Racism in retail: How beauty brand Sephora is fighting back

The retailer is introducing sweeping changes and urging other brands to follow suit

Racism in retail: How beauty brand Sephora is fighting back

Global beauty brand Sephora will revamp its employee training programmes and increase support for Black-owned businesses in an effort to stamp out racism in the retail industry.

The announcement comes after a new study commissioned by the beauty retailer showed two in five shoppers reportedly encounter unfair treatment at US retail stores on the basis of their skin colour or ethnicity.

Black shoppers were more likely to experience discrimination, such as being made to wait longer or being suspected of misdemeanour inside shops, compared with white shoppers, the study found.

Sephora is aiming to change customer and employee experience while calling for industry-wide reform. “We know we are in a strong position to influence positive changes in the retail industry and society at large and it’s our responsibility to step up,” said Jean-Andre Rougeot, president and CEO of Sephora Americas.

Read more: Sephora's VP HR: 'We belong to something beautiful'

Apart from improving staff training, Sephora’s action plan will also introduce performance ratings for behaviours promoting inclusivity in the workplace and across the company’s 500 shops in the US.

There will also be zero tolerance against any form of discriminatory behaviour among staff, including profiling, harassment and retaliation. Employees violating the rules will be immediately terminated.

Sephora will also lessen the number of third-party security personnel assigned to its stores to allay customer concerns about racial profiling and policing.

The retailer will instead train in-house customer service specialists who will follow new protocols for greeting and assisting customers, and ensure a consistent shopping experience for a diverse market.

“The goal is to provide more consistent experiences for all shoppers and to minimise concerns regarding store policing,” said George-Axelle Broussillon Matschinga, Sephora’s vice-president of diversity and inclusion, in a Washington Post report.

Read more: Sephora shuts US stores for anti-bias training

Sephora also pledges to give greater prominence to entrepreneurs of colour by marketing their products to a wider consumer base. The retailer said it will increase the number of Black-owned brands featured in physical and online stores to 16 before the year ends.

“[Our study] may not paint the most favourable picture of the retail industry, but we are being open because one retailer cannot fix this problem. We want our colleagues and partners to join us,” said Deborah Yeh, Sephora’s chief marketing officer.

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