business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a story about the number of "tense encounters" that have taken place at a South Florida Target store as the retailer is "engulfed in culture wars, as polarizing social issues spill into store aisles and shoppers become more emboldened to engage in confrontational, even threatening, behavior."

One example:

"At the Target in South Florida, shoppers have called employees 'child groomers,' a far-right slang term for pedophiles, and accused them of 'shoving your woke agenda down our throats,' according to the manager who spoke to the Washington Post.

"When he donned a bright safety vest over his company-issued Pride-themed T-shirt to help a customer carry goods to his car, the shopper looked at him and said, 'Oh, is that so I could shoot you easier?'"

Some context:

"Though Pride Month and other inclusivity initiatives have been around for years, they’ve increasingly become litmus tests for consumers, forcing companies to fully commit on social issues or yield to critics.

"Retailers such as Kohl’s, Walmart and PetSmart have also felt backlash from the far right for stocking items that extol equal rights and acceptance for gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.

"In Target’s case, though, it has pulled its Pride merchandise and promotional materials back from store windows in recent days after a string of threats and harassment against employees. The move then sparked multiple bomb threats, targeting stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah, from people claiming to be angry about the removal of merchandise."

The Post goes on:

"Some companies have moved forward with their plans for Pride Month despite the high-profile incidents. Nike, North Face and PetSmart have so far ignored the backlash targeted at them. Kohl’s and Walmart have also gotten heat from far right fringe activists, who have called for boycotts over the stores’ LGBTQ+ merchandise, but have not given in."

One other note of irony:

Newsweek has a story about how the hostile attitudes toward Target come "despite the company donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates during the 2022 midterm elections, according to OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks political donations."

Target, the story says, "supports federal candidates through the Target Corp PAC, which spent more than $424,000 on political donations last year.

Target's PAC donated a total of $249,900 to help Republicans get elected in 2022, according to OpenSecrets. Meanwhile, it only donated $174,500 to Democratic campaigns, meaning more than 58 percent of its donations went toward GOP members … Notably, the company generally backed more moderate, pro-business Republicans rather than the party's staunch social conservatives who have been more vocal about Target. Still, the company donated to several Republicans in battleground districts and states who helped deliver the GOP its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives."

KC's View:

I've made my opinions clear on this subject, so I'm not going to belabor my positions here.  I do, however, want to make two business points.

First, the Post story points out that while Target backed off some of its Pride month promotions, saying that it wanted to assure the safety of both its employees and other customers, the move also has had the effect of making staffers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community - or just people who are supportive of that community - feel like Target's commitment to its stated values of inclusion and diversity, and therefore to them, is squishy.  That's not a good luck.

Second, that customer who made the comment about a safety vest making it easier to shoot the Target employee?  He should've been arrested and prosecuted for making threats.  That kind of behavior shouldn't be tolerated, and Target should have made him or her an example.  People have a right to boycott and protest, but they don't have to right to make threats.