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People waiting to shop amid the pandemic in Brooklyn, N.Y. CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Shutterstock

We as an industry have a history of offending people. And while many have laughed it off in the past and chalked it up to “creative license,” the truth is that most retailers have never truly understood their customers, never stood in their shoes to consider their view of the world.

The pandemic and social injustice issues have brought this all into focus for many of us. They have magnified issues that have long hovered beneath the surface and have accelerated change at a pace which most retailers and brands could have never foreseen. Which is why I call retail industry leaders right now to please, just stop. Take a deep breath, and listen.

In the recent past, I have been vocal about retailers and brands that have launched tone deaf or offensive styles, like a Columbine sweatshirt with bullet holes or a blackface turtleneck. I’ve called them out for cultural misappropriation like using Native American images without regard for culture or consequence. Whether intentional or just purely ignorant, retail has been contributing to the growing problems in our country for decades.

We, as leaders in this industry, control our own destiny. And as we look upon an industry that has been transformed over the last three months it is not a time to be feckless. It is time to lead. And that means dispensing with old beliefs and charting a new course forward. It starts with understanding customers who have been forever changed.

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