- Refusing to set up stores in poor neighborhoods whose residents would buy what the store offered
- Maintaining different pricing structures for outlets in areas having certain ethnicities
- Habitually showing African American customers merchandise inferior to what is shown to white customers
As a retailer, you might possess justified business reasons for practices that some would call retail redlining: Doing business in certain areas costs more because of high shoplifting rates. Business insurance is harder to get because no fire stations are nearby. Certain groups of customers habitually ask to see the good merchandise because they can’t afford the excellent merchandise.
But regularly reexamine any such assumptions to be sure it isn’t subconscious prejudice. Being a retailer, you’re continually bombarded with information, much of it carrying conflicting implications. As abundant amounts of information cascade toward you, you probably could find support for almost any opinion you choose to have. If we want to see reasons for retail redlining, we’ll be able to pick out the data to build our case to ourselves.
In addition, once we consciously or subconsciously retail redline, our brains start working to selectively interpret new information we receive. The more aware we become of engaging in this controversial practice, the greater our drive to pull out data we can twist around to prove to ourselves we’re making the right decisions.
So straighten out what’s twisted. In his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Prahalad of the University of Michigan pointed out how serving the socioeconomically disadvantaged could build profitability.
- Smaller package sizes can make quality products accessible.
- Delivery services can build sales among those without private transportation.
- Talking signage and gracious sales staff can influence shoppers who have limited literacy.
Give Low-Income Customers Dignity