Target To Limit LGBT Pride Products To Online And 'Select Stores' After Last Summer's Controversy

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 - 01:00 AM

Authored by Bill Pan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Target has announced that its LGBT-themed merchandise will only be sold online and at select stores this June, a decision made after last year’s Pride Month marketing campaign divided customers and dragged down sales.

A sign is posted in front of a Target store that is slated for closure in Oakland, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In a statement on its website, Target said that instead of prominently displaying its Pride Month collection in all its stores, it will be “offering a collection of products including adult apparel, home, food, and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback.”

“The collection will be available on and in select stores, based on historical sales performance,” the company added, noting that it will also join Pride Month events in “our hometown of Minneapolis and around the country” over the summer.

A spokesperson for the retailer didn’t specify the number of brick-and-mortar stores where Pride Month merchandise will be sold, although a report by Bloomberg indicated that about half would do so.

“Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round,” Target told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members, which reflects our culture of care for the over 400,000 people who work at Target.”

Last summer, Target came under heavy criticism on social media following the release of its LGBT-themed collection, which featured a range of clothing, including what was dubbed a “tuck-friendly” female-style swimsuit designed to help men who identify as transgender conceal their genitalia. Some products were also labeled as being able to “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions.”

Shoppers who disagreed with Target’s promotion of what they saw as “woke” transgender ideology posted videos and images on social media showing rainbow-colored onesies for infants as well as swimsuits that offer “extra crotch coverage” that many viewers mistakenly believed were aimed at children. The swimwear in question was available in adult sizes extra-small through extra-large and were not in the kid’s section.

Other products that received backlash from conservative shoppers included apparel and accessory items for adults with pro-LGBT messages, such as “We Belong Everywhere,” “Too Queer for Here,” and “Cure Transphobia” from British designer Erik Carnell, who identifies as a gay transgender man. The designer’s brand Abprallen also includes clothing sporting Satanist imagery, although the designs in question weren’t available for sale in Target.

Since the controversy and ensuing backlash, the retailer announced it would remove some of the Pride merchandise from its shelves. Some rural Target stores in more socially conservative Southern states were also forced to move the items away from front-of-store displays due to customer backlash.

Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior,” the company said at the time, alleging violent threats that were “impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being” on the job.

But the backlash didn’t stop there. Target’s reaction to conservative outrage by scaling back its LGBT merchandise and displays then prompted complaints from progressive advocacy groups, who questioned the company’s stated support of their cause.

“The LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride with Target for the past decade. Target needs to stand with us and double-down on their commitment to us,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote on X.

The backlash coming from customers on both sides appears to have taken a toll on the brand. In August 2023, Target’s own earnings report unveiled its first quarterly sales decline in six years, with net sales down 4.9 percent from the same quarter the previous year.

In a full-year earnings report released this March, Target reported a total 2023 revenue fall of 1.6 percent to $107.4 billion, down from $109.1 billion a year earlier. Comparable sales for the 2023 fiscal year also declined nearly 4 percent, although operating income rose 48 percent to $5.7 billion.

While the company partly blamed the dip in sales on the post-COVID shift in consumer trends, it also said it would be reevaluating how it celebrates Pride Month in the future.

“As we navigate an ever-changing operating and social environment, we’re committed to staying close to our guests and their expectations,” Target chief executive Brian Cornell said in last August’s corporate earning call, defending the decision to adjust the chain’s Pride Month assortment in the face of negative customer reaction.

“Specific to Pride and Heritage months, we’re focused on building assortments that are celebratory and joyous with wide-ranging relevance, being mindful of timing, placement and presentation,” he told investors.

“Our goal is to ensure we continue to celebrate moments that are special to our guests while acknowledging that, every day, for millions of people, they want Target to serve as a refuge in their daily lives.”