Conservatives Boycott: Target Faces $9 Billion Market Cap Drop Over ‘PRIDE’ Collection
Minneapolis-based retailer Target has faced a significant blow to its market value following widespread calls for a boycott of the company. The controversy erupted over Target’s introduction of the “PRIDE” collection, featuring LGBTQ-friendly clothing for children. Angry social media users expressed their discontent, leading to a staggering $9 billion drop in Target’s market capitalization within a week.
Prior to the controversy, Target’s stock closed at $160.96 a share, with a market capitalization of $74.3 billion. However, as of early trading on Thursday, the company’s shares were down 1% at $141.76, reducing its market value to $65.3 billion—a 12% decrease.
Target made the decision to remove certain items from its stores and implement other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide due to intense backlash and threats that impacted the safety and well-being of its employees. Confrontations, displays being toppled, and threatening videos posted on social media from inside the stores were reported.
Although Target CEO Brian Cornell initially defended the LGBTQ-friendly merchandise, stating it was the right thing for society, the company eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure. The retailer has not disclosed which specific items are being removed, but the “tuck-friendly” women’s swimsuits, catering to trans women (i.e. “men”) who have not undergone “gender-affirming” operations, drew significant attention. Additionally, designs by Abprallen, a London-based company known for its occult- and satanic-themed LGBTQ+ clothing and accessories, added to the backlash.
Pride month, held in June, serves as an occasion for companies to showcase their support for the LGBTQ+ community. However, in the current political climate, where transgender issues have become contentious, marketing campaigns related to Pride Month have faced increased complexity and opposition. Target’s repositioning of its Pride displays, moving them from the front of stores to the back, aimed to address concerns about employee safety but sparked further criticism.
Ohio Senator J.D. Vance said, “Target could have decided to stay out of the culture wars, instead it decided to wage war on a large share of its customer base,”
Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren drew parallels between Target’s situation and the backlash faced by Bud Light after its collaboration with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light experienced a decline in sales and calls for boycotts, with recent data showing a 25% drop compared to the previous year. Bud Light’s case illustrates the challenges that companies encounter when embracing liberal issues that clash with their conservative customer base.
American Conservative Values ETF (ACVF) has divested itself of Target, saying, “Target Corp.’s ever increasing pandering to the Woke LGBT agenda has backfired and its management team’s inept response to a crisis of their own making has significantly damaged their brand across the political spectrum. We believe their stocks’ long-term performance will suffer because of it. Their actions have also removed any doubt about the company’s hostility to conservative values.”
Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said, “If a company makes a conscious business decision to alienate a significant portion of its customer base, then it’s totally fair game for its customers to respond accordingly.”
The negative response towards Target and Bud Light may embolden critics and potentially hinder future inclusive initiatives by other companies. While many companies are moving forward with their Pride Month plans, the political climate and ongoing debates surrounding transgender rights pose risks and uncertainties for brands. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD is considering assembling a dedicated team to support brands in responding effectively to criticism.
Target’s significant market loss highlights the power of social media and the growing influence of consumers in shaping companies’ actions. In an era of polarized opinions, brands face challenging decisions in navigating political sensitivities while remaining committed to their core values and supporting marginalized communities.