Tag Archives: target

Cities struggle as big box retailers fight to minimize tax assessments

Some big-box retailers in Wisconsin have successfully challenged their tax assessments by claiming they should pay the same rate as a store that’s closed and remains vacant.

Critics say that “dark store” legal loophole could cause municipalities to raise residential taxes to make up the difference.

The legal tactic is relatively new and has some cities struggling to keep up, according to Rocco Vita, chairman of the Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers’ Legislative Committee.

“The stores have this very polished and professional legal team that peddles a product — property tax mitigation strategies,” Vita said. “All of a sudden, this strategy is gaining power in the Midwest. It has taken people by surprise.”

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue requires property tax assessors to account for the fair market value of a property. That includes both the value of the building and its location.

Retailers have successfully argued in court that there should be no tax difference between their thriving businesses and the vacant retailers down the block, Vita said.

In one case, Menards argued in a lawsuit filed in July that the value of its store in Fond du Lac assessed by the city at $9.2 million should be no more than $5.2 million. A similar lawsuit from Target argues that Fond du Lac should reduce its taxes on the retailer by about a third, according to USA Today Network-Wisconsin.

In another case, Oshkosh was ordered to pay Walgreens nearly $306,000 in overcharged taxes, plus court fees and interest. Last summer, two similar lawsuits surfaced from Menards and Lowe’s.

Oshkosh City Attorney Lynn Lorenson said municipalities are worried that as retailers win these lawsuits, more stores will follow. The limits of the loophole are unclear, she said.

“If one type of business or one type of property gets more favorable treatment, then everybody is going to be looking at that,” Lorenson said. “They’ll say, ‘If Walgreens had success, maybe we can use a similar argument.””

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has helped draft legislation to plug the loophole, according to Curt Witynski, the league’s assistant director. The league hopes lawmakers will introduce in January.

Did slaves peel your frozen shrimp? A guide to the issue and what to do

Enslaved migrant workers and children are ripping the heads, tails, shells and guts off shrimp at processing factories in Thailand, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp going from one peeling shed to major Thai exporting companies. Then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, they tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the farmed shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. AP reporters in all 50 states went shopping and found related brands in more than 150 stores across America.

The businesses that responded condemned the practices that lead to labor abuse, and many said they were launching investigations.

Q: How do I know if my shrimp or other seafood is tainted by labor abuses?

A: That’s a big part of the problem. Most companies do not make their supply chains public. And even if they did, there are many places for abuses to occur that are not documented or take place far from any type of scrutiny. For example, slaves have been forced to work on boats catching trash fish used for feed at shrimp farms, and migrants have been brought across borders illegally and taken straight to shrimp sheds where they are locked inside and forced to peel. Fishing boats are going farther and farther from shore, sometimes not docking for months or years at a time, creating floating prisons.

Q: What shrimp brands and companies did the AP find linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Cape Gourmet; Certifresh; Chef’s Net; Chicken of the Sea; Chico; CoCo; Darden (owner of Olive Garden Italian Kitchen, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze Island Grille, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Yard House); Delicasea; Fancy Feast cat food; Farm Best; Fisherman’s Wharf; Winn-Dixie; Fishmarket; Great American; Great Atlantic; Great Catch; Harbor Banks; KPF; Market Basket; Master Catch; Neptune; Portico; Publix; Red Lobster; Royal Tiger; Royal White; Sea Best; Sea Queen; Stater Bros.; Supreme Choice; Tastee Choice; Wal-Mart; Waterfront Bistro; Wellness canned cat food; Whole Catch; Wholey; Xcellent.

Q: AP reporters visited supermarkets chosen at random in all 50 states. Where did they find shrimp linked to tainted supply chains in its investigation?

