Selling Pride: Do Retail Pride Collections Support the LGBTQ+ Community?

NBC 7 and T20 Responds looked at where the money from the pride collections of the largest U.S. retailers goes

NBC Universal, Inc.

You might have seen the LGBTQ+ displays at retail stores or online during Pride month. T-shirts, pet toys, and even home décor were sold often with a note saying the company was supporting a pride organization. But does that money actually go to LGBTQ+ groups?

“Are you using it as a marketing scheme to gain money for the organization?” asked Mark Maddox, board vice president at the Lambda Archives. “That’s rainbow capitalism.”

The Lambda Archives is a group dedicated to preserving the history of San Diego’s gay community. Maddox says during Pride month most companies are quick to change their logo, but he wonders how much they are actually doing. 

“It’s not just releasing a Pride collection,” said Maddox. “It’s who is involved in that, whose art are we using, who is consulted?”

NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 Responds spotted colorful displays around San Diego and online, so we dug into some of the largest retailers in the U.S. and their contributions to LGBTQ+ organizations. 

Nordstrom told us 10% of its Be Proud collection sales would go to support Trans Lifeline, up to $250,000. It also said this year it was making additional donations to Trans Lifeline, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and the Human Rights Campaign totaling more than $430,000.

Victoria’s Secret said it was making two donations of $200,000 to Campus Pride and the Point Foundation.

Target told us it was donating $250,000 to GLSEN, along with its support of PrideLive and GLAAD. In its statement, Target also said, “this year’s collection features more than 250 products made for and by the LGBTQIA+ community.”

“The operative part should be working with and partnering with members of the community,” said Maddox.

Kohl’s said it was making a $100,000 donation in honor of pride month to The Trevor Project, noting that the donation “exceeds the benefitting sales of [our] pride-related collection.”

JCPenny told us their $100,000 donation to Point Foundation was supported by sales of its “limited-edition Hope & Wonder pride collection.” 

Gap said its brand Old Navy had donated $50,000 to the Ali Forney Center in honor of its Pride collection. 

Macy’s focused solely on the products people could buy that supported Pride organizations, saying up to $15,000 of its “ID Ideology pride-inspired printed tees and shorts” would go to The Trevor Project. They also pointed to products from Nautica, Levi’s, NYX and more that it sold which helped a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations. 

We reached out to Walmart several times but they never got back to us, however, their website mentioned products from the Queer Eye collection would help support the Ali Forney Center. 

Amazon was the one company we contacted that did not have a Pride collection, but said its landing page featured several of its LGBTQ+ influencers. 

Maddox says people should look at a company’s collection and where the money is going. He also said it’s important to see how a company treats its LGBTQ+ employees. 

“If you’re going to give to an organization, do it for the right reasons,” said Maddox. “Do it because you actually support an organization’s values, not just because you’re doing it for the show.”

If you don’t have the time to vet a company, Maddox says simply check to see if they are supporting local organizations or only national ones. 

“Make sure we’re looking directly to queer folks,” said Maddox. “Because that is actually an expression through dollars of supporting the community.”

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