7 Retail Businesses in Australia Tackling Diversity & Inclusion … and It’s Working

It’s no secret that today’s consumers are starting to make purchase decisions on more than just price. A study titled ‘Strength of Purpose’ published in 2020 by Zeno Group found that: “global consumers are four to six times more likely to trust, buy, champion and protect those companies with a strong purpose over those with a weaker one.”

These findings tell us that companies which stand for causes and strive for more than just sales, actually have an advantage in terms of their bottom line, reputation, loyalty and natural promotion factors. Deloitte US Global Marketing Trends 2021 report noted  “when a brand connects on a humane, empathic level, people are more open to trusting its intentions and believing that their needs are truly being addressed.” We are seeing increasingly more businesses seeing the need to focus on diversity and inclusion, something which is in keeping with market trends toward more informed and value-influenced purchasing.

Prioritising diversity and inclusion, not only makes companies more thoughtful, but actually has the ability to boost the positive feelings and perception associated with the business. A study conducted in 2018 by Accenture found that millennials are more likely to choose a brand that demonstrates inclusion and diversity in terms of product offerings and promotion. Our own Benefits of Designing for Eveyone report, done with PwC Australia, found that in Australia there is “$4b in potential increased retail industry revenue from better designed products and services”.

Of course being an inclusive organisation is a journey of growth where you learn from your  current and potential employees, customers and stakeholders and recognise their diversity. 

We often hear about organsanistations overseas doing good, but what about in Australia?

In this read, we highlight 7 retailers in Australia all with a different focus who are taking steps to make our workplaces, products and services more equitable. 

A look at 7 Australian Retailers who are focusing on diversity and inclusion

#1 THE ICONIC

Online fashion, beauty (and now homewares) hub, THE ICONIC, employs models which encompass a “broad range of sizes, cultural backgrounds and differently-abled people”. The company has also committed to launching a Modesty Edit, to make it easier for customers (especially many who choose modesty due to religious practice) to shop. The brand has clothes modelled in wheelchairs, stylish maternity wear, modest swimsuits in their beachwear curation, an Ethical & Sustainability Edit and have even gotten 23 out of 25 of their top selling vendors (by sales volume) to offer size extensions to their ranges (THE ICONIC 2021).

#2 Bonds

The go-to Aussie brand for underwear and socks for the whole family, is making a name for themselves in their marketing activities. When you enter their website, the faces looking back at you are from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and many body types.

In 2020, for example, Bonds launched a new diversity campaign for its new Retro Rib range. The campaign was fronted by Australian WNBA basketballer Liz Cambage who was joined on the campaign by ecowarrior and women’s rights advocate Emma Breschi, freckled red-haired model Tehya Elam and ‘tomboy’ model India Graham.

Image of Bonds Diversity Campaign showing 4 female of different sizes and ethnicities.
Bonds Diversity Campaign

Bonds Head of Marketing Emily Small said that the campaign (and Bonds) champions women of all shapes and sizes.

The brand have also collaborated on a Pride collection to celebrate the LGTBQIA+ community and has produced genderless clothing items. They now also provide alternate products to pads and tampons for women on their periods with their Bloody Comfy Period Undies, adding choices to women’s period experiences.

#3 Bunnings

The go-to for home renovations, DIY projects, building, gardening and shopping trips that end with a sausage sizzle, Bunnings is about more than this. 

Australia has an aging population, and in turn an aging workforce. There is a lot of prejudice, however, when it comes to hiring mature age workers, and people with years of experience and skills under their belt are often overlooked time and time again when it comes to getting a new job.

Bunnings does not fall into this category. Susan Ryan, The Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, in 2015 said “it’s one of the few companies in Australia that sees older workers as contributing greatly to the service it provides to customers”.

The company has held activities which directly help the wellbeing of older members of the community, and as Susan Ryan said, proves “practical ways a human rights approach to business can help others while maintaining a healthy bottom line.”

#4 Woolworths

Supermarket powerhouse Woolworths, after successful trials in both NSW and the ACT, expanded their Quiet Hour initiative to 260 stores in 2019. Every Tuesday between 10:30-11:30am, participating stores will make adjustments to their typical way of operating, such as lowering their lights and stopping oven buzzers. The program is designed to “reduce anxiety and sensory stress” (Woolworths Group 2019) for those with Autism and other sensory processing challenges.

The initiative was developed in collaboration with disability service providers, Life Without Barriers, and is a great program in that it allows individuals who would find the usual supermarket environment too overwhelming, the ability to have the independence to go shopping without the same sensory stresses.

#5 Coles

Household name Coles also rolled out a Quiet Hour initiative in 2017. Partnering with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), they committed to offering low-sensory periods across a number of their stores where lights would be dimmed, in-store radio would be silenced and loud noises like trolley removal would be paused. In 2019, this program expanded to include 256 stores Australia wide, which tripled the amount which were offering this initiative in 2017.

Coles has gotten a very positive response to this program and it endeavours to offer Quiet Hour in all their eligible stores by 2023. It is just part of the company’s commitment to increasing accessibility across their business.

#6 Spacetalk

Originally known as MGM Wireless, Spacetalk understood the unique challenge faced by parents and kids in today’s technological world. They created a smartwatch which allows parents to know where their children are and that they are safe without all the usual dangers of a smartphone.

In more recent times, the Adelaide-based company understood the unique needs of many seniors, and launched a smartwatch specifically to cater to them. Their ‘Spacetalk Life’ watch, has an SOS alert and Fall Detection capabilities, and is simpler to use than a smartphone. It also is a more comfortable and stylish alternative to an SOS necklace alert button and will boost inclusion of older Australians in today’s technological landscape.

#7 Harris Farm Markets

The specialty fruit, veggies and grocery store company is achieving diversity by way of their hiring. The company prioritises hiring people with disabilities, understanding the value they bring to the business, and has a goal to hire at least one person with a disability to work in every one of their stores.

The company, by virtue of its actions, is helping to minimise the stigma around disability – a word that is often very loaded. They see each person for their skill set and ability to value-add to their overall business and to the experience of their customers, they do not focus on the labels or societal assumptions that come with them, and set a great example on approaches to hiring in general.

Key Takeaways

  • There is a definite increase in brands endeavouring towards inclusion and diversity, which is not only a beneficial thing for society, but is also positive for business results in general.
  • There are many ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your business, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.