After George Floyd was killed, retailers pledged to put Black-owned brands on shelves. Here’s how it’s going

A footwear brand that caters specifically to Black and Brown women, Rebecca Allen, debuted on Nordstrom’s website this week, and its styles will head to select Nordstrom stores later this year.

The department store announced last fall its goal to bring in $500 million in retail sales from brands owned, operated or designed by Black and/or Latinx individuals by 2025. It was one of a series of diversity and inclusion goals the company set last August. Separately, it committed to include more Black-owned beauty brands in the merchandise mix.

Nordstrom’s buying team has since received a flood of Instagram messages and emails from Black-owned businesses, said Teri Bariquit, its chief merchandising officer.

“There was this momentum and this call to action that gave a platform for more change, faster,” she said. “There has been a lot of very organic outreach directly to us. People see an open door, and we always take those calls.”

Allen, a former Goldman Sachs vice president, founded the company because of her own struggles when shoe shopping. The company’s assortment of heels, flats and sandals come in a wider range of shades, including those that match the skin tone of women of color.

Allen said retailers not only can put brands in front of consumers but can also reverse many years of Black businesses not getting access to the capital they needed to grow.

“It is certainly not enough just to say we’re going to bring these brands on. But it’s really: How are we supporting them to actually be successful, and how are we defining that success?” she said.

Allen has facilitated conversations among other Black-owned brands with Nordstrom to share stories of success and failure, and learn from each other, she said.

“For any of these companies, it’s not going to help anybody if they’re just saying, well, we did it, we hit this 15% quota — or whatever it is,” Allen said.

For so many Black entrepreneurs, just getting a call or email back from a buyer has often been a struggle, Young King’s Miller said. The company’s story shows how getting noticed by a national retailer “changes the trajectory of your company,” she said.


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