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Target Bans Guns. What’s Next?

July 9, 2014 By Heather Fletcher
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Customer retention is a constant on marketers' minds. So what should marketers do about political issues that become business matters due to customer concerns? Increasingly, companies are publicly taking stands—on gun rights (Target), LGBT rights (Chick-fil-A) and reproductive rights (Hobby Lobby).

In Target's case, customers on both sides of the gun rights issue were literally demanding the company take a position. Gun rights advocates in several states that allow firearms owners to carry the weapons openly were doing so—inside Target stores. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America organized a petition drive in June to urge Target to "create gun sense policies" in its stores. The group gathered nearly 400,000 signatures by the time Target came out with a statement.

On July 2 in Target's blog, A Bullseye View, interim CEO John Mulligan wrote to customers in a post titled "Target Addresses Firearms in Stores."

"We … respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target—even in communities where it is permitted by law," he writes. He later adds, "This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create."

Target stopped there. No press releases, social media updates or responses greeted the onslaught of public attention to Target's blog post.

"As our position on guns is a position and not a policy, we don't have plans to proactively [communicate] our respectful request to our guests at this time," explains Molly Snyder, Target's group manager of public relations.

Snyder's comment on Tuesday afternoon is a response to Target Marketing's request for information about how Target plans to use direct marketing to alert customers to its request that no guns enter its doors.

As of July 8, the word had already gotten out to plenty of customers.


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