By: Warner Todd Hutson
After over a year of falling foot traffic and tumbling stock prices, retail giant Target is now obliquely attacking President Donald Trump over the claim that his policies have driven Hispanics to avoid shopping in public.
At last week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech event in Aspen, Colorado, Target Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornell claimed that Hispanic shoppers, a sought-after demographic for retailers across the country, have stopped leaving their homes to shop, presumably for fear of being deported.
“The Hispanic consumer in the U.S. is shopping much less,” Cornell claimed according to MSN Money. “They are staying home. They are going out less often.”
Cornell didn’t mention President Trump by name, but he did mention the lack of Hispanic shoppers in “border towns” where retailers often see traffic over the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Target chief was likely influenced by recent surveys following the habits of Hispanic shoppers at the nation’s largest retail outlets. Retail researcher NPD Group claims its survey shows that Hispanic traffic at retailers fell eight percent over last year.
Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD, said that there has “clearly been a pullback” among Hispanic shoppers. “There’s concern about going out in an environment where you could be deported,” Cohen claimed.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cohen claimed. “It’s really there and material.”
Hispanics are well-known entrepreneurs, and NPD Group does not track small businesses, so it isn’t clear if the tens of thousands of small businesses across the country run by Hispanics and for Hispanics have also seen any similar drops in shoppers.
Indeed, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce reports that there are more than four million Hispanic-owned businesses and that Hispanics open businesses at 15 times the national average, Forbes magazine wrote.
Further more, loan applications for Hispanic businesses grew by 68.7 percent last year alone. With this amount of growth, many Hispanics are clearly patronizing local, family-owned businesses at a correspondingly higher rate.
Target has been reeling from a series of financial setbacks. In one case, the company was forced to admit that it lost upwards to $300 million from a 2013 data breech.
In another case, a recent survey of Target’s customers found that customer satisfaction had fallen 383 basis points in only a few months. The survey of 2,500 Target customers showed declines across the board, in areas such as customer service, merchandise selection, and overall quality.
The company’s CEO and officers also had troubles. After four quarters of loss, Cornel had his salary cut and Target fired or released several top executives. The company also abruptly shuttered several high-profile projects meant to drive the company’s future.
All Target’s problems began after the company announced its transgender bathroom policy last year, telling customers and employees alike that men “identifying” as women could use whatever bathroom or changing room they want at any given time.
The policy brought a boycott that garnered over a million signatures in less than two weeks, and immediately following the transgender announcement the company’s foot traffic plummeted.