Target’s Profit Goals Revised as Culture Wars Sting

target s profit goals revised as culture wars sting.jpg Business

Target, the retail giant, has experienced a significant decline in sales due to the backlash over its marketing efforts surrounding hot-button social issues. The company faced criticism for its store displays of merchandise for Pride Month, which included gender-neutral swimsuits, leading to calls for boycotts from both sides of the issue. As a result, Target’s sales sharply declined in the most recent quarter, and the company expects another decline in the current quarter. However, despite the negative impact on sales, Target’s quarterly earnings were better than expected, causing a 3% rise in shares. The company’s CEO, Brian Cornell, stated that Target will continue to be a destination for all shoppers and will make adjustments to its marketing strategies in response to the backlash. On the other hand, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer of Bud Light, also faced a similar situation and saw a decline in sales after a social-media promotion with a transgender influencer. The incident, along with the company’s response, led to Bud Light being dethroned as the top-selling beer in America by Mexican import brand Modelo Especial. Both Target and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s experiences highlight the cost of getting caught in the middle of divisive social issues in a politically divided U.S.

Target and Anheuser-Busch InBev Grapple with Backlash Over Marketing Efforts

Both Target and Anheuser-Busch InBev have experienced a decline in sales due to marketing efforts that backfired and sparked controversy. Anheuser-Busch InBev faced criticism for a social-media promotion featuring a transgender influencer, while Target received backlash for its store displays of merchandise for Pride Month, including gender-neutral swimsuits. The response from both companies angered supporters of the LGBTQ community, leading to calls for boycotts.

Target attributed its sharp decline in sales during the most recent quarter to shopper backlash over its Pride Month collection, as well as cautious consumers. The retailer expects sales to decline further in the current quarter and has lowered its profit goal for the year. However, shares rose 3% on Wednesday as the quarterly earnings exceeded Wall Street’s expectations.

Brian Cornell, Target’s CEO, acknowledged the challenges of operating in a constantly changing social environment and emphasized the company’s commitment to being a "happy place" for all shoppers. He stated that Target would continue to mark Pride Month next year but with a more focused assortment of merchandise.

TJX, the retail rival that owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, reported a 6% increase in comparable sales in the same quarter. The company experienced strong foot traffic and high demand for apparel and home goods, leading to an increase in sales growth and profit targets for the year.

The backlash surrounding Target’s Pride collection coincided with weak demand for the retailer. Target had already seen sales slow down as consumers shifted their spending away from pandemic-era favorites and faced rising food prices due to inflation. This poses a challenge for Target, as discretionary categories account for a significant portion of its annual sales.

Both Target and Anheuser-Busch InBev have learned from their experiences and plan to approach future marketing efforts differently. Target will adjust its store displays, reconsider the mix of brands it sells, and have a more focused assortment for its Pride and other heritage month collections. Anheuser-Busch InBev aims to win back drinkers by avoiding controversial topics and focusing on beer as a source of relaxation.

Overall, these incidents highlight the risks that businesses face when getting caught in the middle of hot-button social issues. Companies must carefully navigate the social and political landscape to avoid alienating customers and damaging their bottom line.


  1. Marketing efforts that backfire can lead to a decline in sales and calls for boycotts.
  2. Target experienced a decline in sales due to backlash over its Pride Month collection and cautious consumers.
  3. TJX, Target’s retail rival, reported an increase in comparable sales and raised its sales growth and profit targets for the year.
  4. Weak demand for discretionary items and rising food prices pose challenges for Target.
  5. Both Target and Anheuser-Busch InBev plan to approach future marketing efforts differently to avoid controversy and win back customers.
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