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Giving Black for Christmas

The end of the year is prime time for people to part with their hard-earned cash – Nicole Vassell looks at how we can push our pounds towards Black retailers  

Often, when I’m trawling the aisles of the shops, mindlessly looking for things to give my debit card a little bit of action, I’m not really thinking about where it came from before. If it looks good, is free of damage and there’s a ‘sale’ sign anywhere near it, then it has a high chance of leaving the store with me. 

But the closer we get to Christmas, there’s a long-implied expectation that we’ll all be spending more on ‘things’ than at any other time of the year. For example, vouchercodes.co.uk found that a quarter (23%) of parents in the UK are expecting to spend £200 per child this festive season. And though many will be thinking about how they can best squeeze a bargain in such spendy times, this is also a time where it’d be beneficial to be more mindful about who, and what we’re giving our money to. With it seeming like every couple of days when massive conglomerate companies reveal themselves to have practices and opinions that are racially insensitive at best, and full-on racist at worst, it would be nice to not have to put some of your politics aside in order to buy a good gift. 

‘It’s an important port of call for women of colour who wish to buy from other women who truly know and can vouch for the products they’re selling.’ 

Saying this, over the past few years, it seems lots of large-scale companies have realised the benefit in making efforts to be more inclusionary in the way they market their items – so that Black, Asian and ‘minority ethnic’ (BAME) consumers connect more with them, making them more likely to spend. ‘Diversity is the new currency and accurate representation in the advertising, media and business industries will allow Britain to flourish,’ says Lydia Amoah, business coach and diversity advocate who is researching the ‘Black Pound’.  

But seeing as the ‘Black Pound’ is such an important part of the spending economy, wouldn’t it be great if some of this money got distributed to people, just like you, who are working to create unique, quality items? Of course, investing in Black-made products should be a matter of reacting to the ills of the mainstream; but there are so many Black and people of colour-run businesses that get passed over in favour of massive mainstream companies, that it’s high time to do something about it. 

Former barrister and entrepreneur Janet Oganah wants to make it that much easier to connect the public with quality goods, as well as getting more women of colour retailers and service providers on the map – so, since 2017 she’s been building a database of women retailers and service providers of colour, to make it easier to shop with colour at the heart of the experience. 

Janet Oganah – creator of Janet’s List

‘We want to proactively connect female minority women in business with the right opportunities,’ Janet explains. ‘Our goal is to help these amazing businesses to receive mainstream visibility and the support they deserve so that they can grow and thrive.’ 

Businesses featured on Janet’s List include jewellery and accessory brands, skincare and hair products, as well as food experiences like cake decorating courses and West African dinner club passes. With the list steadily growing, it has become a group that many long to be a part of – and an important port of call for women of colour who wish to buy from other women who truly know and can vouch for the products they’re selling. 

‘My mission is to connect consumers with brands by women of colour whilst also giving them the best opportunities to successfully grow,’ Janet says. ‘One of the hurdles faced by women of colour in business is the lack of mainstream visibility, particularly opportunities to get to bricks and mortar retail.’ 

And she’s right – when it comes to products that have Black women and women of colour firmly at the front of their minds from conception, all the way to the final sale, they mostly exist online. While there are plenty of benefits to having a web platform in order to sell your items, having a physical space to get people to connect with potential customers and build up word of mouth awareness of your work still has many merits in an increasingly digital world. 

To help address this, in December Janet’s List will be holding a pop-up shop full of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brands in the east London district of Shoreditch, as an opportunity for Londoners to discover new brands, whilst supporting diversity with the power of their pound. 

So this Christmas, while some gifts like games consoles and mobile phones have no alternative when it comes to who manufactures it and how, where you can, it’s worth having a think about buying some presents from retailers of colour, who don’t need a diversity clause to think of the people their work can be reaching. They say a rising tide lifts all boats – and when we help quality Black businesses to grow, in exchange for great quality items, it can only be a positive thing, right?  

Janet’s List pop-up shop operates from 1st – 16th December 2018, 103 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DL 

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