More and more retailers are making social responsibility a key component of their standard business practices.
It’s hip to be red, but it is no longer unique to be pink — and that is a good thing. The sale of “pink” merchandise to benefit breast cancer research has become familiar to shoppers in a Pavlovian kind of way: Consumers see the now ubiquitous pink products and their brains immediately associate the branding with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure global breast cancer movement.
Likewise, big-box retailers such as Gap, Apple Computers, and Hallmark make their customers see red. Make that (Red), as in (Product) Red, a movement dedicated to eliminating AIDS in Africa. At Gap, half the profits from sales of Gap (Product) Red merchandise go to the Global Fund to help finance AIDS treatment and prevention programs on that continent.
Unlike pink breast cancer merchandise, (Red) products are not necessarily red. But they are hip, such as the popular girl’s white angora- blend hoodie for sale at Gap. The word “ado(red)” is written in pink across the front, with a heart in place of the letter “o.”
Embracing Better Business Practices
Gap cites, as its reason for participating in the program, that companies in today’s world should go beyond the basics of ethical business practices and embrace responsibility to people and to the planet.
It’s not just the right thing to do, according to Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Dan Henkle, “it also unlocks new ways for us to do business better.”
More and more retailers are feeling charitable these days. In fact, 26 percent will offer a charity promotion this holiday season, according to a study conducted by BDO Seidman, one of the nation’s leading accounting and consulting organizations.
Athletic apparel manufacturer New Balance is but one of a multitude of retailers who sell pink merchandise to benefit breast cancer research. A partner in this effort for 18 years, New Balance donates 15 percent of wholesale sales from its Lace Up for the Cure merchandise to Susan G. Komen. Like Gap, New Balance cites “social responsibility” as the reason for its generosity.
Retailers Benefit from Local Charity Events
At Lenox Square mall in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood, retailers stayed open on a recent Sunday night for a private shopping and entertainment event that raised money for the local arts community and select nonprofit organizations.
For the price of a $35 ticket, shoppers were treated to free food and drinks at stations throughout the mall, fashion shows, performances from Atlanta Symphony ensembles, and discounts at 80 retailers.
It was a first-time event for Lenox Square, though Marketing Director Dewayne Herbert has done it at three other Simon Property Group malls. “We think we had a little over 3,000 people, and we were really pleased,” he says. “I saw a real value in bringing a holiday event to Lenox. Other events we have like the Great Tree Lighting and the Fourth of July fireworks occur during times that the mall is closed, so the retailers don’t benefit from immediate sales and exposure.”
Herbert heard from Lenox retailers that they thought it was “a really cool event.” Even if shoppers weren’t buying, the traffic was good, and the retailers liked that.
A few miles south of Lenox Square in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood, merchants and restaurants recently participated in the second annual Shop & Dine promotion, with a portion of the net proceeds benefiting the Midtown Neighbors’ Association.
The kickoff occurred on a Saturday when residents and retailers had what amounted to a yard sale, says Keith Hobbs of Yes Home, a Midtown home furnishings store. Proceeds from that day went to a local charity, Hobbs says, then the rest of the week was devoted to restaurants and retailers offering specials to bring people to the neighborhood.
Junior League Launches Online Mall
Fifty Junior League chapters across the country are participating in a new Junior League online shopping mall that will help raise funds for individual leagues. More than 1,300 retailers including Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Barnes and Noble are taking part in the innovative program.
Online shoppers click on a retail icon at the Web site and are asked to choose the Junior League chapter they wish to benefit from their purchases. Each sale generates a commission to benefit that chapter as well as the Association of Junior Leagues International.
“The holiday season, when retailers are exposed to more consumers than any other time of year, presents the prime opportunity to identify their brand with worthwhile causes,” notes BDO Seidman’s Catherine Fox-Simpson. The industry is increasingly sensitive, she says, to projecting a positive corporate image to their customers.
And so, consumers aren’t the only ones giving during this holiday season. Like everybody else at this time of year, retailers are doing it, too.
Multi award-winning Carol Carter has been a business journalist since 1978, when she was among the founding staff of Atlanta Business Chronicle, for which she served as editor, managing editor, reporter, and columnist. She covered retail news for the Chronicle for five years, wrote a column about retail stores for Southline newspaper in Atlanta, and was the consumer reporter for NBC-affiliate WXIA-TV’s Noonday show.