- Prior to the controversy surrounding the store’s Pride Collection, Target shares were trading at $160.96, giving the retailer a market valuation of $74.3 billion
- By the time The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) closed on Friday, however, the blue-chip stock was trading at $138.93, marking a loss of more than $10.1billion
- The sum marks the superstore’s lowest market value in a year. Ted Cruz on Friday decried the company for ‘disrespecting their customers’ with the new campaign
PUBLISHED: 09:12 EDT, 28 May 2023 | UPDATED: 14:27 EDT, 28 May 2023
Target has lost more than $10billion in market capitalization in the span of 10 days – as it continues to face backlash for Pride-themed merchandise.
Prior to the controversy – which stems over a LGBTQ-geared clothing campaign that touts ‘tuck-friendly’ bathing suits and pro-trans T-shirts for kids – Target shares were trading at $160.96, giving the retailer a market valuation of roughly $74.3billion.
By the time The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) closed Friday, the blue-chip stock was trading at $138.93 – marking a market valuation of 64,2billion, and loss of $10.1billion.
The sum, moreover, stands as the superstore’s lowest market value in an entire year – all achieved in a matter of days as customers swear off its products in response.
As this consumer-led retaliation continues to be felt, Texas Senator Ted Cruz devoted an entire episode of weekly podcast Friday to the backlash, classifying the burgeoning boycott as one difficult to achieve, but on that’s ultimately warranted.
Likening the task to conservative pushback against DeSantis opponent Disney, the 52-year-old politician said the response currently being seen against the Minneapolis-based megastore is warranted, claiming Target ‘disrespected’ their customers with the recent rollout. However, the senator said a successful boycott would be a lofty task, saying it would be tougher for conservatives to stop giving their hard-earned cash to a department store like Target rather than a beermaker like Bud Light.
‘Conservatives have typically been not very good at boycotts,’ Cruz explained on his Verdict podcast Friday, commenting the recent controversy is indicative of how ‘big companies don’t understand their customers and don’t respect their customers.’
‘You can be annoyed at Disney, but if your kids really want to go to Disney World, that can be hard to say no to. There’re not a lot of alternatives. There’s Six Flags, but Disney World is a pretty unique offering.
‘I mean, look, there’s only one Snow White or Cinderella, or Toy Story from Pixar. That is a difficult product for many people to give up permanently,’ Cruz said on his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz.
In contrast, the senator said, a boycott over something as nondescript as Bud Light is much easier to achieve, hence its success into getting brass at the Belgium-based brewer to bend to consumers’ whims.
‘What really came to bite Bud Light is that wasn’t a hard boycott,’ the politico said of the domestic beer’s inherent average-ness.
‘It’s difficult for nobody on planet Earth if you were going to order a Bud Light to say, “I’ll have a Coors Light.” That’s a very simple substitution.’
As for Target, Cruz conceded: ‘We’ll see how prolonged and easy a substitution it is.’
‘There’s Walmart. You know, there are alternatives,’ he added. ‘I will say Targets are located in a lot of areas and very convenient for a lot of shoppers. So we’ll see if this becomes a persistent consequence or not.’
Cruz’s comments come as an increasing amount of moderate-minded shoppers have taken issue with Target’s new ‘Pride Collection’, particularly with items in its children’s section.
Outraged over LGBTQ-friendly slogans such as ‘Trans People Will Always Exist!’, ‘gay’, and ‘Live Laugh Lesbian’, they have accused the retailer of grooming – as several staffers in more rural areas such as the South have reportedly sought to hide and tone down these new sections in apparent shame.
Staffers at Target HQ reportedly held an ’emergency’ meeting last week to avoid what a Target insider told Fox brass had colloquially labeled a ‘Bud Light situation.’
An insider divulged the company made the emergency decision at the last minute, in direct response to threats staff had received in recent weeks over the new displays.
In a statement last week, Target – led by CEO Brian Cornell – announced the company had pulled some items it had received complains about, specifying that have ‘been at the center of the most confrontational behavior.’
‘Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,’ the firm said in its statement.
‘Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.’
The company did not specify which items had been taken off-shelves. As of Sunday, many of the swimsuits, onesies and t-shirts that sparked outrage remain available online.
Target CEO letter to employees defending decision to pull Pride Collection items
I want to end the day where Briefly started: on a note of care. This has been a very hard day for Target, and it follows many difficult days of deliberation and decision-making.
To our team in Stores: thank you for steadfastly representing our values. No one is better at working through uncomfortable situations in service to an inclusive guest experience.
What you’ve seen in recent days went well beyond discomfort, and it has been gut-wrenching to see what you’ve confronted in our aisles.
