Retail giant Target has seen its market value drop by $9bn after angry social media users called for a boycott over the company’s release of a ‘PRIDE’ collection for children that features LGBTQ-friendly clothing. Before the boycott began, Target’s stock closed at $160.96 a share; this has since fallen to $141.76. Target said it was removing certain Pride items from stores across the US ahead of Pride month following extensive backlash. This included instances of groups of people knocking down displays and other intimidating behavior towards staff.
The backlash led to a decline in share prices, which dropped by 12%, knocking $9B off the company’s market cap. Commenting on the boycott movement, conservative commentator Tomi Lahren said Target was about to experience the same issue as Bud Light after a similar campaign against the company raised concern. The beer brand has seen sales drop for several consecutive weeks as a result of a controversial marketing campaign featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Target CEO Brian Cornell previously defended the merchandise, saying it was ‘the right thing for society’, but the company has since caved under the pressure of backlash. The Pride collection, which has been on sale since May, has been moved from the front of stores to the back in certain areas of the southern US. Among the items causing the most problems were ‘tuck friendly’ women’s swimsuits and designs by occult and satanic LGBTQ-friendly clothing and accessories brand, Designs by Abprallen.
The company said that it had experienced threats impacting the ‘sense of safety and well-being’ of its employees. It added that in some cases, agitated customers approached staff and even posted threatening videos of themselves in stores. Target has not confirmed which items will be removed from stores. The ‘PRIDE’ merch range was released in time for Pride month, which begins in June.
Following the company’s move to scrap certain items from the range, conservative consumers hailed it as a victory and promised to return to shopping at Target again. However, some consumers said they were boycotting the company due to its U-turn. Social media has played a hugely significant role in the recent controversies surrounding boycotts, especially when it comes to brands involved in social or political issues.
Company boycotts have become increasingly frequent over the past few years. Most recently, the recent political situation in the US has led to a flurry of boycott campaigns. Conservative consumers are notably susceptible to calls for boycotts against brands they view as taking positions on issues that run contrary to their beliefs.
A 2019 survey showed that 33% of Americans had boycotted a product or brand in the past year whilst 45% of Republicans said they had boycotted a company that had taken a political stance, compared with just 10% of Democrats. Overall, this indicates that conservative consumers are far more sensitive to such issues, so companies must tread carefully to avoid alienating them.
Other brands have been hit with boycotts from conservative consumers. In 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods removed firearms entirely from sale after a mass shooting in Parkland. If the purpose of the move was to placate anti-gun lobbyists, it certainly didn’t work, with a number of prominent conservative figures calling for a boycott of the company. Chick-fil-A also felt the heat after CEO Dan Cathy contributed to charities supporting groups that are against same-sex marriage. During the controversy, hundreds of thousands of consumers pledged to boycott the fast-food chain.
However, unlike Target, some brands have stood their ground during boycott movements. Examples include Nike which used Colin Kaepernick as its brand ambassador despite calls for a boycott. Gillette also took a stand during the #MeToo movement and launched ads targeting ‘toxic masculinity’, which led to a boycott movement. Neither brand has suffered much in terms of sales despite some calls for a boycott.
Boycotts of companies like Target and other retail brands have occurred intermittently over the years due to various issues, such as immigrants’ rights and minimum wage. The current situation is unusual in that Target usually walks a fine line between liberal and conservative views.
The company has been appealing to both sides over the past few years, with moves such as its transgender bathroom policy gaining support from the LGBTQ community but making conservative consumers angry. The boycott against Target was initiated by conservative voices who felt the company’s PRIDE merch was not appropriate for children. Others question whether it was the right move for Target to get involved in political and social issues or whether it should have remained neutral.
In any case, Target has learned the hard way the importance of addressing the concerns of its consumers. In addition to the loss in market value, the boycott movement has led to anger and outrage being voiced on social media, a powerful tool in today’s landscape. The world of retail is increasingly politicized and Target’s recent issues represent just one tiny part of a larger trend.
Companies across the world are now expected to take a stance on issues such as climate change and social justice, with pressure coming from both employees and customers. With polarized views on both sides, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to walk a fine line between conservative and liberal values.
In conclusion, Target has seen its market value fall by $9B after a boycott due to its release of a ‘PRIDE’ collection. The company has already begun removing certain items from the range and has moved its merch from the front of stores to the back in certain southern areas following backlash. Conservative voices initiated the boycott and opinions remain highly polarized on the issue. This is just one example of how companies in today’s reality must grapple with social and political issues in the face of boycotts and ongoing tensions between groups holding differing views.
Companies must be careful to navigate these issues in a way that doesn’t alienate their consumers and employees. In recent years, brands like Nike and Gillette have taken a stand on contentious issues, to varying degrees of public backlash. Boycott movements have become commonplace and often occur due to political or social issues that consumers view as sensitive. In addition to the loss of market value, boycotts can cause significant reputation damage to companies.
Ultimately, the situation facing Target and other brands is one that all companies across different sectors are going to have to navigate in the years to come. The world of retail is becoming increasingly politicized and polarized between groups with opposing views. There is no easy solution to the problem, but companies must learn from examples like Target and ensure they approach sensitive issues in a way that is sensitive to their consumers and employees while not alienating groups with opposing views.