Target appears to be extending an olive branch to the gay community with a new line of products set to launch later this month.
Pride month merchandise including beach towels, water bottles and a Harajuku Mini T-shirt, designed by singer Gwen Stefani, featuring the phrase “Love is Love” will be available on target.com beginning May 20. Target says 100 percent of the purchase price will be donated to a national LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organization.
It's a bold move for a retailer still carefully trying to repair relations with the gay community without alienating consumers on the other end of the political spectrum.
In 2010, Minneapolis-based Target angered gay rights supporters with a controversial political donation to MN Forward, a political group that produced ads for former Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage. Last spring, the retailer sued a gay marriage group that had been picketing outside a California store. The moves caused gay rights supporters to boycott Target.
In contrast, Target has continued to be a major sponsor for the Twin Cities Pride festivities in Minneapolis and scores high on the Human Rights Campaign's corporate equality index, which rates businesses on workplace policies for gay employees.
In a written statement to The Oklahoman, Target said the new line was created after receiving requests from employees and shoppers in the last year for an assortment of pride merchandise.
“Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business and has a long history of supporting the LGBT community through giving, volunteerism and event sponsorship and participation,” Target said.
How will strategy
affect Target's image?
Retail analyst Britt Beemer said Target's strategy isn't very smart, especially in a conservative, Republican state such as Oklahoma.
“Anytime a retailer gets away from doing what they should be doing by being involved in a social cause, you always lose in that environment,” he said. “It could be a big mistake, especially in southern markets.”
But Josh Sauer and Matt Harney, members of OKC Pride's board of directors, say Target's move is a step in the right direction, though they haven't yet seen the merchandise.
Harney added that the phrase is a clear indication of how the retailer stands and is the same message OKC Pride uses.
Many consumers use the Human Rights Campaign's corporate equality index to decide where to spend dollars, Sauer and Harney said. Target is one of the highest rated retailers with a score of 85 out of 100. Harney said the buying power of gays and lesbians is typically higher than average consumers because they are less likely to have children, so they have more expendable income, and retailers are recognizing that.
“We've come a long way. Opinions are changing and if companies aren't on board, they're going to be left behind,” Sauer said.
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