To our team in the service centers, thank you for your patience and professionalism through high volumes of angry, abusive and threatening calls. I recognize how difficult and even frightening those interactions can be, and thank you for the composure with which you’ve fielded those comments.
To the teams who have been working so hard on our plans for Pride – and now are showing incredible agility as we adjust – thank you. Your efforts will ensure we can still show up and celebrate Pride in meaningful ways.
To the LGBTQIA+ community, one of the hardest parts in all of this was trying to contemplate how the adjustments we’re making to alleviate these threats to our team’s physical and psychological safety would impact you and your wellbeing and psychological safety. We stand with you now and will continue to do so – not just during Pride Month, but each and every day.
Those were the two guiding principles when it came time for us to act: do all we can to keep our team safe, and do all we can to honor our commitment and connection to the LGBTQIA+ community.
From a host of difficult alternatives, we have sincerely sought the best path forward, finding ways to recognize Pride Month, while making adjustments to prioritize safety. As always, we’re stronger together, and I want you to know that I’m committed to doing all I can, and all we can as a company, to support a culture across the country of care, empathy, equity and simple civility, in hopes that we’ll not have to face these kinds of agonizing decisions in the future.
Thank you for the care you’ve shown each other, our frontline teams and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Target has supported Pride – celebrated throughout the month of June – every year since 2013, with this year’s collection only the latest to prove polarizing.
In 2014, Target publicly endorsed marriage equality, and the following year announced it was ending their policy of dividing certain products, like toys, by gender.
Target also introduced a gender neutral line for children, and in April 2016 – amid a nationwide discussion about bathroom access – announced that transgender people were free to use whichever bathroom they chose.
A backlash ensued, and Target in August 2016 spent $20 million to add a private bathroom to each of its stores.
Both flubs took place under Cornell’s watch.
Despite that, last week, after calling the harassment Target employees have faced ‘gut wrenching, the CEO told Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast he believed the campaign would pay off in the long run.
‘I think those are just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand,’ Cornell said.
‘The things we’ve done from a DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) standpoint, it’s adding value.
‘It’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests, and those are just the right things for our business today.’
In an email sent to his own staffers obtained by Insider, however, the exec defended his decision to pull LGBTQ merchandise from some Southern stores days before Pride month of June, while slamming consumers who were making ‘threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing.’
‘This has been a very hard day for Target, and it follows many difficult days of deliberation and decision-making,’ Cornell wrote to staff on Wednesday, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the outlet.
‘To the teams who have been working so hard on our plans for Pride – and now are showing incredible agility as we adjust – thank you,’ Cornell wrote. ‘Your efforts will ensure we can still show up and celebrate Pride in meaningful ways.’
He continued, ‘To the LGBTQIA+ community, one of the hardest parts in all of this was trying to contemplate how the adjustments we’re making to alleviate these threats to our team’s physical and psychological safety would impact you and your wellbeing and psychological safety.
‘We stand with you now and will continue to do so – not just during Pride Month, but each and every day.’
The Target boss went on to defend the company’s response to the ongoing situation, insisting that ‘from a host of difficult alternatives, we have sincerely sought the best path forward, finding ways to recognize Pride Month, while making adjustments to prioritize safety.
‘As always, we’re stronger together, and I want you to know that I’m committed to doing all I can, and all we can as a company, to support a culture across the country of care, empathy, equity and simple civility,’ Cornell said.
As the full financial fallout over the Pride Collection remains to be seen, there is also growing outrage over Target’s partnership with a British transgender man whose brand Abprallen encourages Satanism – sold at the store’s nearly 2,000 locations.
Target is selling two of the brand’s items – a $25 slogan sweater with the words ‘cure transphobia not trans people’ wrapped around a sword, an $18 ‘too queer for here’ tote bag, and a ‘we belong everywhere’ fanny pack that now appears to be sold out.
Designer Eric Cullen – a transgender man – proudly shared photos of the collaboration on Instagram.
‘These have already got the transphobes infuriated with me and I feel like quite the celebrity to think that they believe this is all some big conspiracy and I have any power to brainwash anyone when I’m just some guy drawing pictures!’ he said.
A closer look at his other work reveals some more sinister material.
Badges with slogans like ‘Satan Respects Pronouns’, ‘Young, Queer and Willing’ and a lighter pin with the words ‘burn down the cis-tem’ are among other products.
He also models the ‘Satan respects pronouns’ t-shirt on an Instagram page while wearing BDSM-style horns and no pants.
In a bio on the brand’s website, he says he has always been fascinated with the ‘frightening and mystical’.
‘I juxtapose it with imagery of skulls and spooky things – an interest of mine since I was a child. There’s something magical about the unknown, the frightening, and the mystical which is why I so frequently feature these themes in my art,’ he says.