Photos: Anybody buying that 'Pride' merchandise at Target?

Late last December, while shopping at Target, I noticed something peculiar about the wrapping paper in Christmas clearance merchandise: nobody was buying the gay pride–themed items, despite the fact that they were marked down to 90 cents a roll.

I wrote about that here.

Now that there's been a hullabaloo at Target over its aggressive merchandising of LGBT promotional items, which drove its stock down for a period and forced it to move its prominent displays in some outlets, how are those sales going? 

Well, on a visit to Target on Balboa Avenue in San Diego on May 30, where the merchandise had just been pulled back from immediate visibility and the controversy was roaring, store traffic appeared normal, but there were lots of fully stocked LGBT merchandise displays throughout the store in different departments that didn't seem to be drawing buyers.  I took pictures of these here:

Might have been that the merchandise was just new, perhaps, and it was fairly early in the day, when store shelves tend to be less disheveled.  Merchandise associated with smaller holidays — St. Patrick's Day, etc. — never moves that fast.

But it's gotten quiet now, and it's been a couple weeks.  The big Pride parades are over.

What's known as seasonal merchandise, such as these Pride promotional items, tends to get stocked only at one go, or perhaps two.  They don't tend to be a daily stock at all.  I know this, because twenty years ago, I used to work at Target.

On a trip to Target in Kearny Mesa yesterday, late in the afternoon, when merchandise is most likely to be tousled and depleted, and in many sections it was, I saw this:

Those are fully stocked store shelves of this merchandise, as if no one had touched them for weeks.  Nobody wanted a Pride chew toy for his pet, nobody wanted Pride children's wear, or transgender-themed children's toys (I had to look up what Kidd Kenn was in the blue and pink box on the last in the sequence — a rap star), nobody wanted a Pride baking kit, nobody wanted LGBT-themed liquor, or LGBT cups to put it in.  Notice that the liquor is already on sale.  Nobody wanted rainbow kid boots. 

That's shelf space that could have been used for merchandise that people wanted to buy, and in retail, efficient use of shelf space for things that sell is the name of the game.  They pay people to determine those things.  These items at Target Kearny Mesa were all displayed prominently at the front of the store, no back of the store decision for them.  You've heard of "dead-naming"?  Well, this was "dead-spacing."

Now, it's possible they just stocked those store shelves with this merchandise that very day, but having worked there, I kind of doubt it.  I recall that stocking, particularly of this kind of merchandise, was done at 5:00 A.M.  Food, which has become a major profit center at Target since I worked there (I recall how they told us that they knew it would be), is stocked throughout the day.  But ordinary merchandise is done early, and if it doesn't get completed, it's done through the morning. 

That's a best-case scenario for Target, that they just put that merchandise up, which I don't think happened.  Based on the many departments with the same pattern showing, odds are that that merchandise has sat there for days, unsold, meaning it will eventually hit the clearance racks for deep markdowns and, after that, be marked off for full losses. 

Obviously, much of this is the Made in China stuff that probably doesn't cost them a lot to sell, and perhaps it won't be that big a loss.  It's not like the electronics, which is a significant cost and profit center.  But unlike most seasonal merchandise, it is extended throughout the departments, with every department seemingly having a store display of it, meaning every department will see something subtracting from its bottom line, given the shelf space as well as merchandise devoted to it. 

Yes, it's anecdotal.  But San Diego is best described as a light blue city, not a deep blue city.  Perhaps a few urban areas that still have their Targets (and have not been shut down for looting) are seeing sales of this merchandise.  But that's not where the bulk of their sales are.  I can't see this situation as being any better in suburban Targets in California, much less the inland states where opposition to the merchandise was strongest.

The bottom line here is that while consumers aren't really boycotting the place, they don't seem to be buying the Pride merchandise, either, as if they're hooking on to support Pride like a new holiday every bit as important as the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, which do have merchandise that people buy.  After all, it's kind of a niche event for a small section of the population.  If I wanted to support a gay friend at a Pride event or something like it, I would probably rather to go to Hillcrest, San Diego's biggest gay neighborhood, and buy a Pride item there, since it would be sui generis, authentic to the place.  I can't see myself picking up some Pride merchandise at the daily Target store for what at best is a parade to go to, and which has already passed, or wearing it for the entire contrived month of Pride when that's not my special interest and not even a true holiday such as Memorial Day or Christmas.

That raises questions as to who made this marketing decision that so badly misread Target's customers and what they want to buy at Target.  They're bound to be taking losses from this, which could affect the company's bottom line.  It's redolent of the marketing idiots who came up with the transgender influencer ads for Bud Light — indicating a total failure to understand and respect their customers.

This is obviously going to lead to losses for the company not even included in the earlier rumblings of a boycott.  It's just colossal stupidity.  Over at corporate, heads should roll.

Images: Monica Showalter.

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