The Target boycott has reached a boiling point -- and sales may suffer as a result

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Target's transgender bathroom policy, too liberal?



Target is facing a nationwide backlash for its support of transgender rights.

More than 1.2 million people have signed a pledge to boycott the retailer after it announced last month that it would welcome transgender customers to use any bathroom or fitting room that matches their gender identity.

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Critics have been holding protests and demonstrations at stores across the country, and they are showing no signs of dying down.

Many are demanding access to bathrooms of the opposite sex to support claims that "perverts" can now prey on children and women as a result of the policy.

The boycotters' goal is to force Target to reverse its policy, or at least make the retailer suffer for it by spending their money elsewhere.

But Target CEO Brian Cornell dug in his heels on the issue this week, saying Target won't reverse its stance.

"We took a stance and we are going to continue to embrace our belief of diversity and inclusion," Cornell said onCNBC.

So what does that mean for Target's business?

Sales may drop for at least short period, according to YouGov BrandIndex, a firm that measures consumer perceptions of major brands on a daily basis.

Before the boycott, 42% of consumers considered buying from Target the next time they shop at a department store. In the last couple weeks, that share has fallen to 36%, according to YouGov data provided to Business Insider.

Consumer perception of the brand has also dropped sharply. It's at its lowest point in two years.

Despite the drop, Target is still in "positive" perception territory. In other words, there are still more people who think positively about Target than negatively.

"There's a very large group out there that supports Target's decision," says crisis management expert Kevin Dinino, CEO of San Diego-based KCD PR.

He pointed out that nearly 80 million people shop at Target's stores every month, so "at worst, we are talking about a group of 1.2 million shoppers — or 1.5% of Target's customers — who are disenfranchised."

Investors also don't seem too concerned about a long-term sales impact.

Target's share price has lost 9% of its value in the last month, but it's up 3% so far this year.

TargetGetty/Alex Wong

In the past, even the most widespread calls for company boycotts have tended to blow over within a matter of weeks to months.

Chick-fil-A, for example, faced a nationwide boycott in 2012 after Dan Cathy, the son of the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, set off a fury among gay rights supporters when he told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." Following Cathy's remarks, reports emerged detailing Chick-fil-A's many charitable donations to anti-gay marriage organizations.

Despite the backlash, Chick-fil-A's sales soared 14% in 2012.

Ultimately, access to goods will outweigh moral outrage for many consumers, says LarryChiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University's Lubin School of Business in New York.

"The boycott is not going to last very long," Chiagouris told Business Insider. "There is a big difference between signing a petition compared to not taking advantage of a big sale at target. People will always take advantage of the sale."

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RELATED: More on the North Carolina bathroom bill

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The Target boycott has reached a boiling point -- and sales may suffer as a result
In this photo taken Thursday, May 12, 2016, signage is seen outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. The ADA-compliant bathroom signs were designed by artist Peregrine Honig. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016 during a rally in support of the law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
A police officer confronts a lady holding a sign at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016, during a rally in support of a law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
DURHAM, NC - MAY 10: The 'We Are Not This' slogan is posted at the entrances to Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 (HB2) that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Supporters gather at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016, in support of House Bill 2, a law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the State Capitol Building in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016 during a rally in support of the law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Two protesters hold up signs against passage of legislation in North Carolina, which limits the bathroom options for transgender people, during a rally in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 31, 2016. The rally drew around 100 people at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. (AP Photos/Skip Foreman)
Demonstrators protesting passage of legislation limiting bathroom access for transgender people stand in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 31, 2016. Approximately 100 people gathered for the rally, many chanting and carrying signs. (AP Photos/Skip Foreman)
FILE - In this March 30, 2016 file photo, Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Chad Griffin, center, speaks at a news conference at the old state Capitol Building in Raleigh, N.C. Griffin was among several LGBT leaders who headed to the state to join in protests and plot strategy for trying to overturn a new law limiting bathroom options for transgender people. Stung by setbacks related to their access to public restrooms, transgender Americans are taking steps to play a more prominent and vocal role in a nationwide campaign to curtail discrimination against them. (AP Photo/Gary Robertson, File)
People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 24, 2016. North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country. (AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)
People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 24, 2016. North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country. (AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)
North Carolina lawmakers gather on the House floor for a special session Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. to consider stopping a new Charlotte ordinance set to take effect April 1 that gives protections to transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This March 10, 2015 photo shows a PayPal sign outside of the main entrance to an office building in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Elaine Martin, right, listens as Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, speaks during a press conference to announce filing of federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's HB 2 law at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Monday, March 28, 2016. Several different advocacy groups and some of the lead plaintiffs spoke at the event. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
Joaquin Carcano, center, the lead plaintiff in the case, speaks during a press conference to announce filing of federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's HB 2 law at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Monday, March 28, 2016. Several different advocacy groups and some of the lead plaintiffs spoke at the event. Joaquin was born a woman and is now a man. Simone Bell with Lambda Law is at left; Chris Brook with the ACLU is at right. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
TO GO AFP STORY BY BRIGITTE DUSSEAU - Transgender delegates Jamie Shier (L) and Janice Covington pose for photographs at the Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012. The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Wednesday that US President Barack Obama would move his acceptance speech from the outdoor Bank of America Stadium to the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena due to predictions of thunderstorms. AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)
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