June 09, 2016
Target's slogan is "Expect more." And when it comes to safety, customers do. That's why Americans are so upset with the company's outrageous April policy that threw open the changing room and bathroom doors to anyone of either sex. Almost immediately, angry calls started streaming in to stores, eventually ballooning into a nationwide protest of more than 1.3 million people. If other CEOs were considering similar changes, they saw the heat Target was taking and backed off.
Now, almost two months into their transgender free-for-all, the outcry shows no signs of dying down. At yesterday's Target shareholders meeting in Costa Mesa, protestors filled the streets outside with signs to boycott the store. "We're not afraid of transgender people," one of the demonstrators explained. "I've got nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and I'm worried that perverts will pretend to be women so they can get into women's restrooms." With its profits in the gender-free toilet, Target CEO Brian Cornell was on the hot seat with investors for the decision, which analysts say has cost the retailer more than $4.5 billion -- and counting.
Worried about crashing stocks, Cornell was pressed about the negative fallout from the unpopular policy. He insisted (with a straight face) that there was none. "Zero correlation, zero effect," he declared. That's a convenient response, but not a truthful one. As everyone on Wall Street knows, Target's stocks have taken a nearly 20-percent nosedive since April 19, when the change was announced. If there was zero correlation, why are Walmart and online retailers holding steady? Clearly, the boycott -- the most successful in American Family Association's history -- is having an enormous impact on Target's bottom line. But, much like Starbucks's CEO, who doggedly stuck by his company's anti-marriage campaign, Cornell made it known that he didn't care what consumers' think.
Abraham Hamilton III was at the meeting representing AFA and said he was blown away by Target's indifference. "It's amazing. The response really was, 'We don't care what you have to say. We don't care what the American Family Association represents. We don't care what those people who signed your petition represent. We are committed to the complete overhaul of American society as it pertains to sex.' That literally is their response."
That impression was shared by Justin Danhof of the Free Enterprise Project, who asked Cornell if he regretted implementing the policy. Instead of answering, the executive reiterated that he wanted Target to be "a place that is welcoming, comfortable, and safe" -- something their policy makes an impossibility for the majority of shoppers put at risk. Regardless, Danhof got the impression, "If you are one of the millions of Americans who think that this policy is offensive, Target doesn't want you as a custumer, they don't want you as an investor, they don't want anything to do with you. That's how I felt leaving this meeting, and I don't know if I've ever felt that leaving a shareholder meeting."
Fortunately for families, AFA isn't easily deterred. According to Tim Wildmon, the group's efforts are only "ramping up." With Father's Day, back-to-school drives, and other events around the corner, Americans will be glad to know that AFA plans to "increase and expand our boycott effort." "... Target has put us in an unenviable position by saying, 'We don't care what you think' -- so we're going to have to make them care what we think." So far so good with profits. If "inclusivity" is truly a "core belief" at Target, then it's time Cornell proved it by considering the concerns of a majority of shoppers. Those concerns are certainly valid ones, based on FRC's research. Check out our new Issue Brief, "Bathroom Bills and Pandora's Box" for a list of publicly reported incidents created by policies like Target's.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.