JUST IN: Target Makes A Big Announcement…

Retail giant Target has been struggling for well over a year since its decision to allow transgender men to use bathrooms and changing rooms designated for women. Now, the chain is pulling the plug on a dozen stores as part of an effort to retool its stores in smaller spaces.

The Minnesota-based company announced the closings this week, saying it was a difficult decision, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The company on Monday began notifying store employees at the 12 affected stores, which are slated to close on Feb. 3.

“It’s not a decision we make lightly,” said Target spokesperson Kristy Welker. “We have a really rigorous process in place in evaluating the performance of a store in deciding when to close or relocate a store. We close a store after seeing several years of decreasing profitability.”

The retailer has launched a campaign to downsize its massive outlets into smaller spaces concentrated in larger urban areas. The company plans to open 32 smaller locations this year and as many as 35 next year.

Target is also focusing on creating stores to serve as pick-up points for customers who purchase merchandise online.

For those in the smaller, more rural communities who face the closings, the move is difficult both for shoppers and workers.

“It’s devastating news for the community,” Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer told the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.

And the mayor is not over exaggerating.

In Hutchinson, Kansas, some folks are planning to hold a candlelight vigil on the eve of the store’s closing to “mourn the loss of our beloved Target,” according to a Facebook page set up to organize the gathering. The event, the Facebook page said, is “BYOC” — “Bring your own candles.”

The city of about 13,000 people in western Minnesota also lost a Kmart in recent years, and the building that once housed it is still vacant.

The 12 stores being shuttered are Harper Woods, Michigan; Hutchinson, Kansas; Benton Harbor, Michigan; Macon, Georgia; Slidell, Louisiana; Lauderhill, Florida; Matteson, Illinois; Romeoville, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; San Antonio, Texas; Hastings, Minnesota; and Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Target closed five stores in its last fiscal year and 13 the year before that.