Meet three Black women executives championing Black-owned brands in the $7 trillion retail industry

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 27, 2024 11:44 AM EDT
These three executives are driving the push for Black-owned brands in retail.

Ranging from groceries, technology, and drugs to fashion and beauty supplies, the retail industry is interlinked with our daily lives. African Americans are the second-largest consumer group and hold a large stake in the $7 trillion annual total retail sales in the United States. But retail shelves often don’t reflect the influence of the large and highly lucrative African American market. Although African Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in business, Black-owned brands are scarce on the shelves of major retailers. Black entrepreneurs consequently miss out on the exposure, accessibility and opportunities for sales growth that large establishments provide.

Black women executives in retail are pushing for racial diversity in the industry. They are bringing the Black experience to the table and finding ways to enact real change. In recent years, there have been deliberate efforts to improve supplier diversity and add more Black-owned labels to the shelves. Across marketing, supply chain, merchandising, sourcing, and strategy, Black women executives are driving change from within and championing Black-owned brands in the retail industry.

BlackStars News has highlighted four Black executives driving fundamental change within the retail industry.

1. Latriece Watkins
Starting as an intern in real estate at Walmart, Watkins has climbed the corporate ladder to become the executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, of Walmart U.S. She previously helped accelerate sales revenue through supplier partnerships and licensed innovation as executive vice president of consumables for Walmart U.S. As a part of the company’s Shared Value Network team, Watkins is leveraging its strengths and expertise to increase racial equity within the criminal justice system. She has served in a variety of key leadership roles within merchandising, human resources and store operations in the past over the past two decades.

2. Lela Coffey
As vice president of multicultural business acceleration for Procter & Gamble North America,  Coffey’s passion for marketing excellence and inclusivity sets a high bar for business impact. She is constantly challenging her colleagues and the industry to deliver products and programs that are meaningful for consumers and communities. Coffey has created an open-source brand-building framework called the 4Rs—for reach, representation, relevance and resonance and was at the forefront of the My Black Is Beautiful platform.

“I was able to build up probably the most diverse cross-functional team in the company, because it’s super important that we’re mirroring the consumers we’re trying to serve in this multicultural business. I got the resources that I needed. I was able to, within the span of three or four years, build a portfolio of multicultural hair brands that didn’t exist and are almost entirely incremental sales to us,” said Coffey on how she is driving diversity at Procter & Gamble.

3. Karla Davis
A self-described overachieving Black Woman, Davis prioritizes her mental health and physical wellness. She took a six-month career break having executed four brand campaigns, two brand books, and 90 promotional programs over eight years at Ulta Beauty. As vice president integrated marketing and media, Davis increased the brand’s minority-owned and targeted media investments by nearly 50 percent, launched an accelerator aimed at amplifying voices of color in the beauty industry and Ulta’s “Beauty&” campaign that focuses on diversity and intersectionality in beauty. She took over as group vice president at Bath & Body Works in 2024.