Target’s Pride Month collection to appear in fewer stores

Target’s Pride Month collection to appear in fewer stores

Target will limit the availability of its 2024 Pride Month collection after last year’s conservative blowback over its LGBTQ+ themed merchandise.

The retailer said in a Thursday fact sheet that it plans to offer a collection of products including adult clothing and “home and food and beverage items” to celebrate Pride Month this June. It will be available online and in select stores “based on historical sales performance,” Target said.

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Target has carried Pride-themed merchandise in its stores for years, but last year it announced plans to pull back some items after the company was swept up in a culture war that saw some conservative commentators accusing the company of profiteering on a political issue and selling inappropriate products for children. Workers faced threats from angry customers over the issue, while others boycotted the company. Stores in at least five states had to be evacuated after they received bomb threats. America First Legal, a conservative activist group led by former Donald Trump aide Stephen Miller, argued that the company failed its investors by wading into a political issue, pointing to a 20 percent decline in the company’s stock price.

The backlash and boycotts probably hurt Target’s sales, analysts said at the time, but the company also faced broader issues as consumers became more selective with the sort of discretionary goods abound on Target’s shelves.

Leaving Pride Month items out of some stores belies the fact that LGBTQ+ individuals live all over the country, said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign advocacy group.

“Target’s decision is disappointing and alienates LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at the risk of not only their bottom line but also their values,” Robinson said in an emailed statement.

Target appears to be taking a cautious approach this year, GlobalData analyst Neil Saunders said, not only by reducing the number of stores with Pride-themed items, but also with a scaled-down range of products and more carefully selected suppliers.

The company said it still celebrates Pride Month in other ways as well, including joining local pride events near its Minneapolis headquarters, supporting related advocacy groups, and carrying LGBTQ-owned brands.

The company still is walking a tightrope and probably will draw some fire, Saunders said.

“To one side it will be seen as capitulating and not taking pride in its Pride collections, to the other it will be seen as championing a cause they disagree with,” he said. “The reality is that Target can’t win whatever it does, so it is opting for a middle ground.”

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