How Sephora plans to eliminate racial bias in its stores

After commissioning a study examining racial bias in retail, Sephora is upgrading its marketing, merchandising and training.

How Sephora plans to eliminate racial bias in its stores

After examining the issue of racial bias in retail, Sephora says it is now taking steps to prevent unfair treatment of shoppers at its stores. Those steps include changes to the beauty chain’s marketing and merchandising efforts, as well as improving the in-store shopper experience. On Wednesday, Sephora announced the results of a year-long study on racial bias that it commissioned beginning in late 2019.

“We recognize that racism and unfair treatment exists broadly in our society,” said Deborah Yeh, chief marketing officer of Sephora Americas, at a press event announcing the retailer’s action plan. “As a retailer with hundreds of stores, thousands of employees [and] millions of clients, Sephora is in a strong position to make our own positive changes

The study reported that three in five shoppers have experienced discriminatory treatment, while two in five have experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their race or skin color. In addition, the report found that racial bias for shoppers carries the weight of an “invisible tax or experience burden for select demographics” where consumers have trouble being helped in stores and are sometimes treated suspiciously and subjected to surveillance.

Yeh noted that while many of the problems exist across the retail spectrum, beauty and electronics retailers, which have more interactions and consultations with customers, have “more risks of getting it wrong” for negative experiences on the sales floor for shoppers.

Executives at the beauty retailer outlined steps the brand is taking to make the shopping experience more inclusive and comfortable for shoppers of color. Sephora will double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of this year; it will also feature a dedicated tab of Black-owned brands on its website. The retailer will incorporate more diverse backgrounds, identities, ages and body types into its marketing campaigns, including on digital channels and social media, executives said.

Sephora also plans to upgrade its greeting system when shoppers enter the store to be more “consistent” for customers from all backgrounds, the company said, noting that it will also upgrade its training for store associates and establish a system where shoppers can report and provide feedback if they feel they were treated unfairly based on their race. Sephora also noted it will change its security policies, like the reliance on in-store policemen and third-party security vendors. Instead, the brand will use in-house specialists to minimize “shoppers’ concerns of policing.”

Within its own workforce, Sephora will build a better recruiting system and career development path for employees of color and ask staffers to include diversity and inclusion goals in their performance metrics.

Sephora plans to provide updates on its progress on these initiatives on a bi-annual basis on its website, according to executives.