Over the years, Target has had more than a few misfires. In the half century the retail giant has existed, it's moved a lot of product—both online and in its 1800-plus stores across the country. It has also pulled a number of items due to customer outrage, ethical concerns, shifting industry standards, or a combination of all three. Here are 10 goods that missed the mark.
1. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
One of the highest-rated and best-selling video games of all time was hardly adored by all when it released in October 2013. Target stores in Australia (and Aussie Kmarts, both owned by the Wesfarmers retail group) decided to remove the game from shelves in late 2014 after nearly 46,000 people signed an online petition arguing that Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V “encourages players to murder women for entertainment.” Target's GM of Corporate Affairs, Jim Cooper, issued a statement acknowledging the "significant level of concern" over the game and confirming that the company would remove it from their Australian stores. Cooper added that Target would continue to sell other R-rated games to adult customers, but that the “strong feedback” about GTA V had led to its removal.
2. STORE-BRAND HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS
Following an investigation into store-brand supplements earlier this year, New York State’s attorney general issued subpoenas to Target, Walgreens, GNC, and Walmart that required the retailers to prove the claims printed on their labels. DNA tests conducted by the attorney general’s office found that most of the products did not contain the ingredients advertised, and while some industry experts argued that the tests were not reliable, Target and others pulled the products when threatened with legal action.
3. CONFEDERATE FLAGS
Like Amazon and many others in the wake of the June massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina church, Target pulled all Confederate flags from its online and brick-and-mortar shelves. After an inquiry by CNBC, the chain also removed Confederate costumes from its website.
4. REALISTIC TOY GUNS
In the mid 1980s and early 1990s, there were a number of incidents involving the police and civilians (often children) in which cops mistook toy guns for the real thing. To prevent further tragedy, a number of retailers, including Target, stopped selling realistic-looking toy weapons. Cities including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have since banned the sale of airsoft guns, and federal law now requires that manufacturers permanently attach a bright orange plug to the barrel of the toys.
Target stopped selling cigarettes in its stores in 1996 because, according to The New York Times, “it was costing too much to keep them out of the hands of minors.”
6. AMAZON KINDLES
The brand put an end to a retail practice known as “showrooming” in 2012. This came after the retailer’s online competitor, Amazon, had encouraged shoppers to scan Kindle barcodes in-store to compare prices and receive a discount on Amazon.com. The news about the end of Amazon and Target's relationship came in the form of a leaked memo, but Target later confirmed the decision. A spokesperson for the company wouldn't elaborate, telling CNN Money that “we typically don't discuss our relationships with vendor partners.”
7. FARMED SALMON
in 2010 that, as part of its efforts to become a “responsible steward of the environment,” the company would no longer sell farmed salmon in any of its stores. Instead, the discount chain committed to packaging and selling only wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and even consulted the Monterey Bay Aquarium about how to make more sustainable choices.
8. #MERICA T-SHIRTS
In Spring 2015, designer Melissa Lay accused Target of ripping off the #Merica t-shirts that she sold via her small clothing company on Etsy. The story gained traction online, and Target eventually pulled the designs, issuing a statement that said the company was “concerned when this was brought to our attention. We've been in contact with the vendor that produced this tee. We've also reached out directly to the designer.”
9. PAULA DEEN COOKBOOKS
During her very public fall from grace in 2013, butter enthusiast Paula Deen was dumped by a number of brands looking to distance themselves from the chef, who admitted in a deposition that she had used racist language. Deen's cookware and her books were “phased out” from Target stores and Target.com as she struggled to save her tarnished image.
10. SANDBLASTED JEANS
Citing ethical concerns about the dangers involved in the production process, Target stopped selling sandblasted denim in 2012. “The safety of factory workers should not be compromised for the sake of fashion,” Target's lead fabric engineer said in a statement.