In it’s 2Q16 report today Target announced plans to spend $20 million to add private single-stall locking bathrooms so that by March, 2017 all stores will have updated private bathrooms. In Fortune’s report today the publication directly blamed the drop in shopper traffic, at least partly, on the retailer’s controversial “transgender-friendly” bathroom policy. Target’s move in April prompted over a million of Target most conservative shoppers to sign petitions and pledges to avoid the retailer. Although company officials continue to downplay the impact of the customer reaction at the retailer’s annual meeting, today’s quarterly report revealed plunging sales and store traffic.
Cathy Smith, the company’s chief financial officer, admitted in a media briefing this week “some of our guests like and some dislike our inclusive bathroom policy.” Fortune reported that while Smith “did not say whether the backlash had cost it some business, the announcement of the bathroom policy came at a time pressure on Target was already building from a number of directions.”
A few noteworthy observations in today’s announcement:
- Target stock dropped 5% in premarket trading today. It was at $83.98 on April 19, 2016 and closed today at $70.63. It had fallen as low as $66.74 during the last quarter.
- For the quarter that ended July 30, earnings fell to $680 million, or $1.16 a share, from $753 million, or $1.18 a share, in the same period a year ago
- Revenue fell nearly 8% to $16.17 billion & same-store sales declined 1.1%
- The Retailer’s Bathroom Policy will cost them an additional 20 Million as they renovate stores to make sure all locations have a private single-stall, lockable restroom available for shoppers who feel unsafe using a multi-stall restroom.
Back-to-School parents seeking discounts are thinking twice about shopping at their local Target over safety concerns in the store’s restrooms and fitting rooms. KeepNCSafe has been tracking an increase of Voyeurism at Target stores since the retailer changed their bathrooms and fitting rooms policy to be all inclusive gender neutral.
A transgender woman in Idaho was arrested on July 12, 2016 for taking pictures of another woman inside a Target changing room. Shauna Patricia Smith, also known as Sean Patrick Smith, was arrested after police responded to a call from a female shopper who said she saw the middle aged male reaching over the dividing wall and taking pictures in the fitting room area with a cell phone. Officers reviewed store surveillance footage, then booked Smith into the Bonneville County Jail on one felony count of voyeurism. Smith, a biological male who identifies as a woman, is scheduled to appear in court today.
The incident in the small southeastern Idaho town is not the first such incident since Target announced its opposition to North Carolina’s HB2 and called the law “discrimination”. Target expanded its commitment to inclusivity of transgender individuals when they announced on April 19th that transgender employees and guests are welcome to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.
KeepNCSafe did a simple Google search and found an alarming number of incidents reported at Target fitting rooms since the company adopted gender neutral fitting rooms.
A man has been arrested in Palatine, a northwest suburb of Chicago, on March 26, 2017 after attempting to use his cell phone to film a minor while she was changing in a Target dressing room. A girl told authorities that she was in a Target fitting and noticed a man’s hand holding cell phone under the door. Police are still looking for the man that ran away after the minor screamed. Target released the following statement, “Our guests are at the center of everything we do and our commitment to creating a safe and secure shopping environment in our stores is unwavering. As a part this commitment to safety, we have robust procedures, policies and training in place to ensure that our stores are safe places to shop and work.”
On June 12, 2016, Suffolk District Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island revoked the bail of Sheldon Fulbeck, 39, who spied over the Target fitting room wall to watch a 17-year-old girl change into a bikini at the Revere Target. The public defender representing the defendant told the judge that Target’s co-ed fitting rooms are to blame. The man was previously charged with recording women in a nearby Target changing room in March 2014.
In Bedford, New Hampshire, Zachary Bishop, 22, fled a Target changing room after being caught recording underage girls on June 22nd. He later turned himself in after police and Target security reviewed surveillance video and issued a warrant for his arrest. Bishop was charged with violation of privacy and later arraigned and held at the Hillsborough County Jail on $2,000 cash bail.
