Target CEO: We Should Have Kept Quiet About Bathroom Policy

The bathroom wars continue.

The Wall Street Journal published a behind-the-paywall piece recently on the fallout from Target’s decision to go public a year ago with it’s “inclusive” bathroom and fitting room policy in the aftermath of the passage of North Carolina’s HB2. The piece noted that Target’s sales fell substantially in the three quarters after their announcement due to a heavily promoted boycott push by concerned customers. Via Business Insider:

The boycott cost the company millions in lost sales and added expenses. Shopper traffic and same-store sales started sliding for the first time in years after the blog post, and the company was forced to spend $20 million installing single-occupancy bathrooms in all its stores to give critics of the policy more privacy.

Critics of the policy said it opened the door for sexual predators to victimize women and children inside the retailer’s bathrooms, and more than 1.4 million people signed a pledge to stop shopping at Target unless it reversed the policy.

Sales fell nearly 6% in the three quarters after the post compared with the same period last year, and same-store sales have dropped every quarter since the post.

Perhaps even more eye-opening than the revelation of just how much their sales fell after April 2016 was news of how Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, apparently didn’t know that a blog post about their policy was going to be published until after the fact.

According to the WSJ, and recapped in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Cornell would have rather just kept quiet about the policy – and kept it in place without informing shoppers (bolded emphasis added):

The Journal notes that Target’s position on bathroom use isn’t that unusual ”” plenty of other retailers have similar policies. However, Target made itself an issue by publicly taking a stance where other companies kept quiet.

Moreover, CEO Brian Cornell apparently wasn’t briefed on the announcement ahead of time and told colleagues he disagreed with publicizing the company’s policy, though he later defended it, concluding that backing off could make things worse.

It would seem Cornell’s thought process goes along the lines of “what people don’t know won’t hurt them.” Except in this case it has hurt women and children – and continues to even after the company’s decision to reaffirm their existing fitting room and restroom policy last year.

Though Target is spending millions adding unisex restroom facilities to their locations in an effort to ease the concerns of consumers, their fitting rooms are still wide open to predators who might want to wander in to see what the ladies are up to.

Target - bathroom policy - sales - CEONow, it’s arguably likely that even more customers may opt to take their business elsewhere in protest now that they’re armed with the knowledge that Target’s CEO believes they should have been left in the dark on the company’s “inclusive” restroom and fitting room policies,

Stay tuned.