The business has committed to all three stages of the pledge, including taking stock of the current percentage of shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses, taking ownership of findings, blind spots and disparities, and identifying concrete next steps, and taking action to publish and execute a plan to grow the share of Black-owned businesses to at least 15 percent.
To start, Sephora said it will bring more “knowledge to the table freely so aspiring founders have access,” help connect Black-owned brands to funding and the venture capital community and help launch and develop Black-owned businesses. Sephora also said it will use Accelerate, the internal incubation program dedicated to female founders, to focus exclusively on women of color next year.
“We were inspired to make the 15 Percent Pledge because we believe it’s the right thing to do, for our clients, our industry and for our community,” said Artemis Patrick, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Sephora in a statement. “Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves, it starts with a long-term plan diversifying our supply chain and building a system that creates a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow, while ensuring Black voices help shape our industry. We recognize we can do better and this pledge builds on our ongoing work to use our resources to drive meaningful and long-term change for Sephora and our industry.
James, the founder of accessories line Brother Vellies, called on major retailers including Net-a-porter, Shopbop, Whole Foods and Target, to dedicate 15 percent of shelf space to majority Black-owned businesses in early June, after the police killing of George Floyd.
“We are all trying to figure out at every level what we can do to help. There are real and serious changes that need to happen across this country,” James told WWD in a prior interview. “The first thing I’m asking for is economic equality. As a business owner and retailer myself, I’ve seen the devastation Black business owners have been dealt. During the pandemic, they are the demographic most likely to be closing businesses during this time. If retailers commit, this represents a lot of money and is profitable,” she added.
James estimated that support from major retailers could pump $14.5 billion in profits into the Black community. Since it launched, several brands have joined, including Rent the Runway, Heyday and Violet Grey.
“It’s not about attacking, it’s about doing the work, it’s about saying ‘This is where we are at.’ We all have made mistakes, it’s not about posting a diversion — it’s about owning it,” James said.
“We are not asking people to do this overnight, that’s not possible,” James said. “It’s going to mean that they will start looking around and taking stock of what brands and businesses are available. It’s about asking what kind of economic support they can pledge to help some of these businesses develop.”
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