Target reports sluggish sales following restroom controversy

Business | Retailer claims pro-transgender policy has nothing to do with keeping customers away
by Evan Wilt
Posted 8/18/16, 01:40 pm

Target announced yesterday a decline in sales, earnings, and store foot traffic in its first investor’s report since changing its restroom policy to accommodate transgender customers.

“It’s clear that some of our guests like and some dislike our inclusive bathroom policy,” said Cathy Smith, Target’s chief financial officer, in a conference call with media and investors yesterday.

Target shareholders took a big hit. Stocks fell 5 percent after America’s second-largest retailer reported a loss of quarterly sales for the first time in two years—down 7.2 percent. Corporate executives did not attribute the slide to the transgender policy, offering as explanations its lagging grocery department and CVS taking over its pharmacy division. But executives admitted some customers disagree with the company’s restroom stance.

In April, Target jumped into the national restroom debate by announcing it would focus on “inclusivity,” allowing customers to use whichever restroom or fitting room they choose, regardless of biology.

“Given the specific questions these legislative proposals raised about how we manage our fitting rooms and restrooms, we felt it was important to state our position,” the company said on its blog.

But many did not take kindly to Target’s decision.

Days after the announcement, the American Family Association (AFA) started a petition to boycott Target stores. The group said this policy is “exactly how sexual predators gain access to their victims” and asked others to join them in shunning a store that allows men to use women’s restrooms based on how they “feel.”

So far, more than 1.4 million persons have signed the petition pledging to stop shopping at Target.

Spokeswoman Katie Boylan told me the company has no evidence at this time that the new policy has had a negative effect on business. She said dips in sales can come from a variety of variables and there’s no way to determine whether the restroom controversy is to blame.

Boylan added Target has been listening to its customers, but “at this time there are no plans to change the policy.”

Although the outcry has not persuaded Target to change its policy, the company is making a significant investment to address complaints. Yesterday the company announced a $20 million plan to install single-person restrooms in all its stores. Anyone who feels uncomfortable using a public restroom with a transgender person will have the option to use a single-occupancy stall with a lock.

Smith said only 400 of Target’s 1,800 locations do not offer such facilities now and it expects to have most renovations finished before the holiday shopping season, with all work complete by March.

Target CEO Brian Cornell told investors that long-term goals are still on track and claimed short-term losses are of little concern since all businesses are dealing with America’s “difficult retail environment.” But during the last quarter, Walmart, Target’s main competitor, saw an increase in customers visiting its locations.

Walmart announced today foot traffic increased in its stores by 1.2 percent from May to July. During the same three-month span, customers visiting Target dropped 2.2 percent, its first decline in 18 months.

Cornell said the weakest pockets of foot traffic have been on the East Coast, while stores near Los Angeles and San Francisco are doing exceedingly well.

Meanwhile, AFA is praising Target’s financial downturn: “After seeing Target’s latest earnings report, the retailer can’t afford to have millions of families shopping with their competitors. The privacy and protection of women and children are important and that is why we will continue to stand against Target for its reckless policy.”

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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  • Buddy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 02:27 pm

    We do not buy at Target any more.

  • Tuck
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 04:34 pm

    My family and I don't go there either

  • brightnsalty
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 06:16 pm

    "AMA" seems like an odd acronym for the American Family Association. I believe it should be "AFA":

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 09:34 am

    @brightnsalty: Thank you. We've corrected the mistake.

  • Pjoywes's picture
    Posted: Thu, 08/18/2016 06:42 pm

    I avoid Target now. Not an official boycotter, but I will seek other options rather than support such a leftist company. I avoid Starbucks for the same reason (though it may help I don't like coffee).

    Plus Amazon Prime... great for a busy mom. Too bad Amazon is also run by liberals...

