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Diversity in Merchandising

Buying Brands With Diverse Founders

New Way of Thinking

We need to have conversations
we've never had before

As a former Buyer for major retailers such as Chico’s and Office Depot, I know that looking at the Founders of brands and companies isn’t a conversation that’s had during the buying process.

Think about that.  We see products we like, and negotiate the payment terms, cost, promotional activity, but we rarely stop to see who is “the person behind the brand”.  We do the same as consumers.

Why is that?  Keep reading.

purchase products from people of color
Established Brands

The Industry Focus

Our industry is highly focused on well-established brands. Review the latest industry newsletter and see how many emerging brands, or even trends that are happening in the indie brand world, are discussed. These well-established brands were once ones of these small, innovative, industry-shaking brands that are going unnoticed.

Shallow Consumption

Profit Over Values

For so long, there has been more focus on profit margins of a product versus the story of it and the people behind it. Why can't the story of a product influence the margin you can achieve? The richer the story, the richer the margin. Why can't artisan, slow fashion be the new luxury? (Guess what, it is. You can credit Coronavirus for accelerating it)

Extra Effort

Diversifying Takes Work

Working with indie brands absolutely takes extra effort. When I was a Buyer at Office Depot, I curated a floor display full of local Austin, Texas brands to merchandise in our 13 Austin stores and it was my full-time focus for an entire year. To then add another layer of ensuring a diverse mix of Founders were represented would take more time, but it is necessary work considering this is a reflection of your company values.

Everyday Work

Outside The Norm

In many organizations, the biggest killer of potential is the mentality of ``This is the way it's always been done`` or ``It's working, why change it``. If we continuously focus on what's in front of us and don't stop to look at what's around us, innovation disappears and irrelevance appears. I'd bet that an entrepreneurial spirit is a trait you celebrate in an employee - why not want the same from the brands you carry? If your brands stay fresh and relevant, so will your store.

What’s the Solution?

How can you add a diverse selection of brands to your retail product assortment?

Here are two ways we can accomplish this together

supplier diversity in your retail products

Create a role for us on your Merchandising team - Buyer, Indie Brands

As mentioned, working with indie brands takes dedication, patience, and admittedly, resources. In order for this to be a long-term strategy, it is critical to dedicate at least one role solely to this effort. We will put in place and execute formal processes and workflows to manage the outreach, curation, purchasing, onboarding, sales management, and offboarding of these brands – the entire buying lifecycle.

supplier diversity in your retail products

Add a Product Diversity Initiative to Your Supplier Diversity Team

Many large retailers have Supplier Diversity Teams, but those efforts don’t carry over to the product side – which is literally the core of any retail organization. Imagine the impact if you added a role dedicated to increasing Founder diversity in product selection. With this role, we would create mentorship and accelerator programs for Founders of color, and even a custom onboarding process specific to indie brands.

Maybe You’re Thinking

I want this role to be permanent, full-time and onsite

We have answers for that

We will align our schedule around your organization's major milestone meetings.
We can be in the office as often as you need us.
  • We can absolutely be present in the office for your merchandising strategy, product review, financial / inventory planning meetings
  • We will be available via phone, email, or video conferencing anytime you need us
We will also align our work to your organization’s cadences, for example, producing weekly sales reports, preparing hindsight reporting.

We are a seamless extension of your team.

If you absolutely must have someone from our team working on site, we will arrange for that to happen.

We constantly have our eyes and ears on both sides of the industry.

In any role, an employee spending the majority of their time inside the office often leads to having tunnel vision on things happening outside their department, and even, outside the company.

As your Consultants, we are constantly immersed not only in the corporate retail world, but also the small business world, through our clients and outreach work.

We attend local markets around the US and the world, to scout diverse and innovative brands.

Dealing with indie brands is outside of your normal business process and requires therefore requires a non-traditional approach.

Small brands don’t operate with the rigid structure of large corporate retailers.

It absolutely requires hand-holding, patience, a lot of education.  Let’s be honest – these are all things that your corporate buying team has zero time for, especially considering they are laser – focused on mitigating the Covid impact.

Less overhead, more flexibility.

As mentioned, working with Indie brands requires a shift of how you currently do business to have a more lenient, patient approach.

I don’t have to tell you that it takes time to implement any change inside a large organization, whether big or small.

And time is something you have so little of, especially when there is already an enormously dire situation happening (insert Coronavirus).

Companies love working with us because of our ability to shift gears quickly and be flexible as things arise and priorities change.

Working with us also means that you have a team behind you that is diverse in ethnicity, expertise, generations, and industry experience.

Take action today.

If you are still on the fence about hiring us vs. building an internal team, consider this.


Time is of the essence.

Companies can no longer “talk”, you must act.  Creating a new team takes time, resources, requires training, and more.


Creating a diverse and inclusive company for all people is long-term work, but to get started now, work with us to get your team or initiative created and off the ground quickly so that you are putting action to your values, and once you have your internal team fully formed, we are happy to continue working with you on other projects, or we can move on from our relationship and support you from afar.


They key is to take action now.
Get In Touch

Contact Us To Get The Work Started

Be The Change This Industry So Desperately Needs.


The Affinity Group International
Diversify Retail Initiative