Anti-Looting Store Hoarding Should be Better

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By Jeffrey Spivock

A few times a week, I take a run to clear my head. First off, I recognize the privilege I have to do so without fear of police abuse or attack, unlike many of my fellow Canadians who are Black, Indigenous or Persons of Colour.

My runs often take me down Bloor Street West’s Mink Mile in Toronto, one of Canada’s most exclusive shopping destinations. Over the last several days, I have noticed that retailers have been putting up wood hoarding as a precautionary measure to protect their stores. It started with American brands (Nordstrom Rack, Gap, Banana Republic, TJX’s Homesense and Winners) along with a few others like Dolce & Gabbana, likely given their designers’ history of racist comments.

As of this weekend, most others had followed suit, from Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry to Canada’s Holt Renfrew Men and Harry Rosen. COS, Cartier and Moncler painted their hoarding black, likely to maintain a semblance of ‘chicness’ among the possible future ‘chaos.’

The vast majority of protests in Canada have been peaceful to date. However, in boarding up stores, retailers were likely assuming that subsequent protests may turn violent and that looting will occur. Some protestors may interpret it as daring them to do so. Canadians may also view this action as a way for the establishment to protect its assets, hoping for ‘a return to normal’, a return to the same status quo of injustice that has permeated in this country for generations.

I recognize that retailers have a fiduciary duty to their stakeholders and staff to protect their assets, and hoarding may be a smart risk management strategy. But I also believe that retailers have duty to all Canadians, especially those from marginalized communities, to listen, to support and to help. Not one retailer with hoarding has also mentioned its support for peaceful protests. (Roots, who doesn’t have hoarding, did say they were ‘closed to peacefully protest.’)

Despite being only a few hours old, some hoarding had already been ‘tagged’ or graffitied with slogans from those protesting inequality. This sparked an idea.

I’d like to personally issue the following challenge to Canadians retailers, who are reading this and who have hoarding up:

  • Consider painting all your protective hoarding a single colour, removing the DIY peg-board that mirrors the look of an area post-looting.

  • Use them to share your support for the continued peaceful protests against racial injustice.

  • Hand out markers and explicitly encourage all Canadians to use the hoarding to share their messages, their feelings, their experiences, their hopes, their anger, their solutionstheir constructive criticism to you as a brand, thus leveraging this prime piece of real estate.

  • Every day that the hoarding is up, commit to photographing it and delivering the messages to your executive team, or, better yet, your full organization. Allow them to read, firsthand, the thoughts of Canadians in those communities and those protesting inequality.

  • You may even want to post those messages, unfiltered and unedited, on your social channels and invite your executives to publicly reflect or comment.

  • Commit to read them and to look for ideas that you as a retailer can support or implement moving forward.

  • Donate a portion of the money you are saving with these hoardings to local charities. You can even invite those ‘tagging’ to highlight hyper-local organizations that could use your support.

This is one simple idea that goes beyond posting a message on your social channel but demonstrates that you are listening, and, hopefully, taking action. Hopefully you have some others.

And if you like it, but don’t think you can’t find someone to help you paint and encourage people to participate, send me a Tweet. I am here with a can of paint and a roller, ready to do my part, so we can all listen and grow.

With respect,

Jeffrey Spivock

@Jeffretail

3 COMMENTS

  1. Article is dated for tomorrow (June 8) but posted today. If you walked by the stores today you would have seen some retailers already taking down their hoarding.

    • Good point Jane — the article was meant to be dated Friday but was put into the Monday schedule. It’s been re-dated. It’s good to hear the hoarding is coming down for some retailers. I hadn’t gone outside today so I didn’t get a chance to check myself. I’m near the Bloor/Bay intersection. I hope you had a great weekend!

  2. the scotiabank at wellesley and yonge started putting up hoarding thursday night. they put the framing, but not the plywood. perhaps they had a change of heart?

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