  • imjustsaying's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 09:38 am

    I want to avoid Target, but in Walmart's Sam's Club I was knocked down by my cart 11 days ago.  Their "Claims Management Incorporated" refused to help pay for the health care needs incurred by the fall to the floor.  My cart was pushed into me by an electric cart.  The man driving was talking to a Sam's employee and reversing all the way down the children's book aisle where I was standing still, looking at a book.  They say that Sam's has no liability for anything that happens in their store.  I hope World Magazine will do a report and find out if that is true.  The response of CMI which represents both Sam's and Walmart is shocking.  Wherever we shop, we'd better shop defensively. CMI's number is  800-527-0566.

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 11:08 am

    This response is shocking.  Most companies realize that if there is a lawsuit they will lose and have to pay much more than just the medical needs.  Maybe you need to talk to Walmart directly - possible have a lawyer doing the contact.

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sun, 08/21/2016 01:51 pm

    It may be that they are saying that they are not responsible for an accident instigated by another customer.  Liability insurance frequently only covers stuff done by the company or a company's employee.  But definitely contact them in writing, preferrably by an attorney.

  • Mark EP
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 09:48 am

    Companies like Target would be wise to avoid this avenue of activism entirely. They can do as they please with their corporate offices, benefits programs, and charitable donations, but turning customers into pawns of social advocacy is foolish.

    When it comes to changing rooms, bathrooms, legally carried weapons, or the like, simply say, "We require only that our customers comply with applicable state and local laws." And then, Target, for your own sake, stop talking about it.

  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 11:32 am

    I agree with everything you said up to "charitable donations." Perhaps I'm splitting hairs but when a company donates a portion of profits to a cause, they align their brand to that cause. A CEO should donate his own money to the causes he supports and not the company's profits, unless his goal is to put his company's brand behind the cause as Target did with the transgender issue. 

  • JDC
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 03:45 pm

    It’s very clear that some of their guests dislike their inclusive bathroom policy.  "The privacy and protection of women and children are important and that is why we will continue to stand against Target for its reckless policy.”

  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 08/19/2016 07:01 pm

    Now is the time to ramp up this boycott (and others, for companies boycotting states for the opposite reason).  We have the power of the purse when it comes to our shopping/entertainment: This issue demands we use it, if we truly care for those struggling with gender dysphoria and the future of the nation.

    I encourage everyone to listen to the thursday world radio braodcast (specifically, "the battle over bathrooms") and epuip yourselves about this issue, and get the word out to boycott these companies.

  • Flying Goat's picture
    Flying Goat
    Posted: Sat, 08/20/2016 10:09 am

    I did them no harm, but still sold my stock holdings in Target corp. Some principals are unforgiving.. Then dumped Thomson Reuters corp because they gifted large amonts to the Clinton Foundation. Another principal. Lately all my principals seem to be under seige ? Which is pretty normal on this planet..

  • Chelsey McNeil's picture
    Chelsey McNeil
    Posted: Sat, 08/27/2016 06:46 pm

    In the last six years, I have spent an average of $1,293 per year at Target-- they have the best deals on diapers, cleaning supplies, and a great housewares department, not to mention back-to-school and toys. That's $107 per month. But I haven't darkened their doors since their announcement in April.

    Target is losing its business from concerned moms like me, and I think my demographic has at least some leveraging power! If we would only remain steadfast--I'm sad that so many of my mom friends who say they care about this issue have not joined the boycott. The inconvenience is worth it when I think of what we are standing for and whom we are helping protect -- our children and their futures.

    If a man came into the women's restroom with me, I would do what I hope any red-blooded girl would do: Scream as loudly as possible and get out of there ASAP. That is our private space, ladies!  Let them know you don't tolerate privacy invasions.

    I don't want any business to fail, really-- but if a big company like Target purposely throws women and children under the bus in the name of political correctness, we ought to react.

  • jclark53
    Posted: Thu, 09/22/2016 12:02 am

    I haven't been there since they started that policy. 

  • David Patton
    Posted: Sun, 09/25/2016 09:49 pm

    We don't need another retailer that hates God Almighty and His Bible, thankyou.

    Target and J.C. Penny's can have their own mtually admiration club without my patronage.