Twin Cities black retailers see jump in sales as consumers 'buy black'

Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gigi Berry is not one to mince her words. For three years, she has designed and sold colorful and snarky enamel pins emblazoned with messages of the Minneapolis sound, Simpsons references, gay pride declarations and the occasional pop-music lyric.

But her most recent creation, though simple in design, might be her most outspoken yet -- a black glitter background in the shape of Minnesota with "Black Lives Matter" in raised gold lettering.

Berry, who is black, has seen a surge in demand for her pins in the month since the killing of George Floyd, a black man whose death while in police custody has led to the firing and charging of four Minneapolis police officers and global demonstrations on racial equality.

Other Twin Cities black retailers also say their sales have soared as race-conscious consumers have rushed to show support for black-owned businesses through the "Buy Black" movement.

But while black retailers have voiced their gratitude, some are having trouble keeping up with demand, especially as their businesses recover from disruptions because of coronavirus shutdowns. Some also wonder how they should respond to possibly fleeting consumer interest spurred by tragedy.

"It's the most traffic I've had since the beginning of (the pandemic)," said Berry, whose physical store has been closed since mid-March because of the threat of the coronavirus pushing her to an online business. "It sucks that it had to be because of this."


Gigi's Flair Emporium is in the same south Minneapolis area of Powderhorn where Floyd was pinned down for nearly eight minutes before he died. Currently, she has close to 900 orders to fulfill as she awaits shipments from her overseas manufacturer, which has been delayed because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Normally, Berry ships about 100 pins herself a week. Now, her pins are available for pre-order as she works to keep up with demand.

Earlier this month, Berry decided to create two types of Black Lives Matter pins as customers were asking for them and she wanted to give local acknowledgment to the movement.

Berry is donating 20% of sales of another pin that says "Home of the Revolution" to the Black Visions Collective, a Minnesota-based organization whose vision through collaboration is "to expand the power of black people across the Twin Cities metro area and Minnesota."


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