Skip to main content

Multicultural Retail 360 Panel to Explore Supplier Diversity


This August in Anaheim, Calif., Armando Martin, CEO of XL Edge, will moderate a panel at the 2015 Multicultural 360 Summit on the challenges of enacting real corporate diversity. The panel will feature key executives from Kroger, Walmart and Walgreens.

Titled “Supplier Diversity the Missing Link: When Multicultural Marketing and Merchandise Programs Aren’t Enough,” the presentation will focus on some of the issues that can hinder multicultural initiatives from moving forward, along with potential solutions. The panelists are veteran multicultural executives: Reuben Schaffer, chief diversity officer, Kroger; Mike Byron, SVP, supplier diversity, Walmart; and Rona Fourté, director, supplier diversity, Walgreens.

“Everybody is on this journey,” said Martin, a long time contributor to the Stagnito Business Information conference and a frequent columnist for Progressive Grocer. “That’s why I’m looking forward to our discussion with Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens. It will be nice to hear a holistic point of view from the inside. Diversity is a key issue particularly since, for the first time in history, there’s more white people dying than being born. And by 2018, there will be more ethnic teens than white teens.”

Sustainable change does not come without internal change. And internal change does not come without a team who understands how diversity touches all areas of business. “Reuben, Rona and Mike have the seniority, wisdom, passion and tact to help enlighten attendees on what diversity means in corporate America and how we can conjure untapped profits by opening doors for everyone,” added Martin, whose Denver-based agency specializes in multicultural marketing.
While Martin cannot predict exactly what these retail executives will discuss, he outlined a few of the roadblocks he has seen companies encounter when exploring diversity:

  • Not providing multicultural executives with access to decision makers.
  • Not having an executive team whose heritage reflects that of customers.
  • In an effort to enact a Total Market Strategy, some retailers have eliminated multicultural brand managers and left decisions up to individual departments. But without unity and leadership, diversity is difficult to attain. “If there isn’t a champion and a voice, the multicultural concept dissipates,” said Martin.
  • Companies invest tons of money in multicultural advertising, in-store programs and other initiatives without giving employees the know-how to understand and apply the concepts at store level.
  • Clashes often occur between Anglo and South American executives and those from the Caribbean and Central America. Rather than fight over who is right, Martin believes executives should listen to each other and use their collective knowledge to make a difference.
  • Some retailers do not have enough seasoned, multicultural executives who know what really works. “It’s important to hear from senior executives who have moved through the ranks and paid their dues,” said Martin.

Despite these hurdles, Martin has seen some progress. Kroger, he said, is committed to providing merchandise assortments that reflect the neighborhoods it serves and the tastes of customers “throughout the enterprise.”

At Walmart, global expansion has taught the retailer how to deal with myriad cultures and values. “Globalization has made them more effective when it comes to racial and gender issues. They’ve learned the tough lessons of doing more, hiring better, being more inclusive and having the right store locations,” he said.

Other retailers are making strides as well. “Commitments are being made beyond just making commercials in Spanish,” concluded Martin.

Stagnito Business Information’s Multicultural Retail 360 Summit will take place in Anaheim, Calif., from Aug. 12-14. See for more information.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds