By Sheena Butler-Young, Business of Fashion
As retailers’ commitment to activism faces criticism from all sides, companies must decide if they’re going to double down or stand back.
- Despite the recent backlash, consumer brands still have more to gain than to lose from engaging with divisive cultural issues, including LGTBQ rights.
- Companies should prepare for opposition, have a plan, remain steadfast in their activism and be willing to explain their values to both their customers and employees.
- The most successful brands and retailers have a strong internal culture around inclusivity and acceptance.
Last month, Rob Smith, founder and chief executive of the gender-neutral clothing company The Phluid Project, shared some advice on Linkedin to large retailers preparing to roll out their Pride Month campaigns: “All storefronts or no storefronts.”
“To show up and put a flag in your window or in your storefront in just big cities doesn’t do anything,” Smith said. “Showing up in those small towns is what takes courage — it’s not commendable to pick and choose places that are liberal.”
Smith told BoF that he has some additional guidance after a turbulent stretch where companies have faced attacks from conservative activists both online and in stores for their Pride displays: “be prepared for backlash, have a plan and double down.”
Retailers’ commitment to activism is being tested right now. Last month, Target removed certain Pride items and shifted displays in some locations to less-visible spots after it came under fire from anti-trans activists (the chain carries Phluid’s clothes among its 2,000 Pride-themed items). Conservative politicians have called for penalties on companies that in their eyes go too far in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.