A new report from Sephora highlights the experiences of BIPOC shoppers and employees.
By Marissa Lee.
Earlier this week, Sephora rolled out a comprehensive report on racial bias faced by BIPOC shoppers and employees in the retail space. The report, through a multitude of assets such as an opening video, press release, comprehensive e-book as well as a lengthy set of infographics, shows the many ways in which BIPOC shoppers and employees are negatively impacted by racial bias in retail environments.
The beauty retailer conducted the U.S.-based study over a year-long period, beginning in the fall of 2019 and coming to a close in late 2020. The report itself lays out both a number of “Truths” based on its findings and closes with an action plan.
One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that racial bias, although nuanced and complex, is neither a new nor isolated notion. Statistics throughout the report cite large numbers of BIPOC shoppers with negative feelings about their experiences while shopping. Three in four (74%) of BIPOC shoppers state that they feel “marketing fails to showcase a diverse range of skin tones, body types, and hair textures,” while two in three (65%) think “stores fail to deliver an equally-distributed assortment of products catering to different shoppers’ tastes and preferences.” Moreover, BIPOC shoppers are three times more likely than white shoppers to feel judged based on their ethnicity and appearance.
This information gives way to another key takeaway from this report: the way in which these experiences affect shopping habits. The report states that shoppers who face this racial bias adjust their shopping habits accordingly. Sephora’s report also finds they may shop online in order to avoid in-store bias, dress nicer to avoid assumptions of their socioeconomic status while shopping, and even adjust their body language (also known as code switching) to avoid presenting “negatively” to employees.
A third and final take away that the report provides is not so much an insight into the facts and statistics of racial bias (which the report outlines expeditiously), but an insight into Sephora’s owning up to and treatment of the issue. Sephora’s action plan, which concludes the report, is broken down into three separate sections: marketing and merchandising, in-store experiences, and talent and inclusive workplaces, the third specifically geared towards current and prospective employees. Sephora lists specific action points such as continuing to recruit diverse candidates for the influencer groups, featuring Black-owned brands, rolling out a new and non-discriminatory greeting system across their stores, and training their new employees on unconscious bias.
However, as we’ve seen in the past with brands claiming to own up to their mishaps, the proof is in the action, not in the promise. As the report states, “Meaningful and long-term action is most important to U.S. shoppers and retail employees who want to see the company’s words supported by consequential action.” While the report is quite stirring, it will become clear over the coming months whether Sephora is truly prepared to deliver on its promise.