Diversity and Representation in Retail – Why the Products We See Matter
When Cherelle Brown, founder of black greeting card brand KitschNoir, was 28, she realized how much of a gap there was when it came to which cards represented typical black families.
âI suddenly realized that all the cards I had bought and received from my friends and family were absolutely not what we looked like! ” she explains.
As Black History Month draws to a close and Black Lives Matter continues to stress the need for an open dialogue on tackling inequality, creating a more representative retail sector with a wider product line should be at the top of the list for retailers.
The importance of representation
Representation in products stocked by retailers is not only long overdue, but creates a strong emotional response among customers, many of whom have lived their entire lives without seeing themselves or their families reflected in the products available.
Desriee Asomuyide, founder of Little Omo, an inclusive educational brand that represents black and brown children, and helps other children be more culturally aware of the people and the world around them, has seen firsthand the positive impact of the creating products that represent people buying them.
âIt is such an incredible feeling for them to finally see their children represented through the products I sell. A majority of black and brown people did not have greeting cards, learning materials or toys that would hold them back. represented during their childhood. ”
Brown agrees, saying customer reviews have been “overwhelming.” “Many of my clients who are over 30 are even surprised at themselves, to have received cards all their life that did not look like them and to accept them,” she reveals.
Natalie Duvall, co-founder of March Muses, the UK’s leading supplier of black Christmas decorations, points out that despite the fact that ‘Christmas should be for everyone’, the UK has a ‘serious lack of representation âThrough the decorations.
âOur customers are so surprised that it took so long for these decorations to hit the market,â she explains. âSadly, there are still a lot of people who just don’t realize the lack of representation in Christmas decorations, the overwhelming response beingâ oh, I never noticed. âIt just shows how far we still have to go. go.”
The need for real change
Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, there has been a growing awareness of the need for more diverse products, however, there is still a long way to go.
âSome retailers have made a conscious decision to reach out to businesses that focus on representation,â says Asomuyide, who would like to see these conversations go further. âThere are still retailers who need to have more conversations within their team to diversify their product line in store. Diverse products are not a trend, it is something that is needed as we live in a multicultural world with more than one race – everyone needs to be represented. ”
Brown also noticed a “wave of brands that are committed to improving their diversity and representation in 2020,” and Kitsch Noir is now stocked at several national retailers, including Paperchase, Scribbler, Moonpig, Waterstones and Tesco. But not everyone who made this pledge in 2020 is keeping their promises.
She continues, “I appreciate brands like Moonpig who seem to keep the conversation going. I really hope that diversity and representation becomes a regular and natural practice and not a topic that comes up every once in a while.”
As Duvall points out, some attempts to diversify product lines do not go far enough. “There is a serious lack of diversity in supermarket decorations … and as we start to see the odd black ballerina decoration is the shelf, is it often just a white ballerina painted in black without thinking about the hair type or skin tone and usually not designed by a black designer, âshe reveals.
The path to follow
As Duvall says, “Black is not a trend” and change has to come from above. âWe want to encourage retailers to look beyond media images and consider how inclusive their products are and what their leadership roles look like. Once we start to diversify the meeting room, it will have a ripple effect.
Asomuyide agrees: “There is a lot of work to be done, retailers who only stock one or two different brands need to understand that this is not an improvement, that there must be significant changes and a variety of products from different companies to choose from. The only way consumers can easily browse and buy various products is to make them available at large retail chains. ”
Now is the time to create a more inclusive and representative retail industry. As Duvall concludes: âToday more than ever, consumers want authentic rather than performative gestures and products.