Target CEO Emphasizes Inclusivity Following Pride-related Controversy

Target’s chief executive officer Brian Cornell reinforced the company’s inclusive approach to customers and its tuck-friendly swimwear.

In recent days, some critics on social media have decried the retailer’s decision to offer the styles and in some instances have called for a boycott. Contrary to some erroneous posts, the Minnesota-based retailer does not offer tuck-friendly swimsuits for children.

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In honor of Pride month, which supports LGBTQ rights, Target introduced swimwear that promoted ”tuck-friendly” construction and “extra crotch” coverage. In the wake of the backlash, Cornell stood by the campaign, speaking on Fortune’s “Leadership Next” podcast.

Cornell spoke of the importance of Target’s DE&I and said, “When we think about purpose at Target, it’s really about helping all the families, and that ‘all’ word is really important,” he said.

He said, “I think those are just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand.

“The things we’ve done from a DE&I [diversity, equity and inclusion] standpoint, it’s adding value,” he said.

‘It’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests, and those are just the right things for our business today.”

Target executives did not initially respond to a media request Tuesday afternoon seeking further comment, and specifics about the current distribution of the “tuck-friendly” Pride-related swimsuits. The chain reportedly removed some of the Pride merchandise from view in select stores.

Hours after this article posted, a Target spokesperson highlighted in a company statement how this year’s Pride collection has led to “threats impacting team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

The company did not respond immediately Tuesday night requesting specifics if those items “at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior” referred to the tuck-friendly and extra crotch coverage swimwear, as well as whether the items items have been removed from all stores and online.

Target’s issued statement also noted how the company has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride month for more than a decade.

The fight for transgender rights is a hot button issue with local, state and federal legislators and their constituents. More than 200 people turned up Monday afternoon at the first Trans Youth Prom Monday near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The one-off event was organized to combat anti-trans rights legislation.

The Target controversy follows similar social media firestorms in recent weeks prompted by Nike’s, Adidas’ and Bud Light’s use of transgender people in advertising or promotional material. Last week Adidas introduced “Let Love Be Your Legacy” Pride collection, with advertising featuring what looked like a man wearing a woman’s swimsuit. The tank was designed by the South African designer Rich Mnisi, who did not respond to a media inquiry from WWD seeking comment.

Bud Light and Nike were criticized for enlisting transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for promotional social media posts for each respective company.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on May 23 at 10:50 p.m.

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