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The National Shopping, Stores, and Retail Scene Blog

Updated: 2018-04-20T18:24:33-04:00


We Asked Brands How They Handled Their Own Racial Bias Incidents — Most Didn’t Answer


Starbucks is closing for an afternoon to do racial bias training, but they’re far from the first brand accused of discrimination. Starbucks made a dramatic statement this week: It’s closing 8,000 of its stores in May so that employees can undergo racial bias training. The announcement comes after the chain has been the target of protests over racial profiling. An employee at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police last week to report two black men, who were sitting at a table but hadn’t ordered anything yet because they were waiting for someone else to arrive. When the police arrived, they arrested the men on “suspicion of trespassing.” The men were later released. As video of the incident went viral, Starbucks ramped up its response from a short Twitter apology to an appearance on CBS This Morning from founder and executive chair Howard Schultz, who said that he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed.” Then came the announcement about the store closures and the racial bias training. Some experts question how effective a single day of diversity programming will be, saying that Starbucks’s response may be more of a “symbolic gesture.” Still, the company’s decision to close stores for an afternoon for diversity training is the most visible public measure taken by a company accused of racial profiling. NurPhoto via Getty Images Protesters demonstrate against Starbucks after a manager had two black patrons arrested. Starbucks is not the first chain to face protests after incidents of racial discrimination in their stores. From Saks to Ross to Walmart, racial bias is a pervasive issue in retail. We asked nine retailers who’ve had racial profiling incidents in the past a simple question: “What measures are in place to prevent racial targeting in the future?” Six did not answer Racked’s requests for comment. And the brands who did answer didn’t give clear responses. Brand: Saks Fifth Avenue Problem: In December 2017, police at a Saks location in Michigan accused a woman named Dana Hale of credit card fraud after she bought $6,731 in designer accessories and Christmas gifts. “They profiled me because I was in sweats,” Hale told WXYZ Detroit at the time. “Because I was black that they could just treat people any kind of way.” Response: Saks started an internal investigation, according to WXYZ Detroit. What have they done to prevent racial targeting in the future? “Our foremost responsibility is providing a great customer experience,” a Saks spokesperson said in an email to Racked. “To that end, we have sales personnel training as well as policies and procedures that center on diversity, inclusion and ensuring that we treat every customer and each other with respect.” Brand: Old Navy Problem: In early February, an Old Navy shopper named James Conley III was stopped by a store employee to ask if he wanted to purchase the jacket he was wearing — a blue puffer that he’d bought on a previous trip to the chain. Conley, who is black, said in a Facebook post that he had to get the district manager to review the store’s surveillance tape to prove that he walked in wearing the jacket, after which he didn’t receive an apology. Response: Old Navy, which is owned by Gap Inc, temporarily closed that location and said that it was investigating the matter. It later fired the staff members involved in the incident. What have they done to prevent racial targeting in the future? “Inclusivity is core to Old Navy’s values, and discrimination of any kind is not tolerated,” said a spokesperson for the brand. “As part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to our customers and employees, we have established a series of training opportunities with our employees globally, starting with training our store leaders on unconscious bias.” Brand: Walmart Problem: America’s biggest retailer was sued by a woman for racial discrimination, after she noticed that the only hair care products that were locked up on the shelves were those marketed to black women. [...]

What FDA Approval of CBD Could Mean for the Beauty Industry


The FDA is likely to approve this cannabis byproduct as a drug, but lots of beauty and wellness products — from mascara to bath bombs — already claim to use it. As more states legalize marijuana, a by-product of the cannabis plant called CBD oil has also enjoyed an increasingly starry profile as a beauty and wellness ingredient. And it’s only going to become more mainstream. Yesterday, an FDA advisory group unanimously recommended that Epidiolex, a CBD-based oral medication for treating two serious types of childhood epilepsy, be approved by the agency. It is largely assumed that the FDA will officially approve it as a drug, likely by June. But there are currently CBD-based products being sold all over the place now, marketed as everything from a lash conditioner in mascara to a cancer treatment. So what does a government agency bestowing legitimacy on this ingredient mean for CBD? There are definitely some tricky regulatory, legal, and safety issues. What exactly is CBD? CBD, short for cannabidiol, does not get you high. That is the job of tetrahydrocannabinol, THC. The easiest way to think about it is that CBD is to hemp as THC is to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are derived from two different strains of the cannabis plant, but one is grown for its psychoactive effects and the other for industrial purposes. (Although to further confuse things, you can get CBD from marijuana plants that also contain a tiny bit of THC.) CBD is extracted in an oil form and used in a multitude of topical and oral preparations sold for relaxation, pain control, and even to treat diseases. CBD oil is also not to be confused with hemp oil, which is extracted from a different part of the plant and contains little to no CBD or THC. Hemp oil has long been a staple of crunchy health food store beauty products like Dr. Bronner’s classic pure castile soap. The claims The claims made by manufacturers that sell CBD products are wide-ranging: treatment for pain relief, insomnia, anxiety, seizure prevention, diabetes, acne, Alzheimer’s, cancer. Sound too good to be true? Yeah, most of them probably are. The cancer claims are the most alarming and egregious. Back in November 2017, the FDA issued warning letters to several companies selling CBD specifically as a cancer treatment. “The FDA has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like cancer,” the report states. “In this case, the illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication.” A pharmacy professor who has been involved in CBD studies told the Washington Post a few weeks ago that the multitude of CBD claims are “not scientifically founded, in my mind.” If the FDA does approve this CBD-based drug, the only thing that legally can be claimed is that it can treat the specific types of seizures for which it was originally tested, at very specific doses. The products But in the meantime, beauty and wellness companies are using it in everything. Milk Makeup, a brand popular with millennials, just released Kush Mascara. Because the brand just went vegan, it couldn’t use beeswax in its mascara formulation, so it subbed in CBD oil instead. “CBD oil has become known as a beauty superstar for its versatility and ever-growing list of benefits, and we decided to bring some of that good stuff into your makeup collection,” the brand said in a blog post, citing the ingredient as “conditioning.” That’s a really benign claim, but other products go further, usually touting CBD’s supposed anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Vertly lip balms, which have been covered extensively in the beauty and fashion media, contain varying levels of CBD, and one, which can only be sold in states where marijuana is legal, contains THC. Lord Jones makes CBD gummies and a popular body lotion said to work for [...]

