Target severs ties with Paula Deen

  • Article by: THOMAS LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2013 - 9:28 PM

 

Paula Deen’s line of cookware is no longer welcome at Target Corp.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said Thursday that it will stop selling additional products from the self-styled queen of Southern cooking.

“We have made a decision to phase out the Paula Deen merchandise in our stores as well as on Target.com,” spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an e-mailed statement. “Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory.”

Snyder said she did not know how many units of Deen’s products a Target store carries but said the merchandise depicted on target.com — six different types of pots and pans, including two the retailer listed as a “Top Wedding Gift” — was fairly representative of the store’s inventory.

Analysts said Target did the right thing.

“They don’t want her to be associated with Target,” said Chicago-based retail consultant Georganne Bender. “They don’t want any negativity connected to their brand. Wrong or right, she is such a magnet for controversy. They don’t want to wait for the next shoe to drop.”

Target joins a flurry of companies, including retailers Wal-Mart and Home Depot, who are cutting ties with Deen amid revelations in a deposition that the celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.

Diabetes drugmaker Novo Nordisk said Thursday it and Deen have “mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now.”

Meanwhile, Paula Deen’s name is being stripped from four buffet restaurants owned by Caesars Entertainment. Caesars said Wednesday that its decision to rebrand its restaurants in Joliet, Ill.; Tunica, Miss.; Cherokee, N.C.; and Elizabeth, Ind., was a mutual one with Deen.

Last week, the Food Network said that it would not renew the celebrity cook’s contract. And on Monday, pork producer Smithfield Foods said it was dropping her as a spokeswoman. Smithfield sold Paula Deen-branded hams in addition to featuring her as a spokeswoman.

Given Deen’s incendiary comments and the quick exodus of companies from her brand, Target should have pulled the plug on Deen a lot earlier than it did, said Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail consulting firm in Boston, noting Wal-Mart did so a day earlier.

“You would have expected Target to be more sensitive to issues of race and diversity,” Koo said. “It felt it took longer than it should have. It was another lost opportunity for Target to be strong. Now it looks like they are just following Wal-Mart.”

Though Target enjoys a progressive reputation, the company’s media and public affairs strategy have been conservative, Koo said. For example, Target didn’t take the lead on improving working conditions in Bangladesh after a building hosting two garment factories collapsed in April, killing 1,129 workers.

Target was one of the big American companies that passed on signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. It was signed by about 40 retailers in May, mostly European, after outrage built in Europe and North America over retailers ­sourcing apparel from what appears to a network of deadly sweatshops. Instead, Target and other American retailers, the likes of Wal-Mart Stores, Gap and J.C. Penney Co., met the Wednesday after Memorial Day to start drafting their own plan.

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will suspend trading privileges in Bangladesh because of concerns for worker safety and labor rights.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113

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