Target: “On second thought…”

Target Corporation’s funding of Mn Forward, a political action group that’s advertising in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, may be affecting the company internally more than externally.

While laying low publicly, CEO Gregg Steinhafel has sent his second memo to his employees in a little over a week:

Dear Target Leaders,

I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target’s contribution to MN Forward, and I appreciate your engagement and candor, both of which clearly demonstrate your loyalty and passion for our company.

In situations like this, it is often difficult to find the right words, but I would like to respond with the same honesty you have shown me.

The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.

We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.

Going forward, we will soon begin a strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena. And later this fall, Target will take a leadership role in bringing together a group of companies and partner organizations for a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.

Thank you for sharing your input and for your continued commitment to making Target an even stronger company.


Gregg Steinhafel

Chairman, President and CEO

Meanwhile, earlier today I asked a friend in San Francisco whether the issue is percolating in San Francisco, where Target is trying to open its first store in a city that hates big-box retailers and, obviously, has keen ear for perceived transgressions against the GLBT issues. She reported there hasn’t been a peep about it.

From the sound of today’s memo, that’s not the case inside the company.

As for Mn Forward, they’ve apparently got their own internal woes (click for larger image):


(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)

  • Bob Moffitt

    The internal/external blowback against Target might have long-term consequences to MNForward.

    Even if this tempest remains in the Michael Graves-designed Target teapot, I doubt if Steinhafel will be too keen on writing a second check to Brian McClung’s group anytime soon.

  • bsimon

    “I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.’

    Where does that rank on the scale of non-apology apologies? To my jaundiced eye, it reads like “I’m sorry you misunderstood what I meant.”

    I’m also still wondering what part of Emmer’s economic policies Steinhafel thinks will actually be beneficial to Minnesota & Minnesotans.

  • S Bost, MD

    While I’m not in San Francisco, I AM in New York, and I have been following this story closely. Target has been my favorite store for years, but I will no longer shop there. I simply cannot support a company that supports bigots.

    Surely Target has shrewd marketers that know its target demographic well. That’s why I was so stunned to hear that they were supporting a staunch conservative who opposes equal rights. Don’t they realize that many of their customers go to Target SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE we do not support the political agenda of their largest competitor, Wal-Mart??

    As a physician, I would often recommend Target to my patients, not only as a place to buy high quality Up and Up products, but also because their pharmacies placed a premium on patient safety, with innovative bottle labeling and design. I used the Target pharmacy for my own young family, for the same reason. But no more.

    Management’s stating “we’re sorry if our actions upset you” (the basic thrust of today’s letter) is not an apology at all, and I feel badly for their LGBT employees. Not until Target formally renounces candidate Emmer’s position, and asks for their money BACK, will you once again find me in their stores.

  • Shannon

    While I agree that it isn’t ok for Target or any corporation to be spending so very much money on political contributions, it is within their rights to do so (thanks, Supreme Court!!). Target is one of the first high profile, middle-of-the-road companies to test the waters under the new PAC rules.

    It should be clarified, though, that Target gave money to MNForward, not to Emmer expressly. MNForward, whatever its social policies may say (and Target obviously had a lack of research here), has a goal of creating and protecting jobs in Minnesota. To me it seems like they lobby to ensure favorable economic conditions to keep large companies headquartered in Minnesota. MNForward contributed to Emmer, who has anti-gay policies (and once told a waitress that with tips she makes over $100k a year and she should be taxed as though she’s in that bracket).

    So unless I understood the story incorrectly, Target gave to MNForward, a lobbying organization that tries to keep companies headquartered in the state, not to Emmer as people have been saying.

    People may be perturbed that Target is making large political contributions, but if that’s the case they should take aim at the law, not necessarily Target. If they’re upset that anyone supported Emmer, then they should take aim at that. Onerous though it may be, this story is nuanced and peoples’ reactions should be less blanketing than they are. Not saying there’s no reason to be upset, just saying it’s essential to target that frustration at the origin of the issue and not extrapolate Target donating to MNForward as Target supporting an anti-gay Emmer.

  • Heather

    Amen, bsimon.

    I’m still shopping there, for now, but I have sent Target a note expressing my displeasure, and letting them know that I’m waiting for the offset donation, or for them to retrieve their donation to MN Forward.

    This story was on the radar of a DC friend this week (she posted on her FB page, and comments came in from folks all over).

  • Jeff

    It looks to me like someone at the Target public relations stayed up late last night creating quite the diplomatic, sincere apology. I really wonder how many words of this were personally written by Mr. Steinhafel, a well known Republican supporter who has slowly and quietly been turning the Target ship more and more conservative.

    I know several gay men who work for Target and they all agree since Steinhafel has taken over the culture is and has changed.

    I wonder when that culture shift will be noticed in its stores?

  • Shannon

    I suspect that whatever Steinhafel’s personal beliefs or how he steers the Target ship ideologically, the stores will remain marketed with a modern, accepting angle. As someone noted earlier, this image is why many people choose to shop Target over Wal-Mart. He’ll stay with what’s most profitable, and if he learns anything from this snafu he’ll keep Target far, far away from anything ideological in the future.