The Washington Post reports that Target is being sued over losses that the plaintiffs say are related to its Pride Month promotions and resulting boycotts.
Here's how the Post frames the story:
"A conservative legal group led by a former adviser to Donald Trump is suing Target over shareholder losses in the wake of boycotts of its Pride Month displays.
"The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by former Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller’s America First Legal, argues that Target misled investors when it said it was monitoring risks related to its diversity, equity and inclusion policies. The retailer’s stock price has fallen almost 20 percent since mid-May, when it was met with protests, bomb scares, in-store threats from customers and a stock-market rout after an online mob seized on long-held Pride displays … The lawsuit argues that the retailer’s sudden loss in market capitalization is a 'direct and predictable result of management’s calculated decisions to promote sexualized material to children,' referring to family-themed LGBTQ Pride items."
The Post writes that the plaintiffs "may have a hard time proving that Target’s investor losses were actually caused by Pride backlash, experts say.
"Target’s stock price was on the decline long before it was sucked into a culture war, and its most recent financial results left investors unnerved by its flat sales and the fact that much of its goods are discretionary, says Neil Saunders, managing director for retail at GlobalData.
"'It is extremely hard to quantify exactly what role the Pride Month backlash had on the stock price,' Saunders said. 'However, given that there is no data to suggest it had a tangible impact on Target’s sales, it seems highly unlikely that it was the primary cause, or even a major cause, of the decline'."
- KC's View:
So let me get this straight. (No pun intended.)
Conservative groups target Target over Pride Month promotions similar to those that the retailer had featured for years during Pride Month. Publicity generated by their complaints result in calls for boycotts against Target, which may have impacted sales and its stock price. And now, a conservative legal group is suing Target for not having factored into its economic planning boycotts that it did not foresee (because they had not happened before), and that were actually promoted by their ideological brethren.
Do I have that right? (Pun intended.)
This is just another front in the same culture war - first you go after them in the media, then you go after them at the checkout line, and finally you go after them in the courts for not having anticipated attacks in the media and at the checkout line.
I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea how Target can best defend itself against this stuff. But as a pundit/civilian, I do believe that Target's biggest mistake may have been blinking when the first objections were raised. Instead of moving the displays and promotions, Target should've stood its ground and made the point that LGBTQ+ people are customers, too, and that its Pride Month efforts were part of an inclusive approach to marketing.
DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion, and reflects a belief that in the long run, businesses are stronger if their employee base reflects the customer base. It makes sense for the people in the room where it happens to not all look alike, think alike, and see things in the same way, because not all customers look alike, think alike, and see things in the same way. This is particularly important at a time when the country is becoming more diverse, and minority populations are becoming larger and stronger, with greater cultural impact and economic strength.
Target is a mass marketer. Which means it has to target a mass customer base. That means everybody, or at least as many people as possible, but in a way that seems targeted and appreciative of their individual needs and wants.
Is that more complicated these days than in the past? Sure. Is it harder to understand and execute than it used to be? Absolutely. But sometimes we have to put aside the biases of the past and the epistemic closure of conventional thinking. It is hard to let go of ideology, but I've always believed what the great Pete Hamill once said about ideology - that it is a lousy substitute for thought.
Is it possible that Target actually is doing the responsible thing by reaching out to different communities with its marketing and merchandising? Perhaps, in the end, that ought to be its best defense.