Study: 2 in 5 shoppers experience racial bias in stores

Sephora Inclusion Workshops
Posted at 3:17 PM, Jan 21, 2021

Racial bias in stores continues to be a reality for Black Americans. Now, some companies are starting to take action.

“This is a pervasive industry-wide problem and any company that thinks that they're immune, they will have a wakeup call eventually. Their viral moment is just waiting to happen,” said Cassi Pittman Claytor, author of “Black Privilege.”

Pittman Claytor’s research focuses on how racism plays out in the lives of Black Americans. She was also part of a new study commissioned by Sephora that looks at racial bias in the shopping experience.

The study found two in five shoppers in the U.S. have personally experienced unfair treatment because of their race or skin tone. Also, Black shoppers are more likely than white shoppers to receive unfair treatment based on their skin color.

Pittman Claytor says it was interesting to see in the study how often retail workers also experience discrimination from customers.

She says while it's more likely people stocking the store shelves are people of color, retail managers tend to be majority white.

“Retail managers often have a lot of discretion. They have discretion about when the police are called, when the customer is surveilled. They have discretion over whether someone can make a return without a receipt,” said Pittman Claytor.

Sephora is making changes to address racial bias at its stores when it comes to some of this policing.

It says it will cut back on third-party security officers at its stores and use more in-house specialists instead. It's also doubling the number of Black-owned brands it sells by the end of the year.

Pittman Claytor says companies need to reassess who they're hiring as well.

“We know, for example, simply having a diversity training is not enough. And so I think one of the ways in which companies can really take steps to reduce the problem is through having a more diverse workforce,” said Pittman Claytor.

She says companies also need to be doing a better job of keeping data on how many customers are experiencing discrimination.

The Sephora study found people often don't complain. They just leave the store.

Pittman Claytor says customers can help by making sure they are documenting what is happening to them and explaining why they felt disrespected and treated unfairly.