Companies scale back Pride Month after last year’s public response cost them millions

Get Woke, Go Broke: The adverse experiences of last June appear to have corporate boardrooms reevaluating some of their practices with respect to “Pride” month and related merchandise after sales and share prices plummeted.

Published: May 31, 2024 11:01pm

Saturday will mark the start of “Pride” month, in which advocates of LGBTQIA+ causes celebrate that movement. In recent years, June has seen major corporate chains feature an array of “Pride”-themed merchandise and decorations, though some offerings have prompted considerable backlash from a non-receptive -- even hostile public -- in recent years.

2023 saw major retailers such as Target become the subject of boycotts over more controversial products marketed for children. Other companies, such as Anheuser-Busch came under scrutiny over marketing campaigns that failed to resonate with their traditional clientele.

The adverse experiences of last June appear to have corporate boardrooms reevaluating some of their practices with respect to “Pride” month and the merchandise related to it. Here’s a look at some of the major disasters of 2023 and how brands plan to handle things in 2024.

Company outlooks

Industry analysts and executives in May suggested that the boycotts of last year and targeted campaigns from conservatives intended to push back against the pervasiveness of “Pride”-themed merchandise had evidently pushed companies to pursue a toned-down approach to “Pride” this year.

“Nobody in the media, marketing and advertising world wants to admit how heavy and hard this has been,” Pink Media President Matt Skallerud told USA Today. “Ever since Target and Bud Light had their fiascos last year, a tremendous number of brands have decided it would be much better to sit on the sidelines and let this sort itself out.”

GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders, moreover, highlighted the polarization of American society around political and social issues, telling the outlet that “If you promote Pride, some people will be unhappy with it.”

“If you don’t promote Pride, some people will be unhappy about that. It’s not a battle you can win completely, which is why some retailers and brands are taking a middle-of-the-road approach and keeping it moderate,” he continued. “They are doing some promotion but they are restricting it to things that they think are palatable and acceptable for most people.”


In May of last year, retail giant Target came under scrutiny over its “Pride” offerings, notably the products intended for children, as well as those from a fashion designer who also sold Satan-inspired merchandise.

The company in May of last year removed items from Abprallen Pride products, which has also made Satan-inspired LGBTQ+ designs. Abprallen designer Erik Carnell indicated that Target had been aware of his use of Satanic iconography when it approached him about the partnership.

An emergency meeting of company higher ups was held the same month as Target sought to avert a large-scale boycott.

"We were given 36 hours, told to take all of our Pride stuff, the entire section, and move it into a section that’s a third the size. From the front of the store to the back of the store, you can’t have anything on mannequins and no large signage," one insider said at the time.

In 2024, Target plans to offer its “Pride” merchandise in a limited number of stores and online.

“We’re offering a collection of products including adult apparel and home and food and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback,” the company announced earlier in May. “The collection will be available on and in select stores, based on historical sales performance.”

Last year, after the introduction and heavy promotion of "Pride" merchandise Target's retail sales dropped 5% in the April to June period compared with the same time in 2022.

Bud Light

The Anheuser-Busch beer brand suffered a major boycott last year in response to a disastrous marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The campaign became the subject of ridicule in social media.

Bud Light sales plummeted after Mulvaney posted photos on Instagram with a custom Bud Light can celebrating the influencer’s one-year mark of identifying as a woman. CNN reported that Anheuser-Busch lost $395 million in U.S. sales after the fiasco. By mid-June of that year, the brand lost its slot as the top-selling beer in the U.S. to Modelo Especial. The company cried uncle that month after sales declined nearly a quarter.

The parent company lost about $27 billion in market value, falling to $107.44 billion through the end of May 2023, down from $134.55 billion on March 31, according to Fox Business News. The two Bud Light executives responsible for the campaign were "put on leave," CBS News reported

"We recognize that over the last two months, the discussion surrounding our company and Bud Light has moved away from beer, and this has impacted our consumers, our business partners, and our employees," Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth said at the time.

The company’s plans for “Pride” month this year remain unclear.


While Target is reducing its offerings, Walmart appears poised to fill the void and has begun promoting its own “Pride” offerings ahead of the start of the month.

Earlier this month, the company posted a video of its planned offerings on Instagram.

“Not just a slogan. #PrideAlways is a reminder to lead with love,” the post read.

The ad featured commentary from designers who had contributed to the company’s offerings that month and highlighted products including a fanny pack that read “I heart gay people,” notebooks with the words “beyond gender,” a t-shirt with skulls and rainbows, and other items.

Walmart stock did not substantially suffer during June of last year, and in fact rose from $49.14 per share on June 1, 2023, to $52.39 per share on June 30 of that year. The company stock closed Friday at $61.76 per share.


The coffee chain has long been an advocate of LGBTQ+ causes and first began offering health benefits to same-sex domestic partnerships in 1988.

The company’s stores have often featured Pride flags and other iconography of that movement for years, though 2023 saw its practices become the subject of a strike. Last June, Starbucks Workers United staged a strike and disrupted stores across the nation in response to claims that Starbucks stores had not permitted employees to decorate for Pride Month.

Starbucks denied the reports and stated that the group was merely using the claims to advance its own goals.

“Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts—a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores,” the company told the Associated Press.

As of 2024, it does not appear that the company has any plans to deviate from its past celebrations of Pride.

“We support our partners who celebrate during Pride by participating in local activities and marches, hanging flags in our stores, wearing designated Pride t-shirts and apron pins and connecting directly with their customers through events and outreach, both in our stores and in communities,” Starbucks states on its website.

Company stock was relatively flat in June 2023, going from $97.52 on June 1 to $99.06 on June 30 of that year. It closed Friday at $80.22 per share, recovering somewhat from a modest decline earlier this month.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X.

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