Mitigating Racial Bias in Retail: Working to Create a World Where Every Customer Feels Welcome
Retail thrives on interpersonal connection. From conversations with customers to the careful planning of storefronts, marketing campaigns, and product development to create a fulfilling shopper experience, the comfort and consideration of others remain a core tenet of the industry. Yet, in our nation’s ongoing conversations about racial injustice and police brutality, retailers have had to recognize that not all shoppers feel welcome, or are given the luxury of comfort and inclusion in their spaces. To fully understand the disparity in customer experiences, Sephora–beauty giant and Open to All® Leadership Circle member–commissioned a landmark study on the state of racial bias in the retail sector that not only illustrated the types of bias that customers experienced but provided a research-driven understanding of how the company and the industry as a whole can be more inclusive, including:
· Designing and implementing actions that mitigate racial bias from the shopper experience.
· Fostering inclusive shopping experiences for all, regardless of their race and ethnicity.
· Being accountable to our shoppers, our employees, and the retail industry.
· Working together to share best practices across the retail industry to drive change.
In the wake of findings that described the discrimination faced by shoppers of color, Open to All’s Inclusive Retail Working Group has been collaborating on initiatives to create retail environments that are welcoming for all. Training surrounding racial bias and other types of identities are stepping stones to cultural transformation, but DEI efforts have not been restricted solely to HR departments or specific DEI events. Tangible instances of bias, such as a lack of service on the sales floor, questioning of customers’ ability to afford products, racial profiling and following BIPOC shoppers, and poor reception from employees and security personnel, require tangible action to mitigate racial bias. To properly address these experiences, Sephora’s commissioned study carefully considered how departmental teams beyond HR can promote inclusion through marketing, sales floor training, and connecting deeply with creators of color.
Rethinking retail is not an individual undertaking. To truly change a culture that permeates the whole sector, companies must assess their biases while being receptive to methods that have been successful in other organizations. Through this openness and collaboration, members of Open to All’s Inclusive Retail Working Group are implementing that thoroughly by considering the experiences of employees and customers alike to increase the hiring and retention rates of employees of color both in store and in corporate offices, reimagining marketing campaigns to be inclusive of all, and working directly with entrepreneurs of color to get their products on shelves and available to wider audiences.
Stay tuned for announcements as we roll out this collaborative work later this spring and summer. We’re honored to convene a variety of retailers that are investing in lasting, meaningful impact.
There is still work to be done. Until every single person who walks into a store is treated with the respect that they deserve, this journey to inclusion will continue. But, when we undergo this journey together, we can systematically address racial bias and proactively create an industry where inclusion is the norm, not the exception.