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Macy’s CEO on Supporting ‘Next Generation of Diverse Suppliers’

Macy’s Inc. has revived an incubator initiative that nurtures diverse brands.

After suspending The Workshop at Macy’s amid the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer has resumed the program, founded in 2011, that aids burgeoning vendors hailing from under-represented backgrounds, including many women-owned labels. This year, 50 participating brands operating in apparel, beauty, accessories and home will discover key insights on how to scale their operations not only to suit Macy’s but also to serve the retail industry at large, the company said on Monday, adding to the 125 brands it has cultivated over the past decade.

The program’s tailored coursework, offering expert guidance and mentorship opportunities, is based on “years of experience identifying barriers that have slowed or stopped diverse vendor growth in the retail industry,” Macy’s said. The weeklong virtual curriculum—running from April 26 through May 7—addresses many of the pitfalls that routinely trip up founders while also offering “real world practice and feedback” personalized to each individual startup’s business model and operations, it added.

In a blog post, Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette described vendor relationships as a critical aspect of the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

“We are working to support the next generation of diverse suppliers by ensuring they are integrated into our merchandising and business development strategies,” he wrote. Macy’s Supplier Diversity Program links “more ethnically diverse-, women-, veteran- and LGBTQ-owned businesses” to the company’s opportunities, he added, “enabling us to have more distinctive merchandise, contribute to the economic health of local communities, and help grow the number of diverse suppliers in the retail industry.”

This year’s cohort includes three men’s wear brands: Capelle Miami, which makes compression-lined swim trunks; cotton shirting brand Cotton the First, and Kynsho, a scarves and accessories brand. Women’s ready-to-wear apparel brands include KG’s House of Fashion, Dauntless Clothing, Urban Modesty, Kirrin Finch, for gender-non-conforming people, and Gracemade, a faith-based label. Swim, resort and intimates brands include Bhon Jsell, Nani Swimwear and Adara Women. Girl and a Serious Dream, Suzy Black NYC, and Cherry Blossom Intimates offer loungewear and close-to-skin garments.

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On the footwear front, brands include Salone Monet, Things II Come Luxury, Silvia Cobos and PerryCo Shoes. Jewelry and accessories brands include Jetlag Mode, Sarep+Rose, Queen of Spades Style and Minkee Blue. Businesses operating in the soft textiles group include SquaredCharm, Mismatch and Noho Home by Jalene Kanani.

Michelle Wang, Macy’s vice president, retail diversity strategy, said the company’s “commitment to diversity and inclusion must engage our customers, colleagues and the communities we serve.” The “best-in-class” Workshop, she added, “brings together all three as we continue to build the future of representation in retail.”

According to Macy’s workshops within the incubator dive into specific retail challenges at scale and unlock access to the tools and resources needed for founders to achieve their business goals. Master classes emphasize tips for building brand identity, navigating business relationships, financial management for sustained growth, high-impact business conversations, maximizing assortment planning and production life cycle.

Gennette said the retailer continues to build a viable pipeline of diverse vendors through ongoing training and development, pointing to the roughly $937 million Macy’s spent in 2018 on orders from “ethnically diverse- and women-owned businesses.”

“This engagement with diverse suppliers contributed more than $1.8 billion to the U.S. economy—surpassing the billion-dollar mark for the fourth year in a row—and sustained more than 10,000 jobs,” he added. “These jobs and the incomes earned through them are important contributions to the communities in which we operate.”