The national retail chain Target has announced that it plans to spend $20 million in adding single-stall restrooms to stores without the option in an effort to quell opposition to its policy on transgender use of bathrooms and changing rooms.
“Some of our guests clearly are uncomfortable with our policy, and some are really supportive,” Target CFO Cathy Smith told reporters this week in a conference call.
As previously reported, Target outlined its company policy in April surrounding controversy over “bathroom bills” passed in North Carolina and Mississippi.
“In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,” the announcement said.
“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,” it continued.
The announcement drew both applause and criticism, and some vowed to discontinue shopping at Target until it changed its policy, including over a million Americans who signed the American Family Association’s (AFA) official pledge campaign to boycott Target.
But the company defended its policy, stating that it was committed to inclusivity.
“We took a stance and we’re going to continue to embrace our belief of diversity and inclusion—just how important that is to our company,” CEO Brian Cornell said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
He compared the backlash over the matter to the criticism the company received when it first used blacks for models in advertising.
“A couple weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-60’s, our company was one of the very first to use African-American models in their advertising, and back then, it wasn’t well received,” Cornell said.
But he advised that Target would be adding single stall restrooms to assuage concerns about privacy and safety. Approximately 1,400 of the company’s 1,800 stores currently have that option.
Now, Target is moving forward with the plan to the tune of $20 million.
But AFA says that the concept doesn’t solve the problem as it only forces those who are uncomfortable with using the restroom with someone of the opposite sex to be constrained to the single stall restroom. AFA believes it should be the other way around.
“If the majority feel uncomfortable, they will have to go into the single-stall bathroom,” said spokeman Walker Wildman. “Transgender individuals should have to use the single-stall if they feel uncomfortable using the facilities assigned on their birth certificate.”
But transgender advocacy groups state that those who identify as no gender will likely use the single-stall facility.
“There are lots of gender nonconforming people who will be happy about this and will use those bathrooms,” Mara Keisling, executive director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Wall Street Journal. “And most transgender people will continue to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity as they have been doing for decades.”
Target executives have acknowledged that the retailer’s traffic and earnings are falling, but do not wish to attribute the decline to their restroom policy.