The BLM movement sent ripples throughout the world last year, highlighting the importance for socio-political and economic reform in everything from government to media to brands and retail. With the world witnessing how BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals have been disproportionately impacted by police brutality, financial disparity, and inequality, people are now putting their money where their mouth is by using their spending power more than ever before in the favor of the missions they believe in.
Beyond a social post or one-off campaign, consumers’ expectation for inclusivity runs deeper, spanning the entire retail experience — from a company’s internal practices, to its store environment, the products it stocks, the vendors it carries, and how it’s supporting its communities. Consumers now expect to see results, and are calling on retailers to be transparent in how their promises are being applied to internal and external processes to create measured change.
“Re-connecting with the consumer through qualitative human-to-human research is not only the smart thing to do, it’s a responsibility. Shoppers have been through tremendous amounts of upheaval and disruption from the super luxury to the value shopper” says Roben Allong, Founder & CEO of Lightbeam Communications. “No one has really escaped. Listening to get a better understanding of how these changes have impacted (positively and negatively) consumer mindset, attitudes, and behavior is key to harnessing new growth opportunities, keeping loyal customers and increasing revenue, moving forward.”
Retail employees want to see the company’s words supported by meaningful action. According to The Racial Bias In Retail Survey. Sephora, 2020 the majority (81%) of retail employees recognize the importance of being able to service diverse shopper needs, with fewer than one in three (27%) feeling confident they can meet them extremely well.
How can retailers, businesses and creatives authenticity engage their communities, and commit themselves to representing, uplifting and activating around BIPOC consumers year-round?
The PSFK Labs team has identified actionable consumer-facing and internal steps that businesses are taking to better connect with both new and existing consumers, and visibly demonstrate that all consumers are equally valued. We’ve highlighted several trends (see the full list here) that demonstrate how established retailers and emerging brands are addressing processes, redesigning stores, and taking care to ensure the right voices are being included, heard and uplifted at every level and every stage of retail, as they use their resources and influence to address racial justice in impactful ways.
To better serve and reflect the communities they service and exist within, corporations, retailers and brands are taking care to offer in-store environments that create a sense of belonging by ensuring shoppers can access the knowledgeable support and products. This comes to life through purposeful initiatives including multicultural staffing, sourcing from a broad range of vendors, and highlighting diverse partnerships within the physical environment.
Grocery chain Trader Joe’s is taking steps to improve their diversity initiatives with regards to both hiring and training processes as well as supplier diversity. With a focus on increasing the diversity of leadership within stores, the company is updating their mentoring and development structures under the leadership of their new Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Deborah Williams. To reflect the values they’re working hard to implement internally, Trader Joe’s has dedicated a product development team to ensuring an increase in the amount of Black-owned product suppliers they buy from as well as setting a target of sourcing 15% of their tasting presentations from Black-owned businesses.
To generate awareness and provide shoppers with access to brands that reflect their values, platforms dedicated to supporting emerging, diverse, and non-traditional brands and businesses are helping them to better connect with and engage a wider, and often underserved consumer.
First introduced as an Instagram page, stylist Zernia Akers’ Black Owned Everything is now a fully operational e-commerce marketplace and media culture hub. Created to highlight a range of both established and emerging Black entrepreneurs, the marketplace currently hosts 35 brands across fashion, accessories, beauty, lifestyle and design. Inspired by the desire to discover and support independent brands, small businesses and creators from within the Black community, consumers are able to do just that, all within one destination. Financed by Akers herself, the stylist and founder is working directly with creators to test and create exclusive products for the site, while each featured brand handles their own inventory and shipping, and contributes a 20% commission to BOE on each sale.
Often, tone deaf or insensitive campaigns and services can be directly linked to a company’s lack of internal representation and buy-in from the intended community. To authentically and respectfully engage multicultural consumers, organizations are investing in their BIPOC employees and internal teams, and providing them with the resources and creative control to design, launch and manage products, platforms, initiatives and campaigns that uplift and highlight Black and Brown creatives and community members.
To celebrate and give back to the Black community this Black History Month, apparel company Bombas, known for its one-for-one sock donation model, looked internally when designing its latest line of socks. Black-identifying creatives at Bombas, also known as The Black Hive, were given creative control over the design, development, and marketing production of The Black Hive Collection, which resulted in eight new pairs socks with each pair sold resulting in a pair donated to someone in need at Black community organizations.
Networking professionals and industry experts across retail segments are partnering with brands and retailers to create platforms and institute programs that prioritize underrepresented communities. Actively working to connect creative communities within the retail and design space to the necessary resources to grow and succeed, these organizations are providing the blueprint for equality across industries.
Partnering with luxury conglomerate Kering, the designer and founder behind Pyer Moss Kerby Jean-Raymond has created a platform to empower the next generation of innovators. Your Friends in New York is meant to act as a digital ecosystem for creatives across art, music, philanthropy, wellness and fashion, connecting emerging minority voices and brands to incubator programs, business models and merchandising services.
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