Embracing a Diverse Consumer

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.

Inclusive Environments

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.

Representative Marketplace

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.

Employee Directives

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.

Impact Councils

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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