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Target to Carry Pride-Themed Merchandise, but Only in ‘Select’ Stores

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Seeking a middle ground on support for LGBTQ+ causes as Pride Month approaches, Target will offer Pride-themed adult apparel and home goods in “select stores, based on historical performance,” with the full collection available online. The retailer was embroiled in controversy last year when it pulled Pride-themed products from shelves after threats, protests and vandalism in some stores.

After the 2023 controversy, Target CEO Brian Cornell addressed the retailer’s decision, saying that “negative guest reaction” was a factor and that “the safety of our team and our guests is our top priority.” He also discussed the company’s long-term support for LGBTQ+ causes.

In comments provided to Retail TouchPoints, Target did not specify how many of the retailer’s brick-and-mortar stores would be carrying Pride merchandise this year, although reporting by Bloomberg indicated that about half would do so.

The statement also reiterated Target’s overall support for LGBTQ+ equality and outlined several support mechanisms in place this year, including:

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  • Internal events hosted by Target’s Pride+ Business Council;
  • Joining local Pride events in its home town of Minneapolis and around the country; and
  • Spotlighting LGBTQ+-owned brands online.

In a statement reported by Erie Gay News, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Kelley Robinson expressed disappointment with Target’s decision: “Pride merchandise means something,” she said. “LGBTQ+ people are in every zip code in this country, and we aren’t going anywhere. 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.”

Queer ex-retail executive Jim Fielding expressed disappointment with Target for “kowtowing to the few loud far-right voices in the room” in a March 2024 interview with Retail TouchPoints. In a current interview, Fielding said he is taking a wait-and-see approach: “I plan to ‘trust and verify.’ It is normal for retailers to create store groups based on historical performance, that is standard practice. I am curious, however, if the regional or political issues played into the distribution planning. I look forward to watching the performance this year and watching any issues that arise and how Target handles them. I truly hope it is a seamless, joyful and authentic celebration of our community.”

Target is not the only retailer dealing with this controversy. Earlier this month, Best Buy’s commitment to LGBTQ+ causes was questioned by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli after SEC documents revealed that the retailer offered to “screen” donations from employee groups directed to organizations such as GLAAD, GLSEN and the Trevor Project.

Ironically, in January 2021, the Human Right Campaign identified both Best Buy and Target (along with 49 other retailers) as among the best places to work in terms of LGBTQ equality.

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