Target Sales Sink After Pride Backlash

Sales sank for the first time in six years.
SPRINGFIELD, VA - AUGUST 14: Customers leave Target August 14, 2003 in Springfield, Virgina. Target Corp. reported a four percent increase in second-quarter profits. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Target’s sales have declined after backlash to its Pride Month collection earlier this year, the company announced Wednesday.

Target’s quarterly sales sank for the first time in six years, falling 5.4% in the second quarter, which ended July 29, compared to the same period last year, the company said in its second quarter earnings report.

Online sales fell nearly twice as much, 10.5%, Target said. The company also said that the number of transactions and the average dollar amount of a transaction fell this past quarter. Target’s total revenue of $24.8 billion was 4.9 percent lower than last year, Target said.

The Minneapolis-based retail behemoth said that because of “recent sales trends” it has lowered its overall sales and profit expectations for the whole year.

Back in May, Target faced backlash over its “Pride” collection, which included a kids swimsuit with a tag reading “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions.”

Target also featured LGBT-themed books aimed at young children, such as “The Pronoun Book” and “Bye Bye Binary,” a story about a “joyful baby” who “refuses to conform to the gender binary and instead chooses toys, colors, and clothes that make them happy.”

Target also featured an adult “Pride” collection, which included “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for men who identify as women to tuck their genitals, a t-shirt with the words “Queer Queer Queer Queer,” and a hoodie reading “Not A Phase.”

The “Pride” merchandise quickly sparked calls for a boycott of Target on social media.

Eventually, Target said it would pull some of its “Pride” merchandise over backlash that was threatening employees’ safety. The company also moved the “Pride” displays to the back of some of its stores.

“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,” Target spokeswoman Kayla Castañeda said in late May.

Adding to the company’s troubles was the discovery that the designer of some of its “Pride” collection items has also apparently created products with Satanic imagery.

The company’s stock price fell nearly 20% after the calls for a boycott and has not recovered.

Sales were impacted by the “strong reaction to this year’s Pride assortment,” Target’s chief growth officer Christina Hennington said Wednesday.

“The reaction is a signal for us to pause, adapt and learn,” Hennington said.


Next year, Target plans to make some changes to its “Pride” collection, which could include changing the timing of the products, the placement in stores, and which brands are for sale.

Despite the dismal sales numbers, Target’s latest earnings report showed the company saw higher profit margins than expected since it offered fewer discounts and reduced inventory costs.

Other companies also experienced backlash to their “Pride” merchandise this summer.

Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch has lost about $395 million in U.S. sales after a boycott over the company’s partnership with trans-identifying influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light was also bumped out of its spot as the nation’s top-selling beer by Modelo.

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