There has been a lot of commotion on my social media timelines about Black History Month campaigns at different big box stores, so I figured that I would check some of them out. Here’s how it went in order from my least to most favorite:
For as much money and resources as Walmart has (and for as many of us shop there), I was really disappointed with what I found. I walked through the entire store and did not see a single sign about Black History Month anywhere. As I was finishing my second lap, I finally spotted it. At the corner of the men’s section, there was a single rack with three shirt designs in two colors. Again, there was no sign, so if you were not actively looking for this, it could have been easily missed. The designs themselves were fine: one declared “I am Black History”; the other was a word cloud in the shape of Africa, and the outline of the continent filled with an African-inspired print in red, yellow, and green.
The store did a little bit better online. If you go to the website and scroll down to the bottom, there is a section called “Black & Unlimited” that spotlights a number of Black founders and lists some Black-owned products, as well as products featuring Black people, that you can find across various departments.
Overall, I was very underwhelmed by the effort.
Bath and Body Works
Bath and Body Works put in a little more effort. Their display was very clearly intended to draw in Black people (although they lose points for setting up the display in the back of the store). In my opinion, the whole campaign felt lazy. I say that because they simply took scents that they were promoting in other areas, slapped on an additional name and different packaging, and called it a day. Champagne Toast from the Valentine’s Day collection became Confident. Teakwood from the men’s collection became Empowered. The packaging felt like what everyone pictures when you say African print with a couple colors added. When combined with the laziness feels more appropriative than celebratory. There were no Black-owned products in the collection, although I am not surprised given that they do not have any Black-owned products in the story on a regular basis.
They also did slightly better online. The Black History Month collection is featured in the middle of the homepage and highlights the company’s foundation’s contribution to the National Urban League and Columbus Urban League. You can clearly see the products and packaging, and they also shared their desire to combine traditional African art with modern motifs.
Overall, this just feels like a missed opportunity to, at minimum, collaborate with a Black graphic or scent designer.
Michaels lands right in the middle. Off to the side of the entrance, where all the holiday items are, the first rack is dedicated to Black History Month. The rack is full of craft projects, supplies, and decorations that could be used in a classroom or at home. I appreciate that there was a range of projects that would be appropriate for everyone from young kids to older adults. The projects also range in modality. You have your choice of pre-designed canvases that come with paint colors and brushes as well as plaques and ornaments for you to express your creativity.
Online, you can easily navigate to the Black History Month collection from the homepage and see a notation that a portion of the proceeds will go to charities supporting racial equity. In addition to the items that I saw on the rack, the online collection also has skin tone colored construction paper, colored pencils, and markers, which were found elsewhere in the store.
Generally speaking, I was pleasantly surprised by Michaels’s effort. I do think that they could have incorporated some Black-owned brands into their collection, but it could have been worse.
Target has been held out on social media as the gold star in Black History Month campaigns, and honestly, I’m inclined to agree. As soon as you walk into Target, you see signs picturing Black joy and promoting Black creativity. You get information on the creators and founders of the Black businesses in the collection. There’s a variety of products and styles: jewelry, tote bags, headwraps, athleisure apparel, and t-shirts for everyone in the family. Online or in the Target app, you can easily navigate to the collection and get whatever you need.
I love that, instead of just pulling the Black brands that are already in the store to the front, Target makes a concerted effort to introduce new companies to its audience during Black History Month. Everything about the campaign is intentional. Target selected students from HBCUs and other artists to design shirts, which were made with cotton from a Black-owned farm. Also, over the past couple of years, Target has made it easier to support more and more Black-owned brands, not just during Black History Month, but all year long.
If I had to be picky, the only thing that I would change about Target’s campaign is that they limit the campaign to Black brands only—they had some greeting cards that featured Black people but were not from a Black-owned company and, technically, some of the shirts are Target’s brand. But ultimately, I wish that more companies would follow Target’s example.