After a right-wing backlash, Target pulls back Pride merchandise

Aaron M. Speaker/ AP

Target limits the number of stores that sell Pride month products this year.

New York

Limits the number of stores in which Target sells LGBTQ-themed merchandise for Pride Month It took a hit in June following a boycott by right-wing activists last year Bottom line of the brand.

This year, the target said It will sell pride-oriented “adult apparel” and home goods only “in select stores, based on historical sales performance” — a drastic reversal from the chain, which has sold products in many of its U.S. stores for the past decade.

Half of its 2,000 stores will sell the Pride collection, According to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. Assortment will also be sold at Target website.

A Target spokesperson said in a statement to CNN that it is “committed to supporting” the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, with internal programs and a presence at local Pride events, including in its hometown of Minneapolis.

“Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members that reflects our culture of care for the more than 400,000 people who work at Target,” the company said in a statement.

The changes are a “sensible approach,” Global Data’s managing director of retail, Neil Sanders, told CNN. But he warned “it risks being accused of not being proud of the target.”

“Unfortunately for Target, it’s been dragged into the culture wars and is in a position where it can’t win no matter what it does,” he said.

The Human Rights Campaign pushed back, with Pride issuing a statement that selling merchandise “means something,” and with the LGBTQ community making up 30% of Generation Z, HRC said, “Companies need to understand that community members and allies want businesses to show wholehearted support for the community.”

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“Target’s decision is disappointing and puts LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at risk not only for their bottom line, but also for their values,” said HRC President Kelly Robinson.

Last year, Target pulled Pride merchandise from some stores after the company and its employees became the focus of a “volatile” anti-LGBTQ campaign that included threats against its store employees.

The company said earlier Wall Street Journal People confronted workers in stores, tore down displays of Pride products and posted threatening posts on social media with video from inside the stores. Some have thrown Pride items on the floor.

Mainstream right-wing activists, Republican political leaders and conservative media outlets have focused their attention on the women’s swimsuit, which has been described as “duck friendly” for its ability to cover male genitalia. Misinformation spread on social media that it was being marketed to children.

That, along with softer demand for specialty items, caused Target’s quarterly sales to fall for the first time in six years in the quarter that included Pride Assortment sales.

A Target executive said on the earnings call that there was a “strong reaction” to Pride merchandise and “a signal for us to pause, adapt and learn.”

—CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to this report.

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