Four years after Fenty popularised inclusivity in make up, Woolworths has *finally* decided to stock a more diverse range of foundations. But, here’s the catch: the foundations are online only, and limited to customers in Sydney and Melbourne.
Up until recently, the make up scene in Australia has been abysmally void of foundation shades darker than ‘beige.’ I should know, as a brown gal who wore that shade for most of my teen years despite it being way too light for me. These days, most competitive brands have a wide range of make up shades because otherwise they’d be left behind – inclusivity is in baby, and it rocks for my brown skin.
We’ve made leaps and bounds with the range of make up available for non-white people in recent years, but there’s still room to improve, especially in terms of affordability – and Woolies is a perfect example of this.
A few weeks ago, Rebecca Willink started a petition on Change.org demanding Target, Coles and Woolworths stock a wider variety of make up shades.
“Currently in Australia, there is, and always has been, a distinct lack of representation of different cultures in the make-up aisles in supermarkets. A person of colour cannot currently purchase foundations, concealers and other skin products in the right shades due to these items not being stocked on shelves,” the petition says.
“Many brands, including those who do produce the darker colours, are not even available online to purchase. This forces people with darker complexions to either purchase directly from brands’ websites or make up stores which ends up costing more than the products on supermarket shelves. This is a form of racial discrimination and must be addressed immediately.
“To make the darker shades inaccessible to a particular segment of the population, is incredibly unfair, frustrating and exclusive. The assumption that only the light shades will sell well is not a good enough excuse to marginalise a section of the community by not catering to them. “
Woolies has since responded to Willink’s petition, stating they will start stocking more diverse foundation ranges, but: they will only be available online and to a limited portion of Australia’s population. While that is absolutely better than the current situation, I find myself a little disappointed.
“For our entire supermarket range, we select which products to stock based on the volume of customer demand. With only limited shelf-space to accommodate each brand, alongside others in the same category, we prioritise those which cater to the needs of the greatest number of customers,” Woolworths said in a statement to Willink.
“However, we understand that taking this traditional approach in our cosmetics range has an unintended impact on the diversity of skin tones we’re able to offer a suitable shade to match. We are committed to looking at ways we can improve our cosmetics range and are working to identify solutions to the concerns you’ve raised.
“To that end, we are taking the first step by launching an online trial beginning on 23 August, to offer a broader range of foundation tones for online orders in select metro areas in New South Wales and Victoria. As part of the trial, we will be offering 31 additional tones in Maybelline New York’s Fit Me Matt+Poreless range, our most popular Maybelline foundation. We will be stocking the additional tones in five of our Customer Fulfilment Centres, available online only for Home Delivery orders to over 500 suburbs throughout the metro and greater areas of Sydney and Melbourne,” Woolworths said.
Now look. I truly am happy for those that this is going to benefit – make up is fucking expensive, and everyone should have access to affordable options that match their skin tone. I’m glad Woolworths responded and is going to do something about this. But, that being said, it’s 2021 – it really is the bare minimum to cater to diverse people.
As Willink said in the petition, brands shouldn’t cite customer demands as a reason not to cater to marginalised and underrepresented consumers. It’s not fair to tell customers that they don’t buy enough of a product to stock it, when they’ve never had the opportunity to buy it since, you know, it isn’t stocked. It also isn’t fair to groups of people that can’t be the majority of a consumer base – we are literally minorities! Is the implication that darker skinned people can’t access the right foundation shade because there aren’t enough of us for it to be worth stocking?
Woolworths citing customer demand and a lack of floor-space for why they haven’t yet stocked diverse foundation shades is disappointing. Especially considering that they are only launching diverse foundation shades online. That, plus the fact that this whole thing is a trial, and that the foundation shades will only be available to Sydney and Melbourne, is just the bare minimum because diversity in make up is not a new issue. We’ve been demanding this for years. It’s honestly about time.
I’m glad that Woolworths even responded to the petition at all, especially considering at the moment the other brands it is aimed at have not. It’s certainly a positive step in the right direction – but it’s a small one. Let’s hope that step turns into a leap. Not stocking diverse make up is so 2017.