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Target vows to give Black-owned firms $2 billion in business

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | April 8, 2021 at 1:48 a.m.

As part of its racial equity efforts, Target Corp. is pledging to sell products from more than 500 Black-owned brands by the end of 2025.

That goal is part of a new $2 billion commitment the Minneapolis-based retailer is making to spend with Black-owned businesses over five years. The company did not provide specifics on how much it currently spends with these companies, but said the commitment represents a significant increase.

Target currently carries 65-plus Black-owned brands, including several in its beauty department.

In addition to diversifying its suppliers, Target said it will step up partnerships with other Black-owned companies in areas such as marketing, construction and facilities management.

It will also introduce new resources, such as a dedicated team to help Black-owned suppliers scale up their businesses to work with mass chains. The Forward Founders program builds off Target's accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs.

"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," Christina Hennington, Target's chief growth officer, said in a statement. "The bold actions we're announcing today reflect Target's ongoing commitment to advance racial equity for the Black community."

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% of their shelves to products from Black-owned businesses -- in line with the U.S. Black population. Target's commitment is unaffiliated with that campaign.

Black consumers in the U.S. have more than $1 trillion to spend annually, according to market research firm Nielsen. While earlier buy Black pushes typically faded along with consumers' attention spans, this time it seems to have staying power, analysts have said.

Target has been working to diversify its suppliers and product mix for years through efforts such as hosting vendor fairs for Black-owned businesses. Between 2016 and 2018, it increased its business with diverse suppliers by 64%.

Those efforts received a heightened focus last year in the wake of the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, which spurred companies across not only the Twin Cities, but across the U.S., to step up racial equity initiatives.

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

Last year, Target established a racial equity committee made up of senior leaders to guide its efforts. It also committed $10 million to nonprofits focused on social justice and community rebuilding. And it vowed to increase its number of Black employees by 20% over the next three years.

Aurora James, founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, started 15 Percent Pledge as a nonprofit advocacy group last year. She said in an interview with The Associated Press this week that the biggest problem for Black-owned businesses is lack of access. James says her group is building a data base 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 experience first-hand 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 Jan. 30, Target generated annual sales of $93.5 billion.

Information for this article was contributed by Kavita Kumar of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (TNS), by Matthew Boyle of Bloomberg News and by Anne D'Innocenzio of The Associated Press.

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