According to police reports in Bismarck, North Dakota, a 16-year-old female shopper visited a Target on June 16th and a mid-aged man positioned a phone under her door with the camera facing up while she was trying on a bathing suit. Police reviewed the store surveillance video to identify the suspect as a white male, age 30 to 50, possibly around six feet tall, with a muscular build and glasses.
After an extensive search Police identified and charged 29-year-old Michael Rivera, a deputy for the U.S. Marshal’s Office in Bismarck, promoting sexual performance by a minor. Rivera has been placed on administrative leave and is out of jail on a cash bond. The Marshall’s office is cooperating with Bismarck police as they investigate the allegations.
Police are also looking for a man in Revere, Massachusetts who is accused of looking at a female undress inside a changing room at Target. Police said they are looking to identify a man described as a white male in his late 30s, with brown hair, who was wearing a white shirt during the incident.
In Texas, police turned to Facebook and surveillance video to identify Charles Sidney McKissack III, 29, who took off running after an underage girl noticed a camera recording her actions while she was changing her clothes. Investigators say the man put his cell phone over the wall of a fitting room and shot video of the girl inside the Dallas-metro Target fitting room on May 5, 2016. McKissack took off running after the girl noticed the camera. Melissa Tollinger, a parent in the Dallas area told reporters, “These young men don’t realize the ramifications of sending one text….Once the photo or video is out on the internet you can’t get it back.”
A female customer inside a Target captured her eerie encounter inside a Florida Target store after she said a man made indecent comments about her body. Candice Spivey recorded herself confronting the man suspected of being a voyeur and kept rolling as she chased him out the door. The Facebook video has gone viral (Warning Graphic Language with more than 2.3 million views). Police said they could not charge the suspect, Jeffery Polizzi, with a crime based on the video evidence. but they did arrest him for reckless driving because Polizzi drove out of the Target parking lot so fast he was stopped by an officer. When Florida police asked area women to come forward with any similar stories, they received more than 50 complaints against Polizzi. According to court documents, Polizzi was previously convicted in 2009 of “taking photographs of women in dressing rooms.”
On April 23, 2016, a Missouri man was arrested after allegedly secretly filming women in a Target dressing room. Matthew Foerstel, 26, faces felony charges for invasion of privacy after allegedly holding a camera phone under a dressing room door while a female shopper tried on swimsuits at Target. Back in 2012 Bishop was previously convicted of invasion of privacy for knowingly and intentionally filming an 11-year-old girl while she was partially nude inside a department store dressing room.
Joshua Sheldon, 33, pleaded guilty to voyeurism in Miami Township, Ohio on April 7th, after he captured video of a 21 year-old female by placing his phone under the door at a Target fitting room. Sheldon was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $380 fine. He is required to register as a sex offender and stay away from Target stores for two years.
In the Connecticut town of South Windsor police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of taking photos under dressing room doors at the Target store on Sunday July 11th. Police are still seeking the Hispanic male who was initially spotted by store security photographing a woman who was changing in one of the dressing rooms, but he fled the store before he could be stopped.
In another incident on July 22nd, Christopher Dreyer was arrested and placed in Escambia County Jail on a $6,000 bond for Video Voyeurism in Pensacola, Florida. According to the police report and surveillance video from inside the Target, Dreyer put a micro camera up a woman’s skirt while she was shopping in an aisle. Deputies were able to seize a FosCam mini video camera/DVR, a LG Vista cell phone and a 32GB micro SD memory card. Dreyer was set to appear in court on August 8, 2016.
All these incidents come as fears that transgender bathroom policies sweeping across the nation, like that adopted at Target, provide easier access for predators.
A day after Target declared it “welcomes transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,” the American Family Association called for a boycott of Target and created an online pledge that has been signed by over 1.4 million Americans that have promised to shop elsewhere.
Earlier this year, Target CEO Brian Cornell explained to shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Costa Mesa, California, that their new bathroom and fitting room policy was about diversity and inclusion but he simply doesn’t seem to understand that he has offended millions of Americans by putting their safety and privacy at risk. Instead of considering the voices of concerned parents, the company has instead offered the option of family bathrooms but we can see that private fitting rooms might be needed to keep shoppers safe as the company continues to fully embracing diversity.