Saturday marks the UK’s third Black Pound Day. It’s a grassroots campaign to encourage the public to give their custom to black-owned businesses for 24 hours.
It falls on the first Saturday of every month and is the brainchild of DJ Swiss, a member of popular London rap group So Solid Crew. The initial day saw £61,940.53 spent, and last month’s total was £22,242.42.
The types of business participating are wide, and include cake shops, women’s lingerie designers, skin clinics, men’s suit makers and even a party bus rental firm. The vast majority are small operators with either an online-only presence or a single outlet.
Carmen Lecuane is the founder of accessory retailer KMABEL. She said: “The initiative has been a great way to highlight the existence of certain businesses that were otherwise not as noticeable prior to the movement.”
The last two Black Pound Days saw her sales rise 12 percent, and she says 75 percent of these extra customers were black. KMABEL sells bespoke earrings and bags, with the proceeds used to help fund hearing aids for children in Senegal and Mozambique.
Lecuane continued: “Outside of the initiative, there’s great support from members of the white community too. It would be great if people stuck to the initiative long term, and I believe it’s up to the brands as well, to keep it going.”
The social media numbers backing Black Pound Day are still relatively low, with 23,600 on Instagram and under 1,000 on Facebook. But those figures are increasing, which should lead to greater awareness and more custom.
Not all businesses have seen a boost, though. Gloucestershire-based Colour Catch does vehicle wraps, but hasn’t recorded any notable rise in business.
DJ Swiss describes his motivation as attempting to “redirect the energy” of the Black Lives Matter movement. Acknowledging that protests eventually run out of stream, he said: “We do the marching, we express ourselves, we go back home and we know that emotions only last so long, and everyone goes back to their normal routine.”
His celebrity has helped give the movement credibility. However, there’s always the possibility it could lead to a backlash, with customers feeling pressurised to shun non-black firms. Swiss added: “I’m not telling anyone to boycott any businesses or not spend with other businesses. I’m just saying make a concentrated effort to seek out black business in your local area or online, and spend with that business on that day.”
And Lecuane hasn’t come across any negativity so far. She said: “I don’t feel there’s any animosity from non-black owned businesses. Economically and culturally, the buying power of white customers has always been higher than black customers’.
“When a white customer spends on the brand, their order can average out at much more than a black customer’s. It’s so evident each and every single time. Non-black-owned businesses have always had an advantage – that’s why this initiative exists, to make it a little fairer and to create more visibility that there are other great options available to try.”
But not everyone is so enthusiastic, as world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua found out, when he was lambasted and called “a racist” for making a speech at a BLM protest back in June.
Joshua encouraged people to invest in black-owned businesses, but his representatives rowed back on the tone and admitted someone else had written the speech.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “I know him inside out. It hurts when some of the accusations have been flying his way.”
In the current volatile climate, Black Pound Day has also attracted criticism, with some decrying it as discriminatory.
There are some, as a result, who’ve voiced their plans to note which shops participate in Black Pound Day and boycott them.
But as organisers are not calling for a boycott of non-black outlets and customers of all races are welcome to take advantage of the discount offers many of the retailers are offering, it seems the backlash is unjustified.
And the people behind Black Pound Day are clear that there’s a need for what they’re doing. They highlight the fact that only 0.067 percent of UK businesses are black-owned, and a survey by Your Startup Your Story showed that, of BAME-led companies, 48 percent didn’t have access to or didn’t expect to qualify for any government support post Covid-19.
Britain’s black community has an annual spending power estimated at £300 billion, but only 3 percent is reinvested back into the community. So, it seems Black Pound Day could offer a lifeline and allow black businesses to thrive. If it does that, while helping all races come together and prosper, any criticism ought to fall on deaf ears.(RT)