Target’s decision to move some of its LGBT pride apparel in some of its locations made national headlines, and it may have lost control of its own narrative in the process, a top consumer researcher says.
David Evans is the chief insights officer for Collage Group, a consumer research firm that helps major US brands like Target reach and cultivate relationships with groups that may have been ignored or passed over in prior times. He said most Americans, particularly younger ones, want to see companies “represent people in diverse ways.”
Evans said Target had a long history of connecting with the LGBT community, but in the time period since it came to light that it was moving some of its Pride displays due to what it claimed were “threats” against some staffers, it’s faced heat from both ends of the political spectrum. Some on the right were irked by Target touting the displays in the first place and promoting apparel like “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for trans women, while progressives feel betrayed by what they call a capitulation to right-wingers.
“They earned a lot of resonance with this community from allies … But they probably did lose control of the narrative a little bit, because what ended up happening was the press is all about ‘Target pulls the merchandise,’ as opposed to Target employees are being threatened by, in fact, a very, very small group of people who represent a very small minority of anti-LGBT sentiment,” he told Fox News Digital.
“So to some extent, they have to weigh against how do you handle the issue of real potential employee safety issues against losing so much earned trust with this community and the supporters of this community, which are very broad now and across political lines? So that’s a challenge.”
Evans said the majority of consumers aren’t into “shaming culture,” noting brands can’t be driven by activist minorities on either side of the aisle.
Katya Skogen, the director of cultural insights for Collage Group, said Target could still come back from the saga.
“They have seemingly lost control of the narrative,” she said. “They may be doing the right thing to protect who they have on the floor … That’s important to protect people and assets. But the way the conversation is happening right now is definitely not in their favor.”
They stipulated that it’s still in the early days of the story and it’s too soon to tell whether Target has done any significant damage to its relationship with the LGBT community.
Since the backlash, Target’s market value has fallen over $12 billion to $61.77 billion as of Tuesday’s closing price. Mid-month the market value was over $74 billion.
Headlines about Target continue to come out each day since the news about the meeting first broke last week. A transgender designer whose products were pulled from Target stores told Reuters the customer backlash highlighted issues with “rainbow capitalism.”
“It’s a very dangerous precedent to set, that if people just get riled up enough about the products that you’re selling, you can completely distance yourself from the LGBT community, when and if it’s convenient,” Erik Carnell told the outlet.
After Fox News Digital reported Target had held an “emergency” meeting and moved some of its pride paraphernalia to avoid what one insider called a “Bud Light” situation, some progressive and LGBT groups were angry.
Dr. David J. Johns of the National Black Justice Coalition, which describes itself as the nation’s foremost black LGBT civil rights organization, said it was “beyond disappointing” in a statement and the company’s celebration of pride next month would be a fraud.
“It is beyond disappointing that Target is caving to violent political extremists and betraying its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community by removing and relocating items in its Pride Collection from some of its stores,” Johns said in a statement sent to Fox News Digital last week.
“Anti-LGBTQ violence and hate should not be winning in America, but it will continue to until corporate leaders step up as heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers and do not cave to fringe activists calling for censorship,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “The fact that a small group of extremists are threatening disgusting and harsh violence in response to Target continuing its long-standing tradition of offering products for everyone should be a wake-up call for consumers and is a reminder that LGBTQ people, venues, and events are being attacked with threats and violence like never before.”
Evans said companies that don’t take seriously the increasing diversity of the country are missing out on a huge market share.
“If you’re a brand, you’re going to be toast in 10 years, if you don’t know how to connect to people that historically you may not have really had to,” he said.
Target didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Fox Business’ Suzanne O’Halloran contributed to this report.