Metro Weekly

Target Dumps its Pride Collection in Many Stores

The retail giant will only offer Pride-themed merchandise for adults at a limited number of stores to avoid conservative backlash.

Target Store – Photo: Shabaz Usmani, via Unsplash

In an attempt to avoid backlash from anti-LGBTQ and conservative critics, retail giant Target will not carry Pride merchandise in some stores and will limit the quantity and type of Pride-themed merchandise offered in others.

The company said decisions about where to stock Pride-themed products, including adult apparel, home goods, foods, and beverages, would be based on “guest insights and consumer research.”

Target operates about 2,000 stores across the country. While Target has declined to say which stores will carry limited Pride-themed merchandise, its online store will offer a wider assortment of Pride-branded items.

“Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round,” the big box retailer told the Associated Press 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.”

Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson blasted Target for caving to right-wing influencers and anti-LGBTQ groups.

“Pride merchandise means something. LGBTQ+ people are in every zip code in this country, and we aren’t going anywhere,” Robinson said in a statement.

“With LGBTQ+ people making up 30% of Gen Z, companies need to understand that community members and allies want businesses that express full-hearted support for the community. That includes visible displays of allyship.

“Target’s decision is disappointing and alienates LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at the risk of not only their bottom line but also their values.”

Last year, Target was besieged by boycotts by right-wingers enraged by the company’s decision to offer Pride-themed merchandise for children, as well as merchandise like chest binders and “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for adults, which they falsely claimed were being marketed to children.

Several high-profile conservative influencers encouraged their followers to boycott Target for embracing Pride season and, especially, transgender customers, asserting that people’s gender cannot differ from their assigned sex at birth.

Target Pride Display – Photo: Phillip Pessar, Flickr

Customers began posting videos to social media of themselves tipping over Pride-themed displays or confronting store staff over Pride-themed offerings. Other right-wingers called in bomb threats to Target stores.

In an effort to protect store staff and avoid further backlash, the company removed some Pride merchandise from the shelves or refused to sell Pride-themed items to customers.

In some Southern locations, store staff moved Pride displays to the back of stores in an attempt to conceal them.

The company’s attempt to do damage control following the calls for a boycott also sparked a backlash from those on the Left and from LGBTQ organizations, who slammed Target for cowering to “bullies” and betraying LGBTQ customers while attempting to preserve its image as an LGBTQ-friendly company.

Target’s struggles demonstrate how companies are attempting — and thus far failing — to take a neutral approach to culture-war issues, especially those related to LGBTQ visibility and transgender identity.

Target’s half-measures failed to satisfy right-wingers, who have accused the company of playing both sides in the culture wars.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand that customers should continue to boycott Target until the company changes its behavior and stops selling Pride-themed merchandise.

“CEO Brian Cornell is discovering that customers do ‘expect more’ now that many consumers are spending less at Target because of its LGBTQ fixation,” Perkins said, playing on the company’s “Expect More, Pay Less” slogan.

“By avoiding Target,” Perkins continued, “consumers are getting the woke corporation’s attention.”

Sadly, that seems to now be the case.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!