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Target Corp. earmarked billions of dollars for Black businesses and communities to address racial equity issues after the police killing of George Floyd two years ago.

The Minneapolis retailer made visible strides in that time, but a review of its benchmarks shows it still has a way to go to meet all of its goals.

Target increased its share of Black company officers, added more year-round products by Black entrepreneurs and expanded its base of contractors. While some experts suggest retailers' interest in diversity is declining, Target executives vow to stay the course.

"You would never have a financial office that didn't set goals, that didn't set targets," said Kiera Fernandez, Target's chief diversity and inclusion officer. "We have to have that same mindset when we think of diversity, equity and inclusion."

Target leaders say they had already begun work to better serve Black workers and customers when Floyd's murder on Memorial Day 2020 led to more calls for action about ending the unfair treatment of Black people in America.

In summer 2020, Target formed the REACH (Racial Equity Action and Change) committee to spearhead some new lofty visions, such as creating retail environments in which Black customers felt welcomed and finding new ways to help grow the prosperity of Black communities.

Target has since added more tangible benchmarks and financial commitments, including promising to contribute $100 million through 2025 to Black-led organizations; spend more than $2 billion on Black-owned businesses, including marketing agencies and construction companies, by the end of 2025; and spend 5% of Target's annual media budget on Black-owned media this year.

Target is not the only company to focus more on diversity and equity since Floyd's death. Retailers including Nordstrom, Sephora, Macy's, Ulta Beauty and the Gap, have accepted the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which was launched in 2020, to advocate for Black businesses to make up 15% of retailers' shelf space.

"The pandemic mixed with social changes has made many consumers demand more from their retailers," said Kim Sovell, a marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas. "I'm not talking about good prices. I'm talking about thoughtfulness."

According to McKinsey & Co., nearly half of consumers they recently surveyed in the United States believe companies should pledge to support Black-owned brands and vendors with a larger percentage of younger consumers, including Gen Zers and millennials, thinking that's important. Also, Black consumers, who have historically been underserved, have hundreds of billions of dollars of buying power that they are willing to redirect, research shows.

At Target, one of the REACH committee's big priorities has been to increase the variety of products by Black founders. Target currently offers more than 100 Black-owned items, which the retailer began to label in 2020. Target now aims to sell more than 500 products from Black-owned businesses by the end of 2025.

Tabitha Brown is one of the latest Black designers that Target has partnered with.
Tabitha Brown is one of the latest Black designers that Target has partnered with.

Photo courtesy of Target

One of Target's new partnerships has been with Black actress and social media influencer Tabitha Brown. She recently released the second of her four colorful Target collections of apparel, home goods and kitchenware.

"I love fashion and I studied fashion in school and that was one of my dreams to do clothing and a line and never would I have ever dreamt that my first [assortment] would have been at Target," Brown said.

Brown, who is 43, said when she was growing up she didn't see a lot of Black girls and women represented at major retailers.

"We deserve to be in spaces with everybody else," she said. "We deserve to be seen. We deserve to be heard. And so I think the world has finally caught on to that."

In another improvement, Target said it doubled the amount of its Black-owned partners since 2020. Target is finalizing an advertising partnership with Sheletta Brundidge, a local Black comedian and radio host who criticized Target last year for not supporting Twin Cities Black media outlets.

"People are asking for receipts," Brundidge said. "Did you honor your commitments? Did you do what you said you are going to do?"

Target plans to buy ads on Brundidge's podcast network. General Mills is another recent sponsor for her podcast, she said.

"We aren't going to have no Black businesses if our Fortune 500 companies don't hire us as vendors," Brundidge said. "It's long overdue."

Target also increased the number of Black workers in higher positions. Last fiscal year, 10% of its officers were Black, up from 5% in 2019. Black employees accounted for 15.5% of its overall workforce last year, compared to 15.6% in 2019.

The retailer has also experienced some difficult moments. Last year, several employees at the St. Paul Midway Target complained about a Juneteenth break room display they said played into Black stereotypes with a table of cherry Kool-Aid packets, watermelon candy and servings of hot sauce.

Some have also pointed out that the retailer over the years has closed Target stores in urban, Black neighborhoods.

Target representatives said it follows a rigorous process to evaluate the performance of every store and the company continues to stay committed to open locations that serve all customers, including new stores in Flatbush, a neighborhood in New York City, and Los Angeles' Inglewood neighborhood.

Lul Osman shopped for body wash at Target earlier this month.
Lul Osman shopped for body wash at Target earlier this month.

Renée Jones Schneider | Star Tribune

Jesse Ross, a Minneapolis-based diversity and inclusion consultant, said he thinks many companies who were vocal about supporting racial equity in the wake of Floyd's death have begun to turn their focus to other business challenges.

"I think the stamina for folks committed to these diversity goals has changed. ... The majority of the culture doesn't want to do the work," Ross said.

Fernandez acknowledges some diversity goals may not be reached in the time that Target originally wanted. She also said that despite strategies and policies, it is still possible for individual employees to make mistakes that could go against Target's inclusivity intentions. There's "no endpoint" to the company's diversity efforts, Fernandez said.

"We are not perfect," she said. "We are in pursuit of equity, inclusion and a place where everyone is seen and valued. And along the way we will bump our head and bump our toe because we are all humans."