A: Acme Markets; Albertsons; Aldi; Bi-Lo; Carrs-Safeway; Cash Wise; Crest Foods; Cub Foods; D’Agostino Supermarket; Dan’s Supermarket; Dollar General; Edwards Food Giant; Family Dollar; Foodland; Fred Meyer; Giant Eagle; Harris-Teeter; H-E-B; Hy-Vee; Jerry’s Foods; Jewel-Osco; Jons International Marketplace; Kroger; Lowes Foods; Mariano’s; Market Basket; Marsh Supermarkets; Martin’s Super Markets; McDade’s Market; Pavilions; Petco; Piggly Wiggly; Price Chopper; Publix; Ralphs; Randall’s Food Market; Redner’s Warehouse Markets; Russ’s Market; Safeway; Save Mart; Schnucks; Shaws; ShopRite; Smart & Final; Sprouts Farmers Market; Stater Bros.; Stop & Shop; Sunshine Foods; Target; Van’s Thriftway; Vons; Wal-Mart; Whole Foods; Winn-Dixie.

Q: Thailand has been in the news a lot lately with problems linked to human trafficking in its seafood industry. Why is this still an issue?

A: Thailand is one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, and relies heavily on migrant workers from poor neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. These laborers often are misled by brokers in their home countries and illegally brought to Thailand with promises of good-paying jobs. They are then sold onto fishing boats or put into seafood processing plants where they become trapped and forced to work long hours for little or no money. Thailand has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the abuses. It has created new laws and is helping to register undocumented workers, but arrests and prosecutions are still rare.

Q: What are buyers and governments doing to try to stop slave-tainted seafood from reaching their countries?

A: The U.S. State Department has blacklisted Thailand for the past two years for its dismal human rights record, placing it among the world’s worst offenders such as North Korea and Syria. However, it has not issued sanctions. The European Union put out a “yellow card” warning earlier this year that tripled seafood import tariffs, and is expected to decide next month whether to impose an outright ban on products. Companies such as Nestle have vowed to force change after conducting their own audits and finding that their Thai suppliers were abusing and enslaving workers. Others are working with rights groups to monitor their supply chains and ensure laborers are treated fairly and humanely.

Target asks customers to leave firearms at home

The retail giant Target on July 2 asked customers to not bring firearms to its stores.

The announcement made on a company blog was from interim CEO John Mulligan, who has been the focus of a petition drive coordinated by a grassroots group of moms opposed to people carrying guns in a store where adult shoppers often are accompanied by children.

Mulligan’s statement said:

“The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

“As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit ‘open carry’ should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.

“We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

“This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which collected nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition, applauded Target’s decision. The group said it “introduced the campaign after gun extremists carrying loaded assault rifles frequently gathered in Target stores to demonstrate in support of open carry laws.”

Editor’s note: This story is developing.

Moms staging Stroller Jam at Target shareholders’ meeting to protest gun policy

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America today is staging a “Stroller Jam” of mothers and children and stollers outside Target Corps’ annual shareholder meeting. The protest is to call attention to the fact that Target allows the open carry of guns in its stores.

In less than a week’s time, more than 160,000 people have signed petitions asking Target Corp CEO John Mulligan to prohibit the open carry of guns and Moms chapters in a number of states will also begin delivering petitions to Target stores this week.

The petitions are in response to demonstrations by a gun extremist group that brought loaded semi-automatic weapons into the aisles of Target stores in a number of states and after a gun was found in the toy aisle of a Target store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In another incident, a Target employee accidentally shot himself with a gun dropped by a customer.

In a news release announcing the Stroller Jam, Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, “Assault rifles and guns don’t belong in the baby aisle, they don’t belong in the toy aisle — and they don’t belong in any aisle of the stores that American moms frequent like Target.

“We will continue our call on Target to stand with moms and support the safety and security of our children when we shop in their stores.  We support the Second Amendment but people walking through the aisles flaunting their loaded weapons is unacceptable and it’s time for Target, a store that American moms flock to, to follow the lead of Chipotle and Starbucks and prohibit the open carry of firearms.”

The protest was to take place at Union Station in Dallas at about 1:30 p.m. CST.

Also, moms  also planned to deliver petition to stores in Virginia, California, North Carolina and Minnesota.

According to Target, about 80-90 percent of its customers are women and 38 percent of the retailer’s adult customers are accompanied in the store by children.

Marketers slow to deploy ads featuring gay couples

Even as gay marriage becomes legal in more places, corporate America has been slower to feature gay couples in advertising plans.

