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Retailing to no majority: The importance of inclusivity

In an era of diversifying populations, and with social media empowering more people to find a voice, ensuring your product and offer is culturally sensitive has never been more important.

The recent spate of brands releasing offensive products really highlights the importance of inclusivity and how retailers need to evolve their strategies to ensure diversity at all levels of a business. We first wrote about this on WGSN Insider back in 2016. As we approach a point where there is no racial majority in the US, and as retail continues to extend globally, understanding cultural specificities remains important and is both a business and moral imperative.

The numbers back this up. According to a McKinsey study, businesses with more diverse executives are 33% more profitable than the national industry median, while businesses that are less diverse underperform on profitability by 29%.

As notions of what it means to be inclusive evolve, businesses need to develop new strategies that go beyond empowering those from minority groups through multiple affinity groups, to strategies where people from more privileged groups take as more responsibility for ensuring that people from underrepresented groups are (and feel) included. 

Some high street retailers are beginning to step up, and develop their strategies, particularly after previous scandals.

H&M’s acting sustainability manager Isak Roth said: “What we want to build over time is a culture where inclusion and diversity are ‘always on’ – always at the forefront of our thinking and behaviours, and always present in every act and every choice we make. H&M is for everyone, everywhere and we want our company to reflect the multicultural world of our colleagues and customers.”

At H&M this includes an internal reference group with people from different cultural backgrounds, with different religions, nationalities and ages. This group is now in place and leave input on products and campaigns etc. to ensure that they are not offensive. 

 

For further retail strategies around inclusion and diversity, read WGSN Insight’s full report, Implementing Inclusivity: Business Strategies, here.

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