In the battle over transgender rights, Target (TGT) says it stands for "inclusivity."
The retailer says it wants shoppers to use whichever bathroom or fitting room matches their gender identity, saying the announcement reflects its commitment protect people from discrimination. The decision comes amid growing controversy over North Carolina's "bathroom law," which requires that people in the state use bathrooms that match their birth genders.
"Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It's something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day," the company said in statement.
Public sentiment has largely swung in favor of progressive issues such as LGBT rights, while the Supreme Court's ruling last year on marriage equality emboldened many corporations to support equality measures.
Still, the issue remains controversial, and some Target customers are vowing to boycott the store.
"It's too bad that Target had to make such a drastic decision so as to accommodate 0.03% of our population," one shopper wrote on its blog. "I, and others I'm sure, will no longer feel welcomed or respected at Target because of this decision, and will no longer receive my money or support. Goodbye, Target."
Given the pushback, why is Target taking a stand on transgender rights? For one, the corporation's progressive stance is nothing new. It said last year it would stop using gender-based signs for toys after some customers expressed frustration with labeling shelves as "boy" toys or "girl" toys.
It may also be a smart business decision, based on the response to states that have imposed anti-gay or transgender laws. Those states -- Indiana and North Carolina among them -- have incurred significant business losses as a result, with organizations moving their conferences or events into more LGBT-friendly locations. Indiana lost as much as $60 million in revenue following its "religious freedom law," which permits discrimination against gay people, after conventions and events relocated elsewhere.
While many voiced their criticism of Target's policy on the retailer's blog, plenty of shoppers also expressed support.
"You got it right! I'm sure you are hearing from bigots who probably don't even live near a Target," one person noted. "Remember the antigay fools' boycotts of Disney? Coca-Cola? Wells Fargo? And countless other companies? They are still [raking] in the money."
The movement for transgender rights is growing, even emerging as an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican candidate Donald Trump on Thursday expressed support for bathroom rights for transgender people -- well, at least for one specific transgender person: Caitlyn Jenner, a Trump supporter.
It's likely that those examples weren't lost on Target. Disney (DIS) has angered conservative critics for its "Gay Days," an event that started in the 1990s and is aimed at creating a welcoming environment for LGBT visitors. Disney has also provided benefits to same-sex partners for years. And despite outcries from opponents of LGBT rights, Disney's business has hardly suffered. The stock has more than tripled during the past 10 years, compared with a 62 percent gain for the S&P 500 index.
As Target noted, "We regularly assess issues and consider many factors such as impact to our business, guests and team members. Given the specific questions these legislative proposals raised about how we manage our fitting rooms and restrooms, we felt it was important to state our position."