The 20 Most Brutal Yelp Reviews Explain the Death of Dash


The “DASH outta there” puns were far too easy to make. When the world was still getting acquainted with the name “Kardashian” a decade ago, people were quick to criticize the family’s biggest star, Kim, for her seeming lack of “real” talent. She wasn’t an actress or a musician, she was simply “famous for being famous.” But this wasn’t necessarily true: Fans of Kardashian could quickly and truthfully retort that Kim was, in fact, a stylist — and not only that but a stylist with a real, actual store co-owned with her sisters since 2006, called Dash. But a dozen years later, the jig is up. Last night, TMZ reported that the remaining two Dash locations in LA and Miami (the New York City location shuttered in December 2016) would close, with Radar Online adding that operations will end May 31. “We’ve loved running Dash, but in the last few years we’ve all grown so much individually,” said Kim. “We’ve been busy running our own brands, as well as being moms and balancing work with our families. We know in our hearts that it’s time to move on.” Which, yes, of course it is. The mini-chain was almost certainly losing money, and even having “Kardashian” as your last name doesn’t protect you from the fact that brick-and-mortar retail is a dying business. Also, when you have a television show to promote that literally survives on creating the highest possible drama in your lives, shutting down a store that was once your very livelihood could translate into ratings six months from now. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images But despite Kim and her sisters’ recent realization, the actual customers of Dash may have been ready to move on for a very, very long time. Here are their most brutal Yelp reviews from Dash’s three main locations, which together explain the particular misery of the Dash boutique. It was empty and kinda dirty Valerie H., NYC store, one star: “The store is small, dark, and dismal ... It’s pretty sad. The store clerks don’t really seem to expect much from customers, so they kinda stand behind the counter and stare. I’m assuming no one really ‘shops’ in there, just looks.” Tiffany L., LA store, one star: “I really wish I could give no stars. The staff was not friendly or welcoming. I could see if it was busy while my friends and I were in there, but we were the only customers. There was a blanket of dust on the display that you see as soon as you walk in the door and on other displays. Very disappointed.” Tiffany C., Miami store, one star: “The store stunk and some of the clothes looked dirty as if they had been tried on. There was fuzz all over the floors under the clothes and it was really unorganized. I bought a $20 compact there but wont be back or recommend it to anyone!” The clothing quality didn’t match the price Wesley K., NYC store, one star: “I spent like 5 minutes walking by and was internally disgusted. At those prices they charge, they should think about putting better quality clothing and better store backdrop rather than focusing the hype. Hype doesn’t last forever, but quality lasts for infinite.” Chelsea S., Miami store, one star: “The only thing they had you might could afford was a keychain at $12 but who wants that or a compact mirror that said DASH. No thank you! They had Rob’s sock line in there which seemed a bit out of place.” Linda L., LA store, one star: “This store is like an overpriced Forever 21 with ugly socks.” Amy J., LA store, one star: “No disrespect [but it] is more like swap-meet style of clothes.” Justin S., LA store, one star: “The only thing I liked about the store was their unique light fixtures (not for sale).” Myra K., LA store, one star: “The store has a security guard standing in front of the store, guarding what? Ridiculously ugly, overpriced clothes?” Charles P., Miami store, one star: “Their Sears l[...]

Halle Berry Is Launching a Lifestyle Site, and It Might Be the Rare Celeb Wellness Brand We Actually Like


The Oscar winner is rebranding herself as a lifestyle expert. Halle Berry posted a provocative picture of herself on Instagram last month. In the photo, which shows her from the back, the Oscar winner does a headstand clad only in lace panties. While the image shows an abundance of flesh, it’s not only meant to be racy. Her yoga pose, sirsasana, revealed her strength, flexibility, and tone. She shared it with her 2.6 million followers in honor of what, since January, she’s dubbed #FitnessFriday. That’s right. Halle Berry is the latest celebrity to rebrand herself as a health guru, but her ongoing health challenges and personal turmoil distinguish her from other actresses who’ve made this transition. “Each Friday I’ll be posting something about fitness that I hope will inspire you,” she said on January 12. “So many of you are asking how I have managed to stay in great shape over the years.” It’s #FitnessFriday AGAIN! Today I’m proud to share my new #yoga pose. Thanks to all of you, I got super inspired and challenged myself to a head stand! I continue to challenge each of you to try new poses as well and share them with me by tagging #FitnessFridayHB. Today, let’s talk not just about yoga poses, but also about the meditative aspects of yoga. Many argue that some of the happiest people are those who spend time each day meditating. I can tell you that I’ve felt happier and more like my best self since I started. I’ve learned that meditation helps to balance your left brain and right brain, and as a result I feel more creative, I can absorb information faster and I experience better emotional health. #Meditation also helps me stay in touch with my “little me”, that little girl who keeps me curious and open to the newness of each day and every new experience that comes my way. Meditation keeps me connected to God, Mother Earth, a higher power or whatever you prefer, and reminds me that while we are all on a solo journey, we are never alone! So today, if you don’t already, try to find 20 minutes to meditate or pray. If you can make this ritual a part of your dailies, watch how your life will transform! Also today on my IG Stories and fitness highlight, I’m sharing my keto lunch. Enjoy ❤️ A post shared by Halle Berry (@halleberry) on Mar 23, 2018 at 11:06am PDT Growing disapproval of his link to Trump led Plank to step down from the council. In his public statement about the decision, Plank stressed, “Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.” Ambivalence about outspoken athletes remains That athletes can now criticize the companies that sponsor them without repercussions signals that the tide is shifting. Being openly political is no longer a liability for athletes — in many cases. Kaepernick’s career, of course, has come to a standstill. But he’s also earned considerable praise for his politics from the broader culture. Last year, he won GQ’s Citizen of the Year honor and Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Unlike many of his athlete peers, Kap did not craft a carefully worded statement about racialized police violence. He sat during the national anthem, leading many of his critics to distort what his gesture actually meant. They ignored his concerns about racist and deadly policing, instead accusing him of protesting the national anthem and the nation’s troops. This twisting of his message continues to make the quarterback a gamble for businesses, which is why Adidas can pay lip service to the idea that it supports his right to self-expression without actually signing him. Publicly offering Kaepernick a contract with one very tricky condition is a disingenuous move that reveals sports brands haven’t completely overcome their ambivalence about politically engaged athletes. Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images Colin Kaepernick had an endorsement deal with Beats by Dre headphones. Discussing his inte[...]

