The CEO of retail giant Target is zig-zagging between the many customers who are angered by his decision to open single-sex bathrooms to the other sex, the gender-identity progressives who pushed for the disastrous transgender policy, and the Wall Street stock-pickers who have chopped roughly $4.5 billion off the company’s value.
“We’re going to continue to embrace our belief in diversity and inclusion, just how important that is to our company,”CEO Brian Cornell said in a May 11 appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” business show. “But we’re also going to make sure our focus on safety is unwavering,” he added.
To mollify the public angered by his removal of single-sex restrooms and changing rooms, the company will add family bathrooms to all of its stores, he said.
We’re committed over the next few months, to make sure every one of our stores has that option, because we want to make sure that our guests be welcomed in our stores. But if there’s a question of safety, I can tell you and others, our focus on safety is unwavering, and we want to make sure we provide a welcoming environment for all our guests, one that’s safe, one that’s comfortable.
But Cornell did not offer to return single-sex changing rooms, which is likely the most unnerving element in the company’s new open-door, pro-transgender agenda.
The company can’t easily add family changing-rooms without using up scarce space in their retail stores — and can’t reestablish single-sex changing-rooms without angering many progressive professionals in the media and fashion industries. Those progressives professionals would likely claim the company is unfairly “gender policing” its customers, even though transgender advocates say only 1 in every 300 Americans are transgender. Other estimates say the ratio is only 1 transgender for every 2,400 Americans.
So Cornell tried to reassure and flatter progressives about the justice of his company’s brand-damaging, revenue-reducing April 19 decision. “We took a stance,” Cornell said, as he suggested that single-sex bathrooms are just like a racist refusal to use African-Americans in commercial advertising in the 1960s.
We’ve had a long history embracing diversity and inclusion. A couple weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-60s, our company was one of the very first to use African-American models in their advertising, and back then, it wasn’t well received.
In the company’s initial April 19 statement, the store said, “we welcome transgender team members and [customer] guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”
Since April 19, “We had a lot of tough feedback. But sitting here today, we know we made the right decision,” Cornell insisted.
That tough feedback includes a consumer boycott that now has 1.2 million supporters, much damage to the company’s brand, and a massive sell-off on Wall Street that has chopped the company’s share price from almost $84 on April 19 to $75.70 on May 11.
That’s a loss of $8.30 per share, or 10 percent, or almost $5 billion since April 19. Of course, some part of that loss is due to President Barack Obama’s weak economy — but no company is helped by many management decisions that anger so many customers.
Cornell made his early morning statements on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” business show as part of his effort to to reassure investors that the company can repair its self-inflicted wound. “The stance we took … is very similar to many of our retail peers,” he told watching Wall Streeters. “As a company … we listen to our guests, we listen to our team members.”
But his pitch failed — the company’s stock crashed by roughly $3.50 per share after his appearance, down to the $75.70 level, despite a reassuring thumbs-up from one of the channel’s experts. “Target – it’s going higher, this thing is too cheap,” said CNBC’s Pete Najarian.
Target’s stock fell by 5.43 percent during the day, more than rivals J.C. Penny, which was down 2.47 percent. and WalMart, down 2.75 percent. But other retailers lost heavily – Kohl’s was down 6.02 percent and Sears dropped by 5.35 percent, amid bad news from President Barack Obama’s tepid economy.
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