Independent retailers, especially Black-owned businesses, face special challenges during the 2020 holiday shopping season as a worldwide public health issue has left many buyers dealing with tighter budgets, according to Phnewfula Frederiksen, owner and founder of Happy Mango, a children’s boutique in Kirkwood.
“Actually, Black entrepreneurs always have to struggle a bit more for several reasons,” Frederiksen said. “We don’t have the resources and support that other businesses may have. That makes it particularly hard for us to stay afloat during tough times. Also, some people believe that Black-owned businesses can’t deliver the quality of products and services that other businesses can; that’s just not so.” She urged holiday shoppers to include Black-owned businesses in those they patronize this year.
Happy Mango is one of approximately 60 businesses nationwide participating in a Facebook campaign highlighting Black-owned businesses through its #BuyBlackFriday Gift Guide https://about.fb.com/giftguide/. The campaign kicked off the Friday after Thanksgiving with a push to give new meaning to the phrase “Black Friday.” Initially, the day was called Black Friday because it is a profitable day for retailers. The campaign gives it a second meaning by urging shoppers to make a special effort to assure that it is profitable date for Black-owned retailers. Participating businesses offer a wide variety of products from beauty supplies to home décor and fashion.
Frederiksen said although the date designated “Black Friday” has come and gone, shoppers throughout the season and throughout the year should be mindful to support the Black-owned businesses in their communities.
“People think that Black retailers only sell shea butter and hair extensions, but the truth is anything you can buy from [a big-box retail store] you can buy from a Black-owned business,” Frederiksen said. She noted that there are reasons other than supporting Black-owner retailers for visiting small independent store such as hers. “Many of my customers like to shop at Happy Mango because they know it’s eco-friendly, offering high-quality ‘green’ products. Also, those looking for unusual gift ideas often can find something special in shops such as mine.”
Frederiksen offered as an example one of her shop’s newest products, the Southern Alphabet Series clothing line, which she calls “a nod to the love of family and food.” Printed primarily on onesies, the series carries such messages as “M is for Mac & Cheese, “R is for red Velvet Cake” and “Y is for Yams.”
“Southern cooks probably will enjoy seeing favorites from their beloved holiday meals honored on the child’s onesie and they help a little one learn the alphabet in a culturally relevant way. Some families will get letters to match the child’s initials in addition to their favorite foods,” Frederiksen said, adding that the Alphabet Series imprint can be special ordered on other items such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps for older children and even adults.
Through the Facebook #BuyBlack Challenge people can “tag their favorite Black-owned business on Facebook and use the #BuyBlackChallenge hashtag to automatically invite others to take the challenge via a footer on their post that encourages family and friends to ‘Try It’ too. They can post on Facebook Stories with the new #BuyBlack Stories Sticker,” according to an announcement of the campaign.
The Facebook campaign also promotes a gift guide curated in partnership with the U.S. Black Chamber that can be found on Facebook’s Lift Black Voices Hub on the Facebook app.
“Over the past 30 years, the number of Black-owned businesses has grown steadily, with more than 2.5 million Black-owned companies operating today across the United States,” according to the website of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, an umbrella organization supporting approximately 130 African-American business associations nationally. “However, there is still more work to be done to ensure Black-owned businesses get a fair shake, as Black Americans are currently underrepresented among U.S. entrepreneurs and Black-owned companies have been hit hard by COVID-19 disruptions.”