayak and uses it and is waiting for a new bicycle wheel after not using my bike for years, I’d have to say oh, yeah.

It’s fun, healthy, and all of it is socially distanced. Go for it!

Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

This is a great time to build stronger connections with the consumer. This new concept appears to have the qualities needed to connect with the generations that continue to have an expanding purchasing power. Having spent my childhood shopping in the original two Dick’s locations I have seen a very balanced and successful record of growth in retail footprint and product lines. This appears to be in their sweet spot.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
5 months 14 days ago

it is most definitely the right time. I remember discussing the REI concept earlier this year, and with the pent up demand to be outside this is a great way to satisfy the consumer base. There is definitely a lot of open space to cover.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

This is a great idea, of course, but you have to wonder if Dick’s has the brand cred to pull it off. REI? Yes. Patagonia? Goes without saying. Dicks? Hmmm. I guess when the center of the bell curve is no longer buying as much apparel and has actually been outside quite a bit, brand cred matters less than availability. We shall soon see! In any case, this is a good move toward a trend that hopefully sticks around post COVID-19.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

This is the right time for the reasons listed by other members of the BrainTrust. Market dynamics are appropriate and because of their brick-and-mortar footprint, this is an opportunity to capture market share from competitors. The timing also gives Dick’s an opportunity to set a good example for Americans and demonstrate the type of leadership we need right now. This is a time in which most Americans need to be at home, and giving them forward-looking, socially responsible aspirations and activities to look forward to is something the Dick’s brand can benefit from for the foreseeable future.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I feel confident that Dick’s is making the right investment in promoting outdoor recreation. I think the number of people who are enjoying the great outdoors at the moment will continue to do so, at least at some level, after the pandemic is over. The experiences are too rewarding, at least from my perspective.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

This idea is a classic no-brainer. the Public Lands concept is a great way for DIck’s to capitalize on their recent growth and to capture new share. I suspect that once people get started with outdoor recreational activities their passion will continue to grow, no matter how long shutdowns last, and these new stores will give Dick’s a shot at being part of people’s new lifestyles for years to come.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Now if only they weren’t out of stock on so many things. Hopefully they tidy that part up soon.

Matthew Pavich
BrainTrust

Dick’s has done an admirable job navigating a pandemic that drastically impacted demand for team sports and removed a lot of in-store experience advantages (i.e. batting cages, etc.) that Dick’s had built. Their speedy shift to address new shopping channels/pickup and this initiative show some real innovation to meet the needs of this moment and changing consumer needs. Dick’s has proven in the past (firearms) that it is not afraid to make bold and necessary moves to address changes to society and what consumers value. This has potential to be successful if they can execute it well and differentiate themselves from their top competitors.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

The jury seems to be unanimous at the time of this writing. And the value of getting out there with the right gear is unarguable. Clearly the pandemic is what’s pushing everyone out before they go crazy. But think of this like a rubber band. Once the tension is released, will people still have the same drive or will the couch and remote pull them back? Regardless of the answer it’s still a great movement especially if Dick’s can easily pull it back if the movement stops. That’s the thing when we humans turn to something to “rescue” us, it is quickly set aside once we’re safe again.

As an aside, one lesson I’ve learned about innovative products and strategies is that if everyone’s talking about it, it’s probably too late to invest in it. As evidence I give you air-fryers and sourdough bread. At my house, both provided a diversion from isolation for about three weeks.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

Demand will subside in certain markets and demographics, but it will remain in others. And seeing as there was already a market for large scale outdoors-themed stores (a la REI) pre-pandemic, it makes sense for Dick’s to leverage their retail expertise and vendor network. I think REI will be able to handle the competition (and may even welcome it, if it brings a wider audience into the fold) but the more local chains might have reason to be concerned if a “Public Lands” opens nearby.

chris-marti
Guest

It seems to me that Dick’s and REI’s core customers are a bit different – I’ve always associated REI with a more local, socially-conscious message, but this play by Dick’s maybe tells us which category spends more. It will be interesting to see in which market(s) they launch and if, as others have noted, Dick’s can pull customers away from premium brands like REI, Patagonia, et al.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

This period has been a catalyst for outdoor activities and it should provide a boost to the industry for some time. Dick’s campaign to leverage this trend looks like a solid strategy.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

The fact that Dick’s was looking into launching this prior to COVID-19 suggests that it will be long lasting. Looking forward to see this movement grow and companies like Dick’s who embrace this key outlet — both emotionally and physically — will be leaps ahead of the competition. Besides, darts and indoor table tennis just aren’t cutting it for me.

Iron kayaker
Guest

My family and I are avid kayakers, campers, and backpackers. Yes there are other great brands around, but Dick’s can offer many additions alongside of my pack to make it days on the river or in the woods! Very thankful to have one close by! Thank you Dick’s! We have purchased at least 7 kayaks from Dick’s in the past two years — before this pandemic started. Didn’t need a catastrophe to get us active. Shame that it does to get others going.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s fun, healthy, and all of it is socially distanced. Go for it!"
"The jury seems to be unanimous at the time of this writing. And the value of getting out there with the right gear is unarguable."
"This is a great idea, of course, but you have to wonder if Dick’s has the brand cred to pull it off. REI? Yes. Patagonia? Goes without saying. Dicks? Hmmm."

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