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Walmart, CVS, and more to stop locking up beauty products for black people

TextAlex Peters

Retailers in the US are finally putting an end to the discriminatory policy

US drugstore chains Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS Health have all announced they will no longer be locking up cosmetics and hair care products aimed at black people and other people of colour.

This discriminatory practice, which did not cover brands traditionally targeted towards predominantly white consumers, meant that these beauty products could only be accessed by having an employee unlock the cases, some of which featured additional anti-theft measures.

In a statement last week, Walmart said the locked cases had been used to deter shoplifters from stealing products including electronics and cosmetics. However, it continued: “We’re sensitive to the issue and understand the concerns raised by our customers and members of the community and have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products in locked cases.”

In its statement, Walgreens said “We are currently ensuring multicultural hair care and beauty products are not stored behind locked cases at any of our stores.”

This is not the first time these policies have come under scrutiny. In 2018, Essie Grundy sued Walmart for locking up beauty items catering to black women. In the federal lawsuit, Grundy explained that she had observed that the “hair and body products meant for African-Americans” at her local Marlmart in California had been locked away behind glass shelves – a practice which made her feel “shame and humiliation” as though “people viewed her as a criminal.”

At the time, Walmart denied these claims arguing that “no product category of ‘African American products’ exists at Walmart” and denied that the use of “enhanced security for certain multicultural hair and body products constituted a discriminatory practice.” The lawsuit was dropped last year.

Meanwhile, other retailers have also been making policy changes in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests. Last week Sephora announced it will be dedicating 15 per cent of its stores’ shelf space to the products of Black-owned businesses. It is the first major retailer in the US to commit to the “15 Per cent Pledge”, which challenges retailers to reflect the racial make-up of the population – which is 15 percent Black – in the products they stock. The project was founded by Aurora James, a creative director in Brooklyn.

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