The UK just held another Black Pound Day, in which consumers are stimulated to buy from black-owned businesses. But what is the idea behind this incentive?
The third UK’s Black Pound Day consists of a popular campaign to encourage people to give their custom to black-owned businesses for 24 hours.
It usually falls on the first Saturday of every month and is the brainchild of DJ Swiss, a member of popular London rap group So Solid Crew. Specifically, statistics marked a sale of £61,940.53 spent, and last month’s total was £22,242.42.
Even though the project seems to be economically promising, however, the social media numbers backing Black Pound Day are still relatively low, with 23,600 on Instagram and under 1,000 on Facebook. Yet, those figures are growing, data which the government expects it will lead to greater awareness and more custom.
The types of business participating are of different types, including cake shops, women’s lingerie designers, skin clinics, men’s suit makers and even a party bus rental firm. The vast majority are small operators with either an online-only presence or a single outlet.
Carmen Lecuane is the founder of accessory retailer KMABEL which sells bespoke earrings and bags, with the proceeds used to help fund hearing aids for children in Senegal and Mozambique.
Mrs Lecuane explained that “The initiative has been a great way to highlight the existence of certain businesses that were otherwise not as noticeable before the movement.”
The last two Black Pound Days saw her sales rise of 12%, and she added that 75% of these extra customers were black.
Lecuane continued: “Outside of the initiative, there’s great support from members of the white community too. It would be great if people stuck to the initiative long term, and I believe it’s up to the brands as well, to keep it going.”
However, not all businesses have seen a boost within the initiative. For instance, Gloucestershire-based Colour Catch, which does vehicle wraps, hasn’t recorded any significant rise in business.
DJ Swiss describes his motivation as attempting to “redirect the energy” of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Recognising that protests eventually run out of the stream, he declared: “We do the marching, we express ourselves, we go back home and we know that emotions only last so long, and everyone goes back to their normal routine.”
His celebrity has helped give the movement credibility and support. However, there’s always the possibility it could lead to a backlash, with customers feeling pressured to shun non-black firms. Swiss continued: “I’m not telling anyone to boycott any businesses or not spend with other businesses. I’m just saying make a concentrated effort to seek out a black business in your local area or online, and spend with that business on that day.”
On the other hand, Lecuane hasn’t come across any negativity yet. She admitted: “I don’t feel there’s any animosity from non-black owned businesses. Economically and culturally, the buying power of white customers has always been higher than black customers.
“When a white customer spends on the brand, their order can average out at much more than a black customer’s. It’s so evident every single time. Non-black-owned businesses have always had an advantage – that’s why this initiative exists, to make it a little fairer and to create more visibility that there are other great options available to try.”
But not everyone is so enthusiastic, as world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua found out when he was lambasted and called “a racist” for making a speech at a BLM protest earlier in June.
Joshua encouraged people to invest in black-owned businesses, but his representatives rowed back on the tone and admitted someone else had written the speech on his behalf.
In the current unstable climate, Black Pound Day has also attracted criticism, with some decrying it as discriminatory:
Norman Brennan (@NormanBrennan) via twitter, posted: “So it’s Black Pound day where the Black Community are encouraged to only shop at Black Businesses; can you imagine the ‘uproar’ if we had a White Pound Day Racist would be shouted from every mountain I believe BLM is actually trying to divide us when we want to build Bridges!!”
But as organisers are not calling for a boycott of non-black outlets and customers of all races are welcome to take advantage of the discount offers many of the retailers are offering, it seems the backlash is unjustified.
And the people behind Black Pound Day are clear that there’s a need for what they’re doing. They highlight the fact that only 0.067% of UK businesses are black-owned, and a survey by Your Startup Your Story showed that, of BAME-led companies, 48% didn’t have access to or didn’t expect to qualify for any government support after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s black community has an annual spending power estimated at £300 billion, but only 3% is reinvested back into the community. So, it seems Black Pound Day could give a lifeline, letting black businesses to survive in order to, hopefully, thrive. If it does that, while helping all races come together and prosper, any criticism ought to fall on deaf ears.