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Target Boycotting LGBTQ Items in Select Stores

Last year’s Target pride merchandise received backlash leading to a dramatic drop in sales. This year pride isn’t being sold at all stores.

Target float at Pride parade.
Target float at Pride parade. Image: Shuttershock/ Kirkam

The Target Pride collection received backlash over select merchandise in 2023. Because of threats to store workers this year, some items are only in select stores.

Target won’t be selling its Pride collection in all stores this year. The LGBTQ+ merchandise which included bathing suits made for transgender people which harmed sales.

This year, USA TODAY was told by Target that the merchandise will be sold in select stores based on the performance of last year. The stores that will not carry the items will have the items online for purchase.

Last year conservative activists boycotted the store over the LGBTQ collection. While other activists threatened employees. The backlash caused the chain to remove some of the Pride clothes.

This boycott caused a 5.4% decline in sales during the second quarter of 2023.

Response to the 2023 Collection

The Conservatives and Liberals were at odds over the collection and its removal.

Supporting groups condemned the chain for giving in to pressure. Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said Target’s decision ” is disappointing and alienates LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at the risk of not only their bottom line but also their values.

They continue by saying “Pride merchandise means something. LGBTQ+ people are in every ZIP code in this country, and we aren’t going anywhere.

This year a MoveOn petition has been signed by 12,000 people. Advocates urge the chain to return the collection to all of its locations. The description below the petition states “Right-wing extremists have said themselves that their goal is to make Pride toxic for companies. That they want to eradicate us from public life. We won’t let them. We are here, and we aren’t going anywhere.” MoveOn Campaign director Jensine Gomez said in a statement “It’s time for Target to stop caving to right-wing radicals and honor its commitments to the LGBTQ+ community,”

On the other side, conservatives called for a boycott of the retail chain because of its pride in merchandise. Especially the “tuck-friendly” swimsuit meant to hide male genitalia.

@tylarholmes666 Why you gotta be so rude #tuck #comfort #bathingsuit #pride #target #targetpride #targetpridecollection2023 #targetpridecollection #outrage #terfs #terf #prideseason #pridesection #calledout #coverage #theoutrage #protest ♬ Creepy and simple horror background music(1070744) – howlingindicator

Target also received backlash for its collaboration with Abprallen a clothing and pin brand. Their slogan is “Abrallen is unapologetically Loud, Proud, and Colorful. Not the religion Satanism but the figure that is Satan is openly embraced by the London-based brand.

They sell merchandise with phrases such as “Satan Respects Pronouns” and “Heteronormativity is a Plague” which pokes fun at the traditional conservative values.

Some Target workers were confronted by angry conservative individuals who knocked down displays while the 2023 collection was on the floor.

Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. 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,” Target said last year when it moved the LGBT-themed items to the back of certain stores.

’23 and ’24 Merchandise

Some of the 2023 Pride merchandise was concerning to conservative audiences. The Target company had lost billions in market value after conservatives called for a boycott on social media.

One of those items happened to be a “tuck-friendly” bathing suit for transgender women. Designed to hide male genitalia. Items sold were featured calendars for children titled “queer all year and books such as “Twas the Night before Pride.

The opposing side brought aggressive feedback, leading CEO Brian Cornell to make an announcement after pulling the items from the shelves.

“As you know, we have featured a pride assortment for more than a decade,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell during an earnings call on Aug. 6, 2023. “However, after the launch of the assortment this year, members of our team began experiencing threats and aggressive actions that affected their sense of safety and well-being while at work. I want to make it clear, we denounce violence and hate of all kinds. And the safety of our team and our guests is our top priority. So, to protect the team in the face of these threatening circumstances, we quickly made changes, including the removal of items through the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Target CEO Brian Cornell/ The Street

Because of backlash in 2023 analysts and advocates say the marketing is toned down compared to the years past.

Target has declined to disclose how many of its stores don’t have Pride merchandise this year. But the locations that were stocked accounted for 90% of Pride sales from 2022 and 2023.

The chain claims that it will continue to support the LGBTQ community “year-round. The stores that will have the Pride merchandise will be because the items previously performed the best in those locations.

For such a pride-friendly store the collection is a lot smaller this year. In a statement Target said…

“We’re offering a collection of products including adult apparel and home and food and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback,” said Target. “The collection will be available on Target.com and in select stores, based on historical sales performance.”

Target/ The Street

Target is not the only location where you can snatch some Pride clothes. Macy’s said its namesake department stores, its upscale Bloomingdales, and its Bluemercury beauty stores each spotlight items from LGBTQ+-owned, founded, and designed brands at select stores and online.

Another store to visit is Walmart. They offer an assortment of LGBTQ+ owned brands and creators available online and in some stores nationwide. Other brands are Adidas, Converse, and Levi Strauss &Co.

Many of these brands have also had very successful Pride collections in the past.

Facing Backlash for Supporting LGBTQ+

Target wasn’t the only company that faced a boycott over LGBTQ+ support. Last April, Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light faced a boycott after transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney promoted the brand’s 15,000 giveaway on Instagram.

Bud Light-parent Anheuser-Busch InBev may have lost more than $1 billion in sales because of its ill-fated advertisement featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

In North America, organic revenue — seen as the best measure of operating performance — nosedived a staggering $1.4 billion in 2023, “primarily due to the volume declined of Bud Light,” according to CNN, citing the brewer’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Bud Light consumers viewed this as a political issue due to Mulvaney’s advocacy for transgender rights.

Nike also took a hit last year for featuring Dylan Mulvaney. Mulvaney modeled a sports bra and leggings. Nike releases their annual “Be True” Pride merchandise but his year there does not appear to be a collection. What shows is what remains of the 2023 collection.

The North Face previously received slack for its “Summer of Pride” event series in 2022 and 2023 in partnership with drag queen Pattiegonia. The brand hasn’t made an announcement of the event this year and it does not appear to have released a Pride collection online as they did in previous years (though it did make a celebratory Pride post on Instagram).

The U.S. Navy, took part in pride celebration last year and received backlash for it. Last year the Navy updated its Facebook profile picture and cover photo to rainbow colors for Pride Month. This year they did not. Despite changing its photo for other heritage months like Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May and Women’s History Month in March (though it did make a post for Pride).

Future of Pride

Increases in LGBTQ+ identification in recent years have occurred as members of Generation Z and the millennial generation have entered adulthood. Adults in these younger generations are far more likely than those in older generations to identify as LGBTQ+.

There is a decline in sales and support because of backlash but a lot of the older generations are currently working cooperatively to make these decisions. Much of Gen Z sees the LGBTQ community as having their own values that also should be respected.

As Gen Z starts to take over the workforce and the older generations retire it is left open for question if Gen Z will keep Pride merchandise around even if there is backlash.

Written By

Jessica is a recent graudate of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication Studies. Jessica enjoys books, video games, crafts, discovering new rock music to listen to.

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