Target Corp. earmarked billions of dollars for black businesses and communities to address racial equity issues following the police killing of George Floyd two years ago.
The Minneapolis retailer has made visible progress in this time, but a review of its credentials shows it still has some way to go to meet all of its goals.
Target increased its share of black business leaders, added more products year-round by black entrepreneurs, and expanded its base of entrepreneurs. While some experts suggest retailers’ interest in diversity is waning, Target executives pledge to stay the course.
“You would never have a finance office that didn’t set goals, didn’t set goals,” said Kiera Fernandez, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Target. “We need to have the same mindset when we think about diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Target leaders say they had already begun working to better serve black workers and customers when the 2020 Memorial Day killing of Floyd led to more calls for action to end the unfair treatment of black people in America.
In the summer of 2020, Target formed the Racial Equity Action and Change (REACH) committee to spearhead new lofty visions, such as creating retail environments where black customers feel welcome. and finding new ways to help increase the prosperity of black communities.
Target has since added more tangible financial benchmarks and commitments, including pledging $100 million through 2025 to Black-led organizations; spend more than $2 billion on black-owned businesses, including marketing agencies and construction companies, by the end of 2025; and spend 5% of Target’s annual media budget on black-owned media this year.
Target isn’t the only company to focus more on diversity and equity since Floyd’s death. Retailers such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Macy’s, Ulta Beauty and Gap accepted the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which launched in 2020, to advocate for black businesses to make up 15% of retailers’ selling space .
“The pandemic mixed with social change has caused many consumers to demand more from their retailers,” said Kim Sovell, professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas. “I’m not talking about good prices. I’m talking about thoughtfulness.”
According to McKinsey & Co., nearly half of consumers recently surveyed in the United States believe that companies should commit to supporting black-owned brands and suppliers with a higher percentage of young consumers, including the generation Z and millennials, thinking it’s important. Additionally, black consumers, who have historically been underserved, have hundreds of billions of dollars in purchasing power that they are willing to redirect, research shows.
At Target, one of the REACH committee’s top priorities has been to increase the variety of Black founders’ products. Target currently carries more than 100 black-owned items, which the retailer began labeling in 2020. Target now aims to sell more than 500 products from black-owned businesses by the end of 2025.
One of Target’s new partnerships has been with black actress and social media influencer Tabitha Brown. She recently launched the second of her four colorful Target collections of clothing, homeware and kitchenware.
“I love fashion and I studied fashion in school and it was one of my dreams to do clothes and a line and I never would have ever dreamed that my first [assortment] would have been at Target,” Brown said.
Brown, who is 43, said growing up she didn’t see many black girls and women represented at major retailers.
“We deserve to be in spaces with everyone,” she said. “We deserve to be seen. We deserve to be heard. And so I think the world finally got that.”
In another improvement, Target said it has doubled the number of its black-owned partners since 2020. Target is finalizing an advertising partnership with Sheletta Brundidge, a local black comedian and radio host who criticized Target last year for not support Twin Cities Black media.
“People ask for receipts,” Brundidge said. “Have you honored your commitments? Did you do what you said you were going to do?
Target plans to buy ads on Brundidge’s podcast network. General Mills is another recent sponsor of her podcast, she said.
“We’re not going to have black businesses if our Fortune 500 companies don’t hire us as salespeople,” Brundidge said. “It’s been long overdue.”
Target also increased the number of black workers in senior positions. In the last fiscal year, 10% of its leaders were black, up from 5% in 2019. Black employees made up 15.5% of its overall workforce last year, up from 15.6% in 2019.
The retailer has also fallen on hard times. Last year, several St. Paul Midway Target employees complained about a display in the June 19 break room that they said played into black stereotypes with a table of cherry Kool-Aid packets, watermelon candies and portions of hot sauce.
Some also pointed out that over the years the retailer had closed Target stores in black urban neighborhoods.
Target representatives said they follow a rigorous process to evaluate each store’s performance and that the company continues to be committed to opening locations that serve all customers, including new stores in Flatbush, a neighborhood in New York, and the Inglewood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Jesse Ross, a Minneapolis-based diversity and inclusion consultant, said he thinks many companies that have spoken out in support of racial equity in the wake of Floyd’s death have started to focus on others. business challenges.
“I think the stamina of people committed to these diversity goals has changed. … The majority of the culture doesn’t want to do the job,” Ross said.
Fernandez acknowledges that some diversity goals may not be achieved within the time frame originally planned by Target. She also said that despite strategies and policies, it’s always possible for individual employees to make mistakes that could run counter to Target’s intentions for inclusivity. There is “no end point” to the company’s diversity efforts, Fernandez said.
“We’re not perfect,” she said. “We’re looking for fairness, inclusion and a place where everyone is seen and valued. And along the way, we’ll be banging our heads and banging our toes because we’re all human.”