It’s been a tough six months for Target. The criticism for the brand came first from conservatives upset over parts of the brand’s Pride collection. Then came criticism from the left after Target seemingly gave into criticism and pulled some of those items from shelves.
Now we have a better idea of what happened in between.
“I’ve seen natural disasters,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said. “We’ve seen the impact of Covid leading into the pandemic. Some of the violence that took place after George Floyd’s murder. But I will tell you, Becky, what I saw back in May is the first time since I’ve been in this job where I had store team members saying, ‘It’s not safe to come to work,’” he said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Cornell said employees dealt with aggressive behavior from customers, including yelling, destruction of merchandise and even threats to light items on fire in the store.
“We had to prioritize the safety of our teams. And I knew personally this was not gonna be well received. But we had to prioritize the safety of the team,” Cornell said.
Why it matters
It appears Target was put in a no-win situation.
While the brand has long been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, the heightened political discourse, especially as it relates to trans people, has reached new levels. They became a flashpoint and the people most at risk were those working registers and stocking shelves.
But Cornell’s decision will have big implications for organizations as they move into the next Pride month and their overall approach to LGBTQ+ community relations. The right will feel emboldened by their success to make further demands while the community itself feels abandoned, that they were “rainbow-washed” when it was expedient and are now being left out to dry now that expressions of allyship are receiving more backlash from the right..
These decisions are hard. Some are no-win. Plan now for how you’ll approach next June — including a crisis plan.
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