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Walmart will stop locking up beauty products for black consumers

June 11, 2020, 4:26 PM UTC

Walmart will stop locking up black beauty and hair care products in glass anti-theft cases in the wake of criticism that the practice was discriminatory.

Retailers, notably mass-merchandise stores and drugstores, often lock up items they deem at high risk of shoplifting such as razor blades and cosmetics, requiring customers to have a store employee unlock the cases.

Walmart drew ire from some customers following a television report about a store in Denver that had similar products for nonblack hair openly on its shelves. So the company, which has pledged to be a leader in fighting racism in the wake of recent nationwide protests against police brutality, said it is ending the practice.

“We serve millions of customers every day from diverse backgrounds. We have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products in locked cases,” the company tweeted on Wednesday.

The end of the practice comes at a time when Walmart, the largest private U.S. employer, is trying to take the lead in how corporate America addresses inequity and racial discrimination in the workplace, from recruitment and career advancement to training and board representation, among other critical issues. Last week, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company and the Walmart Foundation will commit $100 million over five years to create a new center on racial equity.

That center “will seek to advance economic opportunity and healthier living, including issues surrounding the social determinants of health, strengthening workforce development and related educational systems, and support criminal justice reform with an emphasis on examining barriers to opportunity faced by those exiting the system.” 

While many retailers have pledged monetary contributions to fight racism and injustice, they have also been criticized for discriminatory practices over the years or falling short in efforts to fight inequality. Macy’s, which a few years ago was sued for alleged racial profiling of shoppers in its anti-shoplifting procedures but is also a longtime proponent of diversity, could and will do more, the department store’s CEO Jeff Gennette said earlier this week. And as Bloomberg reported last week, Target, also an active proponent of diversity, has very few black executives in its leadership ranks.