The One Story: HBCUs And The Gatekeeping Of Black Culture
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UPDATED: 2:00 a.m. ET, Nov. 26

Originally published: Nov. 27, 2020

‘Tis the season to dig deep in your pockets and open up your pocketbooks for the 2021 holiday shopping season, which officially got underway the minute Thanksgiving ended and Black Friday began as companies and businesses offer their goods and services at deeply discounted rates in hopes of cashing in on the billions predicted to be spent by consumers over the next two months.

Last year, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some concern that Black consumers may not be able to maintain their reliably formidable buying power, what with the unfortunate combination of sky-high levels of Black unemployment coupled with the disproportionate availability of low-wage jobs.

MORE: A Comprehensive Guide To Buying Black During The Holidays

But according to Nielsen, which provides analytical insights about the habits of consumers, there was no significant drop-off in Black buying power during all of 2020, let alone the holiday season. In fact, there was “an overall increase in buying power” from Black consumers last year in a trend predicted to continue this year, as well. Nielsen predicted the trend to only grow.

And that is true for consumers from all backgrounds, according to analytics company Gallup, which released a poll earlier this month that suggested this year’s holiday spending would be on a par with last year’s across the demographic board.

To be sure, Black consumers are no strangers to spending during the holidays. In 2014, Black consumers were predicted to lead all holiday spending by shelling out 17 percent more than other racial backgrounds. Seven years later and it seems that the pandemic has neither affected if nor how we shop.

Nielsen data from last year found that the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected communities of color, prompted Black people to “make more frequent trips to the store, spending less per trip than the total population.”

And while statistics showed just a couple of years ago that Black consumers preferred to spend their money in person instead of over the internet, the opposite has become true these last two years in part because of the pandemic.

Young man doing online Christmas shopping

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That could be an indication that Black folks will continue to power online spending and possibly help it rise during the holidays.

There’s also the ongoing national racial reckoning that factors into helping Black consumers decide not just what to buy but also from where to buy. The Nielsen report found that Black buyers are increasingly spending their money with companies that have tailor-made messaging to target Black folks.

Marc Stephenson Strachan, a senior executive at Diageo, said during a NewOne panel discussion that brands have had to bring a level of authenticity to develop return customers.

“You don’t get brand loyalty with the best commercials,” he said, emphasizing that corporations are finally realizing that they can’t just take Black people’s support for granted. “You have to earn our respect, and you have to earn our association and you have to earn our dollars.”


As such, it shouldn’t be shocking that the new Nielsen report also found this year has especially prompted Black consumers to buy Black. That is, they are spending more with Black-owned businesses, a group that has suffered disproportionately from the pandemic’s devastating effects on the economy and largely missed out on the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Plan that offered modestly-sized companies government loans at low-interest rates in order to keep the businesses from closing.

African Americans are now 58% more likely to expect the brands they buy to take a stance on these issues and 37% more likely to buy a brand when they do, up from just 4% more likely and 1% more likely respectively last year,” the Nielsen report found.

With that said, 2021 has upended any and every rosy outlook there might have been for the year, suggesting the same could be true for this holiday season.

Only time — and money — will tell.


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