Black Female? Addicted to Retail? Then At Least Buy Black!

October 17, 2011  |  

by Tre Baker

There was a great post on the Black female consumer last year on TAP that gave all sorts of good stats regarding Black female consumption patterns and demographics. Here are a few highlights:

  • Some marketers say 85 cents of every $1 spent by blacks last year was spent at the influence of black females. Others estimate black female buying power at upwards of $565 billion last year alone.
  • Muléy cited RL Polk and Yankelovich studies pointing out that black women account for 58% of all new cars and trucks purchased by African Americans, compared to 44% of women in the general population; that black women spend $57 billion on food items per year, and that black females spend 30% more than the general market on personal/beauty products.
  • Black women started business at three to five times the rate of all other new businesses between 2006 and 2009. In 2008, there were 1.9 million firms owned by women of color – blacks, Asians, or Hispanics, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. They employed 1.2 million workers and brought in $165 billion.

Now these are all interesting stats, and we already know that “women be shoppin” because Chris Rock said so, but what do we do with this information? Personally, I see an opportunity to directly combat Black unemployment and get our community out of this chronic depression we’ve been in for generations. And as a student of economics and history, it is clear to me that social and political power almost always come after economic power. It is a tradition in some African societies, that when things get so bad, it’s the women who call for war. Well ladies, it’s time for battle, and one of your greatest weapons is in your purse. It’s time for you to take the lead and start wielding and concentrating that economic power and putting those shopping habits to good use. We (the menfolk) will follow suit because…let’s be real…a lot of the money we spend is because of you anyway (either to get you, keep you, or prevent arguments)!

Let’s start with Black unemployment. The official rate is almost 20%, and real rates are estimated at over 30%. These are depression level numbers here folks, but despite all the back-and-forth debate and reliance on the government and major corporations for solutions to this problem, the answer is much more simple and lies with those $565 billion dollars Black women are spending and higher rate of business establishment.

All the Black-owned businesses in America only make about $140 billion in annual revenue. Meanwhile Black-women alone are spending over half a trillion dollars annually. So if we can re-direct just one third of that money to Black businesses, we could increase that $140 billion to about $188 billion. To handle that growth those businesses will need to hire more employees, and it is known that Black companies are much more likely to hire Black employees. So there’s your solution to Black unemployment that doesn’t require help from the government or white-owned companies. This is basic stuff, and we can do it with MONEY WE ALREADY SPEND. We know what we need to do, all that’s left is to do it.

Then, once we’ve started re-directing those consumer dollars, we need to pump up the rate of Black entrepreneurship by starting more businesses and supporting them with adequate investment, advisory services, and mentoring programs. We basically need a Black version of Silicon Valley to encourage and support entrepreneurship, because anyone can start a businesses, but it takes resources to really grow that business and create a significant numbers of jobs. And Black entrepreneurs should AT LEAST be able to rely on Black consumers to patronize them. Who better to start businesses that cater to Black women than other Black women? Then Black women can support them and re-direct even more of those 565 billion dollars. As the most important Black consumers, if Black women don’t lead this charge, it’s not looking good for any of us.

Finally, I must mention the cultural component that has to go along with any struggle for Black Empowerment. It is not enough to control the Black economy and become financially free. We must also become mentally and spiritually free. Otherwise we won’t even know what to do with all this new money (just look at all these Black athletes and entertainers). Our problem really isn’t the lack of economic power, our problem is the lack of cultural power, and adopting a Eurocentric mentality that is just not compatible with who we are. But without economic resources, it’s hard to build a sustainable culture and defend it from other people that want to control or destroy it.

For example, we don’t need to own our own haircare companies that make the same poisonous products that non-Black-owned haircare companies make. We need our own Black haircare companies to make better products that are better for us and allow us to maintain the hair The Creator gave us the way we really want to while setting our own standards of beauty. Is it the $795 pair of red bottoms you want or the feeling (or praise) that you get when you wear them, and can you get that feeling another way? Do we really want to perpetuate a culture where people will pay thousands of dollars for a handbag, but allows children to starve when it clearly has the resources to prevent it? We need economic power so we can have the resources to perpetuate our own culture. We do not need economic power just so we can perpetuate, imitate, and support an inherently destructive/exploitative culture we did not create and do not directly control.

This movement for Economic Empowerment is something we all can get involved in by spending with Black-owned companies, working for them, and/or starting one of your own. Don’t know which companies to support? Start with ujamaadeals.com and maybe a google search or two. Don’t know how to start a business? Begin with startupexpert.us. These interwebs have all the information you need. There’s no excuse for ignorance. Let’s put these Black consumer dollars to work for Black Economic Empowerment.

Tre Baker is an entrepreneur and business development strategist. He is the co-founder of dnbeapparel.com, positive propaganda apparel, and ujamaadeals.com, daily deals from Black-owned companies. Tre has a BS in Engineering Science from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


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