British Bookies Are Pretty Sure They Know Who’s Designing Meghan Markle’s Wedding Dress


And it’s not Erdem, Burberry, or McQueen. British bookmakers are pretty positive they know who’s designing Meghan Markle’s wedding dress — and despite recent reports that Erdem was staffing up its in-house PR team, possibly in preparation for “an onslaught of press,” the answer isn’t the young design house. Instead, it’s presumed to be Ralph & Russo, the British brand responsible for the semi-sheer dress Markle wore in her engagement photos with Prince Harry. Bookies like the popular betting chain Paddy Power are so sure, in fact, that they’ve suspended all betting on the designer, with the odds at 2-1 for the brand (meaning that if you bet one pound and were correct, you’d get two back). This isn’t the first time betting on the royal wedding dress has been suspended, however. Back in February, an influx of money on Alexander McQueen caused Paddy Power to halt transactions, but it later reopened the bet. Meghan Markle wearing a Ralph & Russo dress in her engagement portrait with Prince Harry. Photo: Alexi Lubomirski via @KensingtonRoyal/Twitter This time, though, it might be suspended for good. “At this stage in the game, I feel like it’s unlikely that we’ll reopen it,” explains Amy Jones, a spokesperson for the company. “Now that there are a few people that know, and that know for definite — whereas before people might have had their suspicions — you would assume that the fashion house has designed it, it’s all confirmed, and everything’s ready to go.” (The wedding is set for May 19.) “Judging off the money which we’ve had from our punters [a term for people who place bets], we’re fairly sure that it’s Ralph & Russo. I actually was reading today that the Daily Mail have apparently said so — I mean, they probably know as much as us, but if you look at the consistent money and the larger bets, definitely Ralph & Russo.” (The Daily Mail reported back in March that a “well-placed informant” had confirmed the dress would indeed be Ralph & Russo, although just yesterday it reported that two different “well-placed sources” now favor outgoing Burberry president Christopher Bailey.) To the average American for whom betting is, well, illegal, this precise form of speculation is all very foreign. But in the U.K., where betting shops practically line every street corner, bets on everything from football games to celebrity baby names are common. For novelty bets such as the latter, here’s how it works: Traders from betting brands do extensive research — in this case, that meant looking at what Markle has worn to major events in the past and her quotes about fashion in the press — and then put out initial odds. As bets roll in, they adjust the odds in accordance with demand and will suspend betting if it seems as though someone knows something for a fact and word is spreading. So when the betting for Markle’s dress was reopened, “the betters went in heavy on Ralph & Russo,” says Jones. “We’ve taken the market back down again because it’s been confirmed pretty much that the designer of the dress is chosen and the dress is ready. So what happens is if our traders see we get a lot of substantial bets on a particular designer, they think to themselves, ‘Okay, what are the chances that someone actually knows this for a fact?’” It’s important to note, however, that these sorts of predictions are often wrong. Prior to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, betting odds were suspended when it was reported that Bruce Oldfield would be designing Middleton’s dress, when it instead was Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. In more confirmed news, Vanity Fair reported yesterday that Markle will wear not one but two custom-made dresses, an “elaborate yet traditional bridal gown[...]