Walmart Going Forward With Pride Merchandise While Target Holds Back, Remembering Incident From Last Year

By: Alex Trent | Published: May 29, 2024

American retail giant Walmart is stepping forward amidst a climate of uncertainty to advertise its upcoming collection of products to celebrate LGBT Pride month, which starts in June.

This move from Walmart contrasts with Target, who after a consumer controversy last year, has recently decided to limit the availability of Pride merchandise in stores following backlash from consumers.

Walmart Pride

In a recent post on Instagram, Walmart promoted the introduction of its Pride collection with a video that received critical comments from several users.

A slice of rainbow cake on a wooden table.

Alexander Grey/Unsplash

“Did you learn nothing from target??,” one user wrote. “Sell your merchandise not lifestyles,” said another.


Pride Always

The 2024 Pride collection from Walmart is called “Pride Always.” The promotion for the collection advertises several products. There is a notebook with the words “beyond gender” written on it and a tote bag that says “totes gay.”

A clear blue sky background with a Walmart sign in the foreground and an American flag waving on the right

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“While I was creating my collection, it was important to me for it to be positive and uplifting,” said Bianca of Bianca Designs in the Walmart promo.

Walmart Statement

Walmart Chief Merchandising Officer Latriece Watkins expressed the company’s intent to not change its product offerings in response to a question last year about the previous Target controversy around Pride products.

A Walmart store sign hanging over a building.

Source: MikeMozartJeepersMedia/Wikimedia

“I think we have merchandise that we sell all year that supports different groups,” said Watkins. “I’d say in this particular case, we haven’t changed anything in our assortment.”

Target Controversy

The current climate of controversy around merchandise for Pride month heated up last year after viral videos were posted on products that some online found questionable at Target stores.

A late evening view of a Target store's facade featuring the red and white Target logo with a tree to the left and cars parked in front

Source: Shabaz Usmani/Unsplash

Social media users started a campaign to boycott Target after “tuck-friendly” swimsuits were alleged to have been made for kids. However AP reported that the collection was for adults, not kids.

Boycott of Target

The frenzy drummed up on social media against Target reportedly hurt sales of Pride merchandise, causing the company this year to scale back on its collection by only allowing it in select stores.

Outside of a Target retail store.

Source: Brainulator9/Wikimedia Commons

This month Bloomberg reported that only half of Target’s around 2,000 stores will carry Pride merchandise, and Target said it will only sell “adult apparel” and home goods with a Pride theme.


Target Statement

The criticism that Target faced last year prompted the retailer to remove some of its Pride merchandise from store shelves. The company cited threats against employees as one of the motivating factors.

Bird's eye view of a Target store showing the expansive flat rooftop with HVAC units, the store's large red and white logo on the side, and the surrounding parking area

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“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,” Target said in a statement.


Disappointment in Target

Some have expressed disappointment with Target holding back on its Pride collection, feeling that the move is not fair to LGBT customers.

A person holding both hands together. Each hand has one of the letters for LGBTQIA+ on.

Alexander Grey/Unsplash

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson told NPR that the decision “alienates LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at the risk of not only their bottom line but also their values.”


Culture War

Companies like Target and Walmart are seemingly caught in a no-win scenario on this issue. If they limit their pride collections to avoid online backlash, they may also be seen as being unsupportive of LGBT members, which runs against their ideals.

The logos of Republicans and Democrats against a black background.

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“Unfortunately for Target, it has been dragged into the culture wars and is in a position where it can’t win whatever it does,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail for GlobalData to CNN.


Conservative Backlash

Recently, conservatives and LGBT-critical voices have been influential with high-profile social media campaigns that are making companies think twice about embracing “woke” marketing strategies and products.

A rainbow colored flag flying on a flag pole.

Source: Peter Muscutt/Unsplash

A backlash campaign against Bud Light who embraced a transgender influencer ended up costing Anheuser-Bush an estimated $1 billion in lost sales.


Go Woke, Go Broke

The mantra of “Go Woke Go Broke” has become a common saying among critics of certain companies that critics say are pushing progressive political agendas in a cynical manner.

A man opening his wallet to see that there’s nothing in there.

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This has landed companies right in the middle of a political struggle in an increasingly polarized America, one where every move they make risks alienating one group of its customers or another.


Social Media Backlash

While Walmart’s defiance in not scaling back its Pride collection is being celebrated by advocates online, many are taking to social media to express dissatisfaction with the collection.

A rainbow flag featuring several different colors.

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

“Walmart launches new ‘Pride Always Collection’ to push LGBTQI+ ideology.  As part of the collaboration, the retailer has launched products including a ‘Beyond Gender’ notebook.  One of the LGBT designers says “I’m very excited to use it with my kids,” said gender-critical speaker Oli London on X.