Don’t worry, this isn’t another blog about how utterly depressing 2020 has been for retailers and… well everyone! Instead, this is about what 2020- warts and all – has meant for the vibrant, ever-adapting, world that is ‘indie biz’, specifically black-owned business. As a fully women-owned business, the three of us - who are from African descent - are constantly connecting with the black-owned, women- focused retail network. Here is what we have discovered:
Black-owned businesses have suffered more from the Covid pandemic BUT the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has encouraged innovation and a new ‘conscious consumer’ in the community.
A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that black-owned business fell by a whopping 41% during the first couple of months of the Covid pandemic- a considerable and disproportionate suffering when compared to businesses owned by white and other ethnicities. Moreover, The US Chambre of Commerce put forward that 69% of the business owner that they interviewed had a much harder journey than their white counterparts. One significant reason for this is that black-owned businesses tend to operate in poorer areas that are worse affected by the pandemic – both physically and financially.
However, the BLM movement’s surge response to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent ongoing global discussions have played an integral part in raising awareness of the struggles of the Black business community and, in turn, encouraged greater spend from the conscious consumer. Google claimed that Google searches for “Black-owned business” have dramatically increased this year since the murder of George Floyd. In response, Google Maps has introduced a ‘badge’ to enable Black-owned businesses to identify themselves. Yelp has a similar feature.
There are now numerous digital platforms that are supporting black businesses to increase their publicity. One-stop-shops like Its Black Owned, UK Black Owned and their ‘Black Book’, and the Black Business Directory UK, provide a vital promotional platform for Black-owned businesses. Jamii describes itself as “a discount card and discovery platform making it easy for [consumers] to find and shop at the best of independent black-owned businesses in the UK”. The Black Nation app is a social discovery app which includes a list of black-owned business and allows consumers to earn ‘Black Gold’ as they spend. Of course, The Gram has provided a solid route for the conscious consumer to source from black owners through hashtags like #blackowned #blackownedbusiness and #blackownedFriday.
It’s all great stuff but is it enough? Maybe not. The marketplace is still flooded by businesses that are in direct competition with black-owned businesses and with – generally – greater access to education and funding, making the struggle for survival and growth a lot easier. So, while it is important to see these digital investments and innovations, what is really needed is for YOU, the consumer, to choose black wherever possible and spread the word when you find black-owned companies that you love!