While companies in Minnesota and elsewhere cater to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers, efforts to court their business are not as obvious to the general public. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that those marketing campaigns tend to be more over social media than a mass market medium such as television.

Some businesses are starting to change their approach. U Care, a nonprofit Minnesota health plan, recently started putting ads on city buses featuring a lesbian couple holding hands and a message that reads, “Health care that starts with: Kate and Louisa.”

“Our brand’s tagline is ‘Health care that starts with you.’ It’s not ‘Health care that starts with some of you,’” said Dan Ness, the company’s marketing director.

UCare, a nonprofit, community-based health plan, serves people in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its transit ad campaign, which started running in July, depicts a wide variety of people, Ness said. A television ad UCare has run since 2011 also features a lesbian couple.

Other Minnesota companies court gay customers in smaller ways. Target depicts gay couples in its wedding registry marketing. Cereal maker General Mills has a blog site promoting its Lucky Charms cereal brand abounds with gay-friendly rainbows and a photo gallery that includes photos of same sex couples.

Communications strategist Bob Witeck said companies are proceeding cautiously because of risks of offending those who don’t approve of gay relationships. When JC Penney and Urban Outfitters featured gay couples in catalogs, they faced boycotts from the group “One Million Moms.”

And Witeck said if marketers really want to speak to gay couples, they can get a better payoff by spending advertising dollars in places where gay and lesbian people are the main audience, such as the “gay voices” section of the Huffington Post.

“When same-sex couples are incorporated into a strategy, they’re almost invariably focused in channels where there’s a higher proportion of gay people seeing them,” he said.

2013 LGBT community survey results: Starbucks does well, Chick-fil-A doesn’t

Starbucks has moved to the No. 1 position of brands perceived as most supportive of the LGBT community, according to a new survey.

JCPenney, Target, Apple and Amazon round out the top 5.

The broad Community Market & Insights 2013 LGBT survey is based on the opinions of more than 30,000 people in more than 100 countries. To collect the information, CMI partnered with more than 180 media outlets and organizations, including the Wisconsin Gazette.

CMI noted that “obviously the media consumption, purchasing patterns and motivations of a 25 year old single gay man living in New York City are completely different than those of a lesbian couple in their 60s living in Sedona, Ariz.” So, it said, the study “helps organizations understand how the LGBT community sometimes responds as one voice, or when demographic differences such as gender, age, and geographic residence are far more important.”

A sampling of what CMI found in the United States:

• 75 percent of LGBT people are actively boycotting Chick-fil-A.

• The term “LGBT” has strengthened its lead as the preferred term to describe the community. “GLBT” is continuing to lose favor – even among gay men. Bisexual men and women and the transgender community strongly prefer the term “LGBT.”

• The LGBT community demonstrates strong support for the performing arts, with more than 60 percent having purchased tickets in the past 12 months.

• Nearly half of all gay/bisexual men and lesbian/bisexual women surveyed make financial contributions to a charity or nonprofit at least annually.

• Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to purchase spa services than gay and bisexual men.

• Lesbians consume beer on similar levels as gay men, but are far less likely to drink “spirits.”

• Transgender men and women drink far less alcohol than gays or lesbians.

• Facebook is a dominant media force within the LGBT community. However, LGBT-specific websites are showing notable growth in LGBT readership.

• During the past week, 42 percent of lesbian/bi women “liked” a business on Facebook, 28 percent of gay/bi men “checked in” at a business to get deals or discounts and 17 percent of lesbian/bi women purchased a deal from Groupon, Living Social, etc.

• 56 percent of lesbians watched an NFL game on television in the past year, compared to 40 percent of gay men.

• Lesbians support the WNBA, with 34 percent watching a game on television and 12 percent attending a game.

Petitioners push Best Buy to oppose anti-gay referendum

Nearly 30,000 petitioners on Change.org want Minnesota-based Best Buy to formally oppose a ballot measure against gay marriage in the state.

The measure on the November general election ballot would amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Already Minnesota does not recognize same-sex marriage.

With the ballot initiative battle intensifying, University of Minnesota Law School grad Andrew Korando started the Best Buy petition drive.

