The company posted a message on its Facebook site saying the original story was a “miscommunication” and that Legion members were welcome.
“We're proud to partner with the Royal Canadian Legion and care deeply about the volunteers,” the company said. “We will do everything we can to make sure their volunteer experience is comfortable.”
The controversy began with a TV news story Monday out of Atlantic Canada that said Target would only allow members inside the stores to sell poppies during bad weather.
“We agreed that outside the front doors would be ideal and obviously if the weather is inclement or they prefer they are welcome to stand inside the double doors, as well,” company spokesperson Lisa Gibson is quoted as saying in the original story.
Gibson didn't respond to inquiries Tuesday, but the Legion said on its Facebook page that Target never said its members would have to set up outside. In fact, they were offered a choice of where to set up, and the exact locations were left up to individual Legions and stores to determine.
“There is no way any Legion volunteer would be expected to be out in bad weather offering poppies for donation,” the statement read. “The Legion and Target care deeply about these volunteers and will do everything we can to make sure their volunteer experience is comfortable.”
The release said the location was agreed to earlier this year, when “Target offered the best location possible for Poppy campaign volunteers – right at the front door – and we were eager to have it.”
Gordon Moore, president of the Legion's national organization, said in a release Tuesday relations with the company are excellent.
“Target is granting the Legion the most prominent location at its stores to offer poppies for donations, and the Legion is truly grateful for this opportunity,” Moore said. “Legion volunteers who are offering poppies for donation want to have the best presence possible in front of Canadians and they have been advised by Dominion Command to meet with local Target representatives to work out the details as to locations at each store.”
The Legion said a TV reporter erroneously asked on of its members what he thought of Target's decision to force them outside to sell the poppies.
“The reaction from the Legion member was predictable – and this member is not at fault in any way – he just wasn’t aware of the agreement,” the statement said.
In Sudbury, the Target store in the Super Mall is slated to open sometime this winter. Dave Petrynchyn, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 76 in Minnow Lake, said Tuesday he's not sure why anyone was upset with Target.
“It's what every store allows us to do,” Petrynchyn said, about selling poppies in store entrances. “Canadian Tire allows us in, but for most stores, we're located in the entrance way.
“But (Target) isn't even open here yet, and won't be open before Remembrance Day, I believe.”
He said there was a similar issue with Home Depot when it first opened in Canada, but it was quickly worked out. Poppies sales are hugely important for Legions, Petrynchyn said, which may explain why it's such a sensitive issue.
“It's the biggest source of revenues for us,” he said.
The annual poppy campaign begins Oct. 25 in Legions across Greater Sudbury and Canada.