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Target’s losses from anti-LGBT boycott ‘too insignificant to report’

Nick Duffy April 6, 2017

Target’s losses from an anti-LGBT boycott against the brand were apparently too insignificant to report to investors, despite the chain’s financial woes.

More than a million people joined an online ‘boycott’ of the superstore in 2016 led by the extreme anti-LGBT American Family Association after Target confirmed that transgender people would not be discriminated against by store policies.

Target had confirmed online that it “welcomes transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity”.

The action led to a string of homophobic and transphobic incidents in Target stores – included a woman who waved a Bible while warning customers “the devil will rape your children”, a man screaming about against homosexual “abominations”, and an incident that sparked an ‘active shooter’ lockdown.

But one thing the protests might not have impacted is the superstore’s bottom line.

Though its sales have been on the slide in recent years thanks to competition from Amazon and other shopping giants, insiders within the company have pretty much dismissed the potential impact of the boycott as a source of its financial woes.

According to an insider piece in the Wall Street Journal, execs at the company continue to insist that “any lost sales from the boycott weren’t significant enough to require reporting to investors”, despite a decline in shoppers in some markets, particularly Southern states.

The article reports that consumer research indicates Target’s shoppers are largely liberal or moderate on social issues; and that many of those who supported the online boycott petition still shop there.

One initial boycotter, Mari Arnett, explained: “I tried not to go there, but it’s hard when you like the store. I just don’t care too much for Wal-Mart.”

The WSJ piece also reveals there was a sense of confusion at the top of the organisation over the boycott, which arose over standard LGBT policies in place at most major retailers. Target’s policies had been in place for a number of years.

Sources told the outlet that execs were “perplexed that they were pilloried for a policy common to retailers”. CEO Brian Cornell resisted pressure to change course despite the flood of negative publicity, though he reportedly “felt very stuck” and lamented the decision to publish details of the policy online.

The chain has since amended guidelines to ensure that “public pronouncements on hot-button issues” require the CEO’s consent.

The American Family Association claimed the report as a ‘victory’.

AFA President Tim Wildmon wrote: “Since the boycott started, Target’s stock has lost 35% of its value, and shuttered plans for major expansion projects.

“Together we are making an unprecedented financial impact on a corporation whose policy is to allow men to use women’s restrooms and dressing rooms.

“Target’s decision is unacceptable for families, and their dangerous and misguided policy continues to put women and children in harm’s way.”

He added: “It is urgent the Target boycott reach 1.5 million signers by the end of April. At that point, I will personally return to Minneapolis with an additional 500,000 names.

“I will then discuss how Target can invite 1.5 million AFA supporters back to their stores by having a common sense bathroom and dressing room policy that links use of these rooms to a person’s biological sex.”

Target continues to insist it wants to “make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed”, but acknowledges: “We know our guests have many different points of view on this topic and we respect that.”

Related: Target invests $20 million to introduce single-stall bathrooms at all sites

More: business, LGBT, shareholder, shop, store, target, Trans, Transgender, US, video

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