Target Promises ‘Modification’ to Pride Displays following Boycott Fallout
Retail giant Target has publicly admitted that boycotts resulting from outrage over their prominent Pride Month displays in stores and transgender merchandise designed for minors significantly affected the company’s profits, which has caused the retailer to implement “modifications” to how they will promote LGBT-themed items in the future.
During a call with reporters this week, Target executives announced that the company had lowered its profit goals for the year in light of the decline in sales, partly resulting from the viral backlash and controversy it received over LGBT-themed merchandising.
The uproar began in earnest in May of 2022 when it was discovered that the retailer was selling “chest binders” designed to compress women’s breasts in order for them to look more masculine as well as “packing underwear” to give them the appearance of male anatomy. The outrage grew when observers noted that the chest binders were available in kid’s sizes. In addition, the store also sold shirts for toddlers emblazoned with “Trans Rights Are Human Rights,” onesies that declared “My First Pride,” and a child’s shirt with a collection of pronouns including “She/Her They/Them He/Him Us.”
The outrage continued into the summer of 2023, when it was discovered that Target had partnered with a satanist designer to create transgender themed clothing, tote bags, and other items with slogans like, “Cure Transphobia Not Trans People,” “Too Queer for Here,” and “We Belong Anywhere.” The backlash culminated in a consumer boycott that reached a peak during June, in which the retailer conspicuously displayed Pride Month collections in stores. The controversy even inspired a “Boycott Target” song that generated 1.3 million YouTube views.
Target shares have subsequently dropped 16% so far this year, with a 4.9% drop in total revenue. As a result, Target Chief Growth Officer Christina Hennington told reporters that the company would change how it sells Pride and other “heritage month collections,” with adjusted displays and a different assortment of available items and brands. “You will see us celebrate Pride, you will see us celebrate these heritage moments, but with these modifications,” she said.
Target’s acknowledgment of the effect of extensive boycotts and a shift in strategy follows similar actions taken by Bud Light. After a widespread boycott of the popular beer occurred following the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney flap in April, which is still ongoing with an estimated $395 million in lost sales, Anheuser-Busch attempted to restore its image to appeal to its traditional customer base with a series of Bud Light ads centered on country music concerts, fun summer pursuits, grunting males, and galloping Clydesdale horses.
It remains to be seen whether Target and Bud Light’s efforts at appearing chastened will gain back the customers they have lost.
Joseph Backholm, senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council, expressed skepticism that Target will modify their business strategy.
“The fact that they are responding at all suggests the boycotts are having an impact,” he told The Washington Stand. “Given Target’s history, I would be very suspicious about what kind of ‘modifications’ there will actually be. It’s clear that people inside the company are true believers and wouldn’t tolerate Target moving toward neutrality, and if they did, the rainbow mafia would give it to them with both barrels. They really are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think their hope is that the boycotters will see these statements and declare victory, and by doing so end the boycott, but I’m very skeptical that anything will actually change. In fact, I suspect Target has recently made significant contributions to LGBT groups in coordination with these statements just to buy some protection.”
“Time will tell,” Backholm concluded, “but this doesn’t convince me anything will be different.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.