Connect with us


Walmart risks Bud Light-style scandal with change Target dropped

The retail giant has made a change some would consider woke, but Walmart and Target are not judged the same way.



Walmart and Target have very different public perceptions, at least when it comes to the ongoing 'go woke, go broke" boycotts. The right-wing audience that decided to boycott Bud Light because it used transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a small online marketing campaign, has also damaged Target's TGT sales. That happened after the chain put its annual Pride Month merchandise up for sale. Walmart, for the record, also sells Pride Month merchandise, but it did not face similar boycotts. Target has also been vocal about how transgender workers and customers can use the bathroom of the gender the identify as. Walmart has the same policy, it just doesn't talk about it publicly.

Related: Dollar Tree follows Walmart and Target in bold theft-prevention move

But, while the two companies have similar stances on two hot-button issues, Target has been labeled as the "woke" retailer, which has hurt its sales. The chain also took some merchandise off shelves, a move CEO Brian Cornell explained during the retailer's second-quarter earnings call. "After the launch of the assortment this year, members of our team began experiencing threats and aggressive actions that affected their sense of safety and well-being while at work," he shared. "...So, to protect the team in the face of these threatening circumstances, we quickly made changes, including the removal of items through the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Cornell shared that Pride merchandise will return, but the CEO made a clear effort to veer away from taking a political stand. "As we navigate an ever-changing operating and social environment, we're committed to staying close to our guests and their expectations of Target," he said. "Our goal is to ensure we continue to celebrate moments that are special to our guests, while acknowledging that, every day, for millions of people, they want Target to serve as a refuge in their daily lives." Basically, Cornell tried to double down on Target's commitment to diversity while also trying to appease an audience that considers diversity a dirty word. That may explain why Walmart has made what some would see as "woke" change nationally while Target abandoned tests of the same idea.
Target has tried to take itself out of the political discussion.Image source: Joe Raedle/Getty

Walmart risks a right-wing backlash

Walmart and Target generally want to stay out of the political fray. That's very hard in a world where being inclusive or mentioning diversity gets some retailers boycotted. Over the past year Chick-fil-A faced mild boycotts over placing a job ad looking for a vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Cracker Barrel dealt with social media outrage because it added a plant-based sausage to its menu. Cracker Barrel didn't get rid of regular sausage and Chick-fil-A did not appear to change any of its business practices, but both companies were accused of "going woke." That's a term that comes with a little more danger than it previously did since the Bud Light boycott was so successful. Before the Mulvaney move, Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD was considered an all-American, right-leaning brand embraced by conservative America. That changed quickly and Walmart's latest move runs the same risk.

Walmart makes a major shopping change

There's a section of the right-wing audience that sees any sort of accommodation as supporting and embracing weakness. Call it an offshoot of former President Donald Trump's attitudes and open willingness to mock disabilities, but it's a very real thing. That puts Walmart at risk for adding sensory-friendly hours from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time, not only on Saturdays, but every day at all Walmart U.S. and Puerto Rico stores, beginning Nov. 10, with no planned end date. The retailer had a pilot program testing the changes earlier this year and, now, it has decided to make the change permanent. Target tested the same concept at a handful of stores over the past decade, but never adopted the policy nationwide. "During the back-to-school season, we changed the TV walls to a static image, turned off the radio and lowered the lights where possible," Walmart executives shared in a post on the company's website. Those changes got positive reviews and the company has decided to make the change nationwide, something that may bring it a negative backlash from part of its customer base.

Read More