Racial Bias in Retail Resources from Sephora
This first-of-its-kind national study, Racial Bias in Retail Study Commissioned by Sephora was conducted over a year-long period, beginning in the fall of 2019 and ending in late 2020 and was designed to measure the issue of racially biased experiences in U.S. retail, and to identify opportunities to end unfair treatment. Comprised of academic literature reviews, cultural insights analysis and comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research*, the Racial Bias in Retail Study commissioned by Sephora offers an in-depth look at this important issue.
“At Sephora, diversity, equality, and inclusion have been our core values since we launched a new kind of beauty retail destination in the U.S. over 20 years ago – but the reality is that shoppers at Sephora, and in U.S. retail more broadly, are not always treated fairly and consistently,” said Jean-André Rougeot, President and CEO, Sephora Americas.
The plan includes increased diversity in its product offerings and workforce, more inclusive marketing programming, and greater accountability through the institution of updated employee conduct policies. The decisions are based on the results of the first – “ever large-scale study on Racial Bias in Retail, commissioned by the retailer.
Sephora Added: “We know that we’re in a strong position to influence positive changes in the retail industry and society at large and it’s our responsibility to step up. We’re committed to doing all we can to make our U.S. retail experience more welcoming for everyone. Today, we are proud to share a first-look at Sephora’s action plan designed to tackle the issue of unfair treatment. We know it will be a journey, but we’re committed to holding ourselves accountable to this mission for the benefit of our clients, our employees, our communities, and the retail industry at large.”
The retailer is making details of its national Racial Bias in Retail Study available to all retailers as it calls for a more inclusive retail industry. The research, first and foremost, underscores how pervasive the issue is for U.S. retail shoppers and employees:
- Two in five U.S. retail shoppers have personally experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their race or skin tone. Black retail shoppers are 2.5x more likely than white shoppers to receive unfair treatment based on their skin color (44% vs. 17%), while BIPOC shoppers are 2x more likely than white shoppers to receive unfair treatment based on their ethnicity (30% vs. 15%).
- One in five retail employees report having personally experienced unfair treatment based on their race at their place of work (20%)—either from customers or coworkers.
- One in three retail employees have contemplated quitting when they experienced racial bias and unfair treatment (31% for all employees; 37% for Black employees).
The research identified five primary “truths” that define retail shoppers’ experiences with racial bias, including:
Truth #1: Limited diversity across marketing, merchandise and retail employees results in exclusionary treatment before shoppers even enter a store, and continues across their in-store journey.
Truth #2: U.S. BIPOC shoppers feel in-store interactions are driven by their skin color, appearance and ethnicity, yet retail employees cite behavioral attributes, rather than appearance, as the basis for their interactions.
Truth #3: U.S. BIPOC retail shoppers use coping mechanisms, such as shopping online, to minimize or avoid an anticipated biased experience when in-store. While many customer experience needs are universal, BIPOC shoppers have some needs that hold greater importance in helping them feel welcome.
Truth #4: The majority of retail shoppers do not voice concerns about negative experiences directly to retailers – creating missed opportunities for feedback and improvement, and impacting future sales as shoppers take their business elsewhere.
Truth #5: Meaningful and long-term action is most important to U.S. retail shoppers and employees.
Read full reports, infographics and Sephora’s action plan here.
I have 15 years of experience in the retail industry including expertise in marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, shopping and technology. I am a speaker, consultant and former senior managing director of The School of Retailing, University of Alberta. My education includes a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from The University of Alberta in Marketing, Certificate in Real Estate and a Diploma in Fashion Merchandising and Buying from LasSalle College, a Canadian private school founded in 1959 by fashion designer Jean-Paul Morin.