Pride Month Rainbow Sale at Marks & Spencer

Last year Marks & Spencer celebrated Pride Month with an LGBTQ+ Pride Sandwich. This year they are hosting an in-house sale that gives shoppers a roundabout way to support the National Health Service. While M&S also hopes to bring LGBTQ stories to the forefront, there is speculation of overreach on Pride branding. More below...

The sale, launched May 14, sees 10 per cent of profits go to the NHS Charities Together, a explained.

But the sale has attracted criticism from LGBT+ people, attesting to the unease queer folk have felt towards the rainbow, in the age of coronavirus, becoming a symbol of hope and solidarity for frontline workers.

LGBT+ folk have expressed agitation as, rather abruptly, the Pride flag has been flogged on eBay as a “Thank You NHS flag” or bus companies rebranding its one Pride bus to the “Thank You NHS bus”. Some worry that this new association will dilute the LGBT+ Pride flag’s meaning.

Echoing this, the British retailor’s “Rainbow Sale” that stretches into Pride Month spurred some Twitter users to accuse Mark & Spencer of “rebranding” Pride.

Marks & Spencer weathered criticism last year for its “LGBT sandwich”, a Pride-themed snack that raised money for the akt, a charity dedicated to helping homeless LGBT+ youth, that caused a stir online.

The rainbow has had, over the years, more meaning and significations tacked onto it than it contains colours. But to Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Pride flag, the rainbow was an enduring international symbol of the LGBT+ community, and this meaning has persevered ever since.

Yet, as the coronavirus continues to paralyse the nation, housebound families have been encouraged children to doodle rainbows to hang in windows to motivate medics on their way to work.

M&S Food Pride Sandwich
2019's M&S Food's LGBT Pride Sandwich

As a result, a bizarre collision of ways to spread hope to medics and the historic symbol of the LGBT+ community has sparked debate about whether this double meaning of the rainbow will negatively impact the LGBT+ community.

Some Twitter users commented on this, with the six-striped Pride flag being used in the Rainbow Sale’s marketing, users accused Marks & Spencer of “piggybacking off the current trend of ‘rebranding’ the pride colours as NHS symbol and capitalising on it.”

Speaking to PinkNews, a spokesperson for Marks & Spencer stressed both meanings of the rainbow will be carried out about the company, as well as announcing its plans for Pride Month.

“It is right that we continue showing our support for healthcare workers through the rainbow, along with the rest of the nation, and that we are all in this together in our response to the pandemic,” they said.

“With social distancing restrictions in place, we know that our customers may want to mark Pride differently this year and we have worked closely with our internal LGBT+ colleague network to consider our plans.

“That’s why, to mark Pride Month, this week we have launched a partnership with akt (and have added akt as one of our year-round Sparks charities (our loyalty scheme) – allowing customers to select it as their chosen charity so that M&S will donate every time they shop with us.

“Additionally, throughout the month, we will also be sharing our colleagues’ stories and we will support customers with ideas on how to celebrate Pride at home from our colleagues in the LGBT+ network.”

Source, Josh Milton for PinkNews.