Target profits slump after violent Pride backlash: ‘A signal for us to pause, adapt and learn’


US retail giant Target has reported a slump in profits after the violent backlash to its LGBTQ+ Pride display in May

Ahead of Pride month, Target released an LGBTQ+ themed collection which featured “tuck-friendly” swimming costumes, rainbow-themed accessories and slogan T-shirts created in collaboration with queer artists.

After the collection began appearing in stores, Target faced harassment from right-wing campaigners, with backlash including threats of physical violence. The retailer then made the decision to remove or hide some displays at the back of their stores for the “safety and wellbeing” of staff and customers. 

The decision to remove some merchandise came despite its overwhelming popularity, with LGBTQ+ creators and customers urging the retailer to bring back its Pride stock.

Now, reports say Target’s sales fell 5.4 per cent over the last three months, a higher decline than expected, The Guardian reported based on the company’s second-quarter earnings report. 

Target added it expects further declines for the rest of the year, and said it will re-evaluate how it celebrates Pride in the future. 

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On Wednesday (16 August), Target explained that its fall in profits – after seeing steep growth during the pandemic and reporting $30 billion growth since 2019 at the beginning of 2023 – was partly to do with the anti-LGBTQ+ backlash. 

Other reasons given for the slump were changes in customer spending in 2023, with Target’s CEO Brian Cornell explaining that people are looking to spend money on “experiential moments” and “time out of the house” as the world has opened up since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Target was the subject of numerous protests due to its LGBTQ+ Pride display (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Christina Hennington, Target’s chief growth officer, added: “The strong reaction to this year’s Pride assortment affected sales. The reaction is a signal for us to pause, adapt, and learn.”

Cornell explained Target will “continue to celebrate Pride”, but will re-evaluate its strategy based on an “ever-changing” social environment. 

“We’ll continue to celebrate Pride and other heritage moments, which are just one part of our commitment to support diverse teams and guests,” he said. 

“However, as we navigate an ever-changing operating and social environment, we’re applying what we’ve learned to ensure we’re staying close to our guests and their expectations of Target.”

Queer artists who collaborated with Target for its Pride collection hit back at the retailer’s response to anti-LGBTQ+ backlash, with one artist claiming Target “hasn’t tried to contact me once”. 

Erik C, who was commissioned to create some of the Pride items, claims he wasn’t informed that several of his designs would be pulled from shelves or moved to the back of stores.

“Every so often, one or two of my products would be taken down from the website, or the link to my brand page … with no explanation or communication,” he added.

Erik C claimed he was initially “incredibly excited” to showcase his designs, but his items were “review-bombed” by conservatives giving them one-star reviews.

“I think it was anticipated that there would be pushback, I don’t think anybody anticipated that it would be quite this extreme,” he said.

PinkNews has contacted Target for comment.