Ben Bridge, Cartier, LVMH Join Effort to Combat Racism in Retail

MajorsDec 19, 2022

Ben Bridge, Cartier, LVMH Join Effort to Combat Racism in Retail

The companies were among the retailers that signed nonprofit Open to All’s charter.

Nonprofit Open to All recently welcomed Ben Bridge, Cartier and LVMH in taking its pledge to combat retail racism.
New York—Nonprofit Open to All recently welcomed 42 new retail brands retailers to its fight against racism in retail, including a few notable jewelry companies.

The companies signed the organization’s “Mitigate Racial Bias in Retail” charter, a commitment to reduce racially biased experiences and unfair treatment in stores and create a more welcoming environment for shoppers.

The fine jewelry sellers that are newcomers to the initiative are Ben Bridge Jeweler, Cartier, and LVMH.

“For 110 years, we have believed in being a part of the fabric of each community in which we operate,” said Lisa Bridge, president and CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler.

“To us, that means embracing all members of the community and Open to All helps us both communicate that and to continue to learn and grow.”

Other new signees include CBL Properties, Glossier, The Body Shop, Yelp, and URBN, the parent company of Anthropologie, Free People, Nuuly, and Urban Outfitters.

The charter was launched in May by Open to All and LVMH-owned Sephora after the beauty company commissioned its “Racial Bias in Retail” study, which explored how shoppers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are discriminated against in stores.

In 2019, Sephora closed its stores for an hour to host an “inclusivity workshop” after R&B star SZA, who is a Black woman, said an employee in a California location told a security guard to follow her to make sure she wasn’t stealing.

The company issued an apology and has since taken steps to combat racial profiling and discrimination in its stores.

Two in five U.S. shoppers surveyed for the report said they have personally experienced unfair treatment based on their race or skin tone. BIPOC shoppers were three times more likely than white shoppers to feel judged based on their appearance.

The charter began with 28 retailers on board and now has the support of more than 200 national and state public education organizations and elected officials as well as thousands of businesses and nonprofit service providers.

Tiffany & Co., Movado Group, Michele, and Watch Station International joined the pledge previously.

A full list of members is available on the organization’s website.

“This cross-collaboration is key in working to address and prevent systemic racism in U.S. retail environments and the culture at-large,” said George-Axelle Broussillon Matschinga, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Sephora.

Since the charter’s founding, the nonprofit said it has been contacted by more retailers who are aware of how pervasive discrimination is in retail and want to help address the problem and create welcoming spaces for their customers.

“LVMH is proud to sign the Mitigate Racial Bias in Retail Charter alongside many of our maisons, including the co-initiator Sephora, to drive lasting change in the retail industry,” said Anish Melwani, chairman and CEO of LVMH North America.

“LVMH creates products that maintain a standard of excellence by bringing together diverse talent, skills, and experiences to serve all of our customers. Signing the charter is an actionable step in our ongoing commitment to eradicating racism from the retail experience and ensuring that all of our customers feel valued and respected in our stores.” 

Open to All Director Calla Rongerude expressed her gratitude to the retail partners, noting that a key factor in eliminating racism in retail is preventing exclusionary treatment before shoppers even get to the store.

“Open to All is grateful to our corporate and nonprofit partners, who are demonstrating a commitment to training their workforce, diversifying marketing and product assortment, and taking other tangible steps that create a culture of belonging for BIPOC shoppers and employees,” she said.

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Since June, the nonprofit has held monthly meetings to track the impact of its initiatives.

The group also works with loss prevention departments to address harassment, racial profiling, and bias in their practices.

Each month, experts and guest speakers join from Sephora, Diversity Best Practices, and Mentor Spaces to share their expertise with the participating retailers.

Charter members gathered in San Francisco in October to collaborate and set goals for the upcoming year.

The charter has three key focus areas.

First, there is a goal of increasing diversity across marketing, products, branding, and the workforce to prevent discriminatory treatment.

Secondly, retailers should educate employees about the experiences of shoppers of color so employees can better interpret their interactions with BIPOC customers.

Lastly, the charter asks retailers to implement a feedback mechanism to improve customer service and help create a more inclusive shopping experience.

Prior to the October meeting, members were asked to complete a survey.

The survey found that 44 percent of respondents signed the charter with the hopes of creating a collective impact at the industry level while 28 percent wanted to change the in-store shopping experience.

Twenty-two percent said their primary motivation was learning and sharing best practices.

As for training, 59 percent of respondents said they had used or planned to use Open to All’s Reduce Racial Bias in Retail training.

The two-hour training, released in June, is a mix of live instruction and self-taught learning to educate employees on racial bias in retail settings, providing practical strategies to decrease those incidents and promote inclusivity.

Non-retail companies, institutions, NGOs, and nonprofits can also take the Open to All pledge.

For more information or to join, visit the Open to All website.

Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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