With eyes trained on “the next phase of its journey, and not the finish line,” Nordstrom Inc. JWN -2.7% CEO Erik and president and brand officer Pete Nordstrom on Monday outlined a series of ambitious initiatives the retailer is undertaking to promote racial equality, including bringing more diversity to its work force and increasing the number of Black and/or Latinx-designed brands and businesses it sells
“We’re committing to delivering $500 million in retail sales from brands owned by, operated by, or designed by Black and/or Latinx individuals by the end of 2025,” the Nordstroms said. “Part of this work will be supported by our Supplier Diversity program, which will track and support diverse-owned suppliers across all areas of our business. We are renewing this program and will publicly share the total program’s long-term goals in February 2021.”
The retailer in May witnessed the anger and raw pain over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police as protesters took to the streets, but the peaceful acts of civil disobedience turned violent in cities such as Seattle, where rioters smashed the windows of Nordstrom’s flagship and looted the store.
At the time, the Nordstrom brothers said in an open letter to employees, “Like so many of you, we’ve been deeply saddened and angered by recent events in our country. The unnecessary and unjust killing of anyone must not be accepted. The issue of race and the experiences of too many people of color cannot be ignored.”
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The Seattle-based retailer in June was called out by the 15 Percent Pledge, launched by Brother Vellies designer Aurora James, which challenged retailers to commit 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black owned businesses, since Blacks make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population.
The Pledge took Nordstrom to task for carrying a paltry 21 out of 2,365 minority-owned brands or less than 1 percent. The Nordstroms didn’t cite the pledge, but said they’d heard from employees, consumers and other stakeholders who said they’re concerned about racial injustice.
Pete and Erik Nordstrom said, “Over the past few months, we’ve done a lot of listening…. about what it means to be Black in our communities today, Recent events of racial injustice and inequality have shone a light on the dark history of the systemic racism our country desperately needs to change moving forward.
“These conversations have been humbling and educational, and we’ve taken the insights away to help inform our path forward,” said the Nordstroms, adding, “it’s clear we have an opportunity to extend ourselves in new ways and set the standard for what Nordstrom represents to our people.”
Nordstrom is targeting its entire work force, from sales floors to the board room for stronger representation across racial and gender identities.
The retailer said 60 percent of its employees identify as non-white, and three of its 11 board members are Black. While proud of this progress, Nordstrom set a goal of increasing by 50% the representation of Black and LatinX individuals in people manager roles. To ensure minority candidates have a path to jobs, at least 50 percent of internship participants will come from under-represented populations.
Nordstrom is in the thick of its Anniversary Sale, a highly-anticipated annual event that flies in the face of conventional wisdom by discounting fall merchandise practically before the season has officially started.
The retailer, which has been been impacted by disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, reported a lost of $512 million in the recent first quarter, and a 40 percent decline in net sales from the 2019 first quarter. Nordstrom has been leaning into store and curbside pickup and strengthening its ecommerce business. Second quarter earnings are scheduled to be released on August 25.
Nordstrom’s Customer Bill of Rights, which expresses zero-tolerance for unreasonable searches, profiling and discrimination, isn’t new, but Pete and Erik Nordstrom acknowledged that it’s not enough.”We need to take a hard look at our practices, and further educate and train our employees,” the Nordstroms said. “We’re revisiting our practices and the training resources we offer for customer-facing roles to ensure they include anti-racism and bias content.”
The retailer is strengthening its culture with a Voice of the Employee survey that it hopes will provide insights into improving its Inclusion and Belonging Index score by 8 points and Favoritism Index score by 6 points by 2025.
Employee Resource Groups, which also provide feedback from employees, will expand beyond Seattle by the end of the year, allowing all to participate.
Nordstrom is launching a new multi-year corporate partnership with historic civil rights organization the National Urban League, which will be a resource for the retailer as it aims to serve, hire, retain and connect with Black and other underrepresented groups.
The retailer said it will double it charitable giving to non-profits that promote racial justice, to about $1 million per year for the next five years to ensure that a portion of its giving is directed toward important topics.
,To lead and drive the initiatives, Pete and Erik Nordstrom and chief human resources officer Christine Deputy will chair the Nordstrom Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council, focused on implementing and measuring programs that drive the strategy.
“We know we have a lot of ways we can improve as we strive to be a better, more inclusive and anti-racist company for you, our customers, partners and communities,” Pete and Erik Nordstrom said. “We’re committed to doing the work, being transparent about our progress along the way and holding ourselves accountable.”
The retailer is using its platform to encourage employees, customers and communities to vote. It has designated November 3 a company holiday, and will be partnering with a soon-to-be named nonpartisan organization focused getting out the vote.
“We ask that you continue to help us by giving feedback, sharing ideas and challenging us to grow and evolve,” Pete and Erik Nordstrom said.