Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Target to spend over US$2b at black-owned businesses

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 12:20 AM
In this April 6, 2020 photo, a customer carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
In this April 6, 2020 photo, a customer carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Target will spend a total of more than US$2 billion at black-owned businesses by 2025 as part of its effort to advance racial equity.

That’s a significant increase in overall spending on black-owned businesses, according to Target, though it declined be more specific on Wednesday.

The Minneapolis retailer will add a broad spectrum of products from more than 500 black-owned businesses and will increase its spending at more black-owned companies, from marketing to construction.

It will also introduce new resources, like a dedicated team to help black-owned suppliers scale their businesses to work with mass chains. The Forward Founders programme builds off Target’s accelerator programme that helps entrepreneurs.

Target and other corporations have been expanding ties with black-owned suppliers, rethinking marketing and embracing other initiatives in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd last summer that led to protests nationwide against police brutality and racial inequity.

The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged in Floyd’s death, continued on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

More than 20 companies, including Sephora, Gap and Macy’s, have signed on to a nationwide campaign called 15 Percent Pledge, which aims to have companies commit to at least 15 per cent of their products on their shelves to black-owned businesses – in line with the US black population. Target’s commitment is unaffiliated with that campaign.

Aurora James, founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, started 15 Percent Pledge as a non-profit advocacy group last year. She said in an interview with The Associated Press this week that the biggest problem for black-opened businesses is lack of access. James says her group is building a database of black-owned businesses that helps retailers and brands connect with black entrepreneurs.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is a black digital marketing and brand development specialist in beauty and wellness. She has first-hand experience at pitching black-owned brands to Target and other stores. She believes the spending commitment at Target will make a difference.

“Ultimately, Target is creating the pipeline that will fundamentally change how retailers must handle new brands coming into their stores,” Bracken-Ferguson said.

But Jeffrey Robinson, associate professor and academic director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at Rutgers Business School, said Target has the right approach, but the number feels “low”, given the size of the retailer. For the fiscal year that ended January 30, Target generated annual sales of US$93.5 billion.

“I applaud them for making the commitment, but let’s see if they can exceed it,” he said.

Target said it has actively pursued more connections with minority-owned businesses, but is always seeking to improve operations.

“We have a rich history of working with diverse businesses, but there’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the black community, and ensure black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” said Christina Hennington, executive vice-president and chief growth officer, in a prepared statement.