FIRST ON FOX — Some southern Target stores were forced by the corporation to move LGBTQ Pride merchandise away from the front of their locations after customer "outrage" to avoid a "Bud Light situation."
Many Target locations across the country feature massive June Pride month displays on an annual basis, with items this year ranging from "tuck friendly" bathing suits for transgender people to mugs that say "gender fluid." But the retail juggernaut has been criticized by some conservatives for the displays, with children’s items particularly irking many customers.
A Target insider told Fox News Digital that many locations, mostly in rural areas of the South, have relocated Pride sections to avoid the kind of backlash Bud Light has received in recent weeks after using a transgender influencer in a promotional campaign.
A Target insider said there were "emergency" calls on Friday and that some managers and district senior directors were told to tamp down the Pride sections immediately.
"We were given 36 hours, told to take all of our Pride stuff, the entire section, and move it into a section that’s a third the size. From the front of the store to the back of the store, you can’t have anything on mannequins and no large signage," the Target insider said.
"We call our customers ‘guests,’ there is outrage on their part. This year, it is just exponentially more than any other year," the Target insider continued. "I think given the current situation with Bud Light, the company is terrified of a Bud Light situation."
The insider, who has worked at the retailer for almost two decades, said Target rarely makes such hasty decisions. They said Friday’s call began with roughly 10 minutes on "how to deal with team member safety" because of the amount of backlash the Pride merchandise has generated, noting that Target Asset Protect & Corporate Security teams were present on the call.
"The call was super quick, it was 15 minutes. The first 10 minutes was about how to keep your team safe and not having to advocate for Target. The last five was, ‘Move this to the back, take down the mannequins and remove the signage,’" the insider said, noting that bathing suits have replaced Pride merchandise in front-of-store displays despite Pride month not even starting until June 1.
"It’s all under the guise of trying to increase swim sales," the insider said. "Everyone was like, ‘Thank God,’ because we’re all on the front lines dealing with it."
A Target spokesperson said the changes were made due to "volatile circumstances."
"For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month," the spokesperson told Fox News Digital. "Since introducing this year’s collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year."
Fox News Digital has confirmed rural Target stores in South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia are among the locations to move the Pride sections. Most rank-and-file employees were left in the dark, with many not knowing the Pride sections would be moved until they noticed it themselves.
Pride merchandise remains prominently displayed at other locations and on the Target website.
Target Pride merchandise includes female-style swimsuits that can be used to "tuck" male genitalia. Some products are also labeled as "Thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions."
Pride merchandise also includes onesies and rompers for newborn babies, a variety of adult clothing with slogans such as "Super Queer," party supplies, home decor, multiple books and a "Grow At Your Own Pace" saucer planter.
Bud Light sales have plummeted since backlash to the partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney has continued to haunt the company more than a month since it came to light. The issue began when Mulvaney publicized that the beer company sent packs of Bud Light featuring the influencer’s face as a way to celebrate a full year of "girlhood." Mulvaney is one of many social media influencers Bud Light has tapped to promote the brand.
Mulvaney said the cans were her "most prized possession" on Instagram with a post that featured "#budlightpartner." A video then featured Mulvaney in a bathtub drinking a Bud Light beer as part of the campaign. Some consumers mistakenly thought the cans with Mulvaney's face were being sold to the public.
"Bud Light learned an important lesson about wading into the culture wars recently. But partnering with Dylan Mulvaney is nothing compared to what Target is doing," conservative pundit and author Bethany Mandel tweeted.
Fox News' Hanna Panreck contributed to this report. This article was updated with a comment from Target.