“Welcome to Walmart. Get your **** and get out.”
Maybe you’ve heard comedian Jeff Dunham channeling that message through his alter ego Walter. If you are a gun owner and a Walmart customer, it seems Walmart has taken a cue from Walter. To appease the anti-gun minded, Walmart has decided perhaps it is best you just get out.
This past September Walmart announced they were exiting the bulk of the retail ammunition business and after a few months of brisk sales have now pretty much burned through the entire existing ammunition inventory in the supply chain. No, they did not destroy existing store stock (a la Dicks AR-15 inventory), they sold it. After all, business is business, right? They decided to let us (and the corporate ledger) down easy. The deed is done now and shelves that were flush with stock since the last ammo “shortage” are now barren again.
However, Walmart is not leaving the ammunition business altogether. They have discontinued sales of both “handgun” ammunition and rifle calibers of .223 and 5.56 – the ammunition of headline grabbing “assault rifles” which they erroneously refer to as short-barreled rifles. If you are a gun owner and still choose to shop at Walmart, you will still be able to purchase “hunting” caliber rifle rounds, shotgun shells and rim fire ammunition. Walmart’s board of directors has decided to make a moral judgement that some ammunition is “good” and some is “bad”. In a Solomonic attempt to split the baby, Walmart has accomplished little other than alienate a large segment of their customer base and hurt their bottom line.
There is some upside potential in this decision, but not for Walmart. Prior to this decision, Walmart controlled 20% of the retail ammunition market. That is huge. As their decision has no effect on demand, that lucrative chunk of business will now be distributed among other outlets, like your local gun shop. Expect them to stock and sell more, even at slightly higher than Walmart volume prices. Margins on ammo are not fat but anything to bolster the financial health of your local gun store is a win.
The loser in this equation is Walmart. First, there is the not insignificant loss of sales specific to ammunition. Then there is the secondary sales effect. I expect it was far more likely that a customer went to Walmart to purchase ammo and then picked up other products as well rather than the reverse. I am not boycotting Walmart per se, but I don’t know of anything sold there I cannot buy somewhere else locally. If purchasing ammunition does not put me in the store, I will be buying all those secondary items somewhere else.
Walmart also loses in the perception of those that would support the move. Anti-gun minded people who shop in Walmart will still see an ammunition display case with boxes of ammunition. As they could not tell a 45-70 cartridge from a #2 pencil, nothing in their perception has changed. Wait, Walmart is still selling ammunition? This is not a win for them, it just creates doubt that what they thought was happening really did. They believed Walmart was on their side now, only to find out they are still in the “gun” business.
Walmart got caught up in the hysteria of the moment, believing it required some action on their part, and chose a path they trusted would walk a fine line between opposing sides of an issue. However that line moves daily, public perception changes and polls track the latest news events. As previous ammunition customers now abandon Walmart, as Walmart abandoned them, Walmart finds themselves locked into a path that does not benefit their business or their shareholders. Too bad.
Welcome to Walmart. Get your… well, you know.
Buy your ammo online from Lucky Gunner
Skip the lines and empty shelves. Buy online.