Two other major Minnesota companies, Target Corporation and General Mills, have announced stands against the anti-gay measure, saying it is discriminatory and bad for business.

Target’s statement said a constitutional fight over the issue is not good for Minnesota or “the state’s ability to attract jobs and grow the economy.” 

General Mills said the company does “not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy. We value diversity. We value inclusion.”

Best Buy, a company struggling with new technology and retail trends, had a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s index on corporate LGBT equality until 2010, when it donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported anti-gay candidates in 2010.

Korando said, 

“Best Buy’s silence on this discriminatory ballot measure is both economically and morally irresponsible. Laws that discriminate are never good for business because they undermine recruitment of top industry talent.”

On the Web: 

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General Mills opposes anti-gay Minnesota amendment

General Mills said this week that it opposes a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, becoming the largest company in the state to come out against the measure so far.

“We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy – and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it,” Ken Charles, vice president of global diversity and inclusion for General Mills, wrote in a public blog post on the company’s website. “We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have and we always will.”

Minnesota already bans gay marriage by statute, but gay marriage opponents have said putting the ban in the state constitution would make it harder for courts to undo it. Voters will decide the issue in November.

Minnesota for Marriage, a main group pushing for the amendment’s passage, accused General Mills of “pandering to a small but powerful interest group.”

“By taking this position, General Mills is saying to Minnesotans and people all around the globe that marriage doesn’t matter to them,” Chairman John Helmberger said in a statement.

St. Jude Medical has publicly opposed the proposal, as have executives from RBC Wealth Management and hospitality giant Carlson.

Another Minnesota-based company, Target Corp., which suffered a backlash two years ago after making a political donation to a group supporting a right-wing Republican candidate for governor, also has opposed the amendment. The company was criticized again earlier this month for selling gay Pride T-shirts to raise money for a group working to defeat the gay marriage ban.

General Mills’ blog post on Minnesota’s proposed amendment banning gay marriage: http://bit.ly/M1iwBu.

Petitioners urge Best Buy to oppose anti-gay Minnesota initiative

More than 15,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on Best Buy to oppose a ballot campaign to amend the Minnesota constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

University of Minnesota law school student Andrew Korando started the petition drive after the Minnesota-based Target Corporation issued a statement against the ballot measure.

“Opposing this amendment is not simply the right thing to do, but as a local institution, it is also in Best Buy’s best interest if it wants to recruit and retain the industry’s top talent,” said Korando. “I moved to Minnesota from another state, earned a law degree and planned on making this state my home because I love how well the state takes care of all Minnesotans. If corporations allow this discriminatory policy to pass, they’ll lose people like me.”

Target’s statement read, in part, “Target does not believe that a constitutional fight over the issue is good for Minnesota or the state’s ability to attract jobs and grow the economy.”

When people sign Korando’s petition, Change.org sends an e-mail to Best Buy executives, as well as members of the company’s LGBT employee group.

Best Buy has a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate equality index, but in 2010 the company, like Target, faced criticism for a $100,000 donation to a PAC that funneled money to anti-gay politicians in Minnesota.

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Target celebrating Pride with T-shirts

Target Corporation is celebrating LGBT Pride Month with the launch of a line of Pride-themed T-shirts.

The T-shirts, being sold on the company’s Website, debuted this week, just as Christian right groups were organizing a boycott of Gap for a billboard ad featuring two men in a Gap T-shirt.

Sales of Target’s Pride T-shirts benefit the Family Equality Council, which is based in Boston and “connects, supports, and represents the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents in this country and the two million children they are raising.”

Some shirts display the slogan “Love is Love,” some repeat “Harmony” in a rainbow of colors, one has a rainbow wave and another a rainbow Rayban-like sunglasses.

Target, according to its Website, will contribute up to $120,000 in sales of Pride merchandise to FEC.

The company also supports Pride events in Minnesota and rates highly with the Human Rights Campaign for its LGBT employment policies.

But two years ago, Target was the focus of a boycott by LGBT activists opposed to $150,000 in donations to the anti-gay Minnesota Forward.

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