As tensions run high and retailers are asked to enforce safety measures due to the global pandemic, frontline workers often can face the brunt of customer frustration, which can often manifest in racist or discriminatory ways. While retailers have long trained its employees to respect and serve a diverse customer base, now customers are being asked to join as part of the solution. Today, Open to All announced its groundbreaking initiative, Inclusive Retail, a campaign that puts tools and resources in the hands of businesses and customers alike to ensure the inclusion, safety, and acceptance of those on the frontlines of retail: floor staff and sales associates. The project is a collaboration between Open to All and nonprofit partners Hollaback! and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and corporate partners Ascena Retail, American Eagle Outfitters, Capri Holdings, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Gap Inc., H&M, Michaels, Movado Group, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, and Tiffany & Company.
“Retailers are seeing an alarming rise in discrimination where floor staff are being targeted for who they are when enforcing safety measures. Given the rise in hate violence—which is at an all-time high—frontline workers are more vulnerable than ever,” said Emily May, co-founder and executive director of Hollaback! “We are working closely with businesses to address this crisis and we are thrilled to partner with Open to All to provide greater access to our resources.”
Open to All is a nonprofit nondiscrimination program that believes everyone should be welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, religion or disability.
“The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable role of frontline workers, who over the past year have kept the economy open at great personal risk,” said Calla Devlin Rongerude, director of Open to All. “Our Inclusive Retail campaign works to make retail environments welcoming, safe and inclusive for employees as well as customers. We are excited to debut the Customer Pledge and Customer Action Center and invite consumers to learn more about how we all can make retail spaces safe and inclusive for all.”
The initiative offers two new resources: The Customer Action Center and the Open to All Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit. These resources were developed to support frontline workers, who are being asked to enforce public health and safety measures at the risk of potential hostility or discrimination. This is especially prevalent if the worker is a woman, person of color, person with disabilities, person of minority faith, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
As one of the Inclusive Retail program’s closest collaborators, and a founding member of Open to All, Gap Inc. has worked closely with Open to All and other partners to develop the strategy, resources and policies used to shape the Inclusive Retail campaign.
“Our purpose at Gap Inc. is to be Inclusive, By Design, and this comes to life by actively creating an environment where everyone is welcome. We believe that when you decide that inclusion isn’t optional, not only do the gaps between us close, but a whole new world of possibilities opens,” Chris Nelson, Senior Vice President of Asset Protection at Gap Inc. “We aspire to bring this to life in all of our stores and facilities, and for Gap Inc. to be known as a safe, inclusive place for all. We also know that true change happens as a collective. That is why we supported Open to All in creating the Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit to help the entire retail industry to design experiences with inclusion in mind.”
The Customer Action Center features resources and tools that empower customers to practice bystander intervention and effective allyship if they see an employee receiving unjust treatment from another customer. The bystander intervention tools were created by Hollaback!, which designs and distributes trainings and campaigns against street harassment. Customers can also, for the first time, sign the Open to All Customer Pledge. Similar to Open to All’s business pledge, it allows customers to declare that they believe everyone—including employees, visitors, vendors, clients and other customers—should feel safe, respected, and accepted regardless of who they are.
The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit contains resources and trainings to help retail environments create a culture of inclusion and belonging, including a sample Customer Belonging Policy, an “Allyship and Advocacy” training video co-produced with Ralph Lauren, and a series of allyship and de-escalation materials. The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit will also incorporate Sephora’s landmark study on Racial Bias in Retail, which found shoppers are not the only ones subject to bias across the retail landscape. According to their findings, one in five retail employees have personally experienced unfair treatment at their place of work, leading Sephora to work in partnership with Open to All to implement tactics proven to mitigate racial bias in retail.
“Retailers are committed to creating an in-store experience that is welcoming and, most importantly, safe for all visitors,” said RILA’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Erin Hiatt. “Maintaining an environment where customers and employees feel safe certainly includes adhering to health guidance like PPE or distancing—but it also means cultivating spaces free from discrimination of any kind. These new toolkits developed by Open to All will be valuable resources to support the industry’s commitment to both.”
Inclusive Retail is a massive undertaking that provides businesses and customers with the tools necessary to create a welcoming environment for all while shedding light on the increased challenges retail workers face during this time of global pandemic. Through this project, Open to All and its partners affirm to floor staff and sales associates that they are seen and supported from corporate offices to those who walk into the store.
About Gap Inc.
Gap Inc., a collection of purpose-led lifestyle brands, is the largest American specialty apparel company offering clothing, accessories, and personal care products for men, women, and children under the Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta brands. The company uses omni-channel capabilities to bridge the digital world and physical stores to further enhance its shopping experience. Gap Inc. is guided by its purpose, Inclusive, by Design, and takes pride in creating products and experiences its customers love while doing right by its employees, communities, and planet. Gap Inc. products are available for purchase worldwide through company-operated stores, franchise stores, and e-commerce sites. Fiscal year 2020 net sales were $13.8 billion. For more information, please visit www.gapinc.com.
Hollaback! is a global, people-powered movement to end harassment. We work together to understand the problem, ignite public conversations, and develop innovative strategies that ensure equal access to public spaces. We leverage the very spaces where harassment happens - from online to the streets - to have each other’s back and build a world where we can all be who we are, wherever we are. For more information visit www.ihollaback.org.
About Open to All
Open to All is one of the most significant public education efforts to date that unites and galvanizes national leaders in business, civic engagement, and the nonprofit sector to support the shared American values of fairness and equality. In addition to the 500,000 business members, Open to All includes more than 200 nonprofit members spanning civil rights and racial justice organizations; LGBTQ equality organizations; health and disability organizations; faith organizations; and more. Open to All members are committed to building awareness and understanding about the importance of nondiscrimination—and to defend the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All. www.opentoall.com
RILA is the US trade association for leading retailers. We convene decision-makers, advocate for the industry, and promote operational excellence and innovation. Our aim is to reimagine and transform the retail ecosystem—and equip leading retailers to succeed in it.
RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad. www.rila.org
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