Blaming Pride backlash, Target reports drop in sales

Pride merchandise on display at a Target store in Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.
Pride merchandise on display at a Target store in Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.
Duncan Osborne

When Target came out with its annual Pride collection in June, there was an exorbitant amount of pushback from anti-LGBTQ forces. Now, the retail giant is reporting a decline in sales for the first time in six years — and while inflation played a role in that, CEO Brian Cornell is also citing the negative response to the Pride display.

“At the heart of our purpose is our commitment to bring joy to all the families we serve — and that really is all families — so we want to make sure Target’s that happy place for all of our guests,” Cornell said during an earnings call, according to CNBC. “A place where they can recharge and enjoy those shopping experiences and you should expect to see us continue to do that over the years to come.”

Comparable sales were down 5.4% in the second quarter, and Target’s total revenue was down 4.9% from last year’s sales. 

The Pride collection was met with backlash from certain unhappy customers, which resulted in threats against workers in the store. Employee safety was a concern, as alarming videos were posted on social media at the time, and more displays were being tipped over while employees were harassed. This led to the removal of some parts of the collection, particularly those which caused the most backlash, such as the “tuck friendly” women’s swimsuits.

Though he expressed no regrets in continuing to have the display, Cornell said Target would consider timing, presentation, and its relationship with external partners and brands ‘s when assembling its collections.

Though Target has maintained a Pride display for over a decade, the backlash has never been this severe, clearly reflecting the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and laws of the moment. Target, after all, was not the only company to take such eat. Bud Light, for example, experienced pushback after partnering with Dylan Mulvaney, while Disney has clashed with Governor Ron DeSantis.