It’s been two months since the recorded killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that made headlines worldwide. Today, protests against racial injustice and discrimination continue across the country. Besides taking to the streets to show solidarity with Black people, many have urged supporters to back the movement with their dollar by making donations and shopping at Black-owned businesses.
According to a Brookings report, the typical African American household has a net worth of $17,150 compared to the $171,000 net worth of an average white family. Recent “buy Black” social media campaigns — such as the #BlackoutDay and #MyBlackReceipt hashtags — encourage people to spend money within the community as a form of economic protest and to help bridge the racial wealth gap.
We set out to see if Americans' shopping habits have changed in response to the BLM movement. FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to see if they've started shopping more frequently at Black-owned businesses.
- Some Americans have spoken out with their wallets over the last two months: 21% have made a purchase at Black-owned businesses, 16% made a donation, and 15% purchased educational resources. Another 15% said they stopped supporting a business that didn't support Black Lives Matter (BLM).
- 43% of Americans don't know if they've made a purchase at a Black-owned business over the last two months, and 9% said they have not shopped at a Black-owned business.
- Overall 16% said they've been shopping more at Black-owned businesses. Those who attended a BLM protest or made a donation are more likely to have supported a Black-owned business: Nearly half (49%) of those who attended a protest said they've also been shopping at Black-owned businesses more.
- Almost one-quarter (24%) of 18-34-year-olds said they've been shopping more at Black-owned businesses compared to 14% of 45-54-year-olds and just 7% of those aged 55 or older who said the same.
Are Americans shopping at Black-owned businesses more?
Overall, shopping at Black-owned businesses is the most popular way to support the movement — about 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve bought Black in response to protests.
Sixteen percent of Americans say they have shopped at Black-owned businesses more often in the last two months, while 28% say they shopped at Black businesses the same amount.
About 43% of Americans don’t know whether they’ve shopped at Black-owned businesses more often since the BLM protests began. This may indicate that some aren’t actively seeking more opportunities to buy Black or that they’re having trouble finding Black-owned businesses to support.
Over the last few months, online activity suggests that many are at least more interested in learning what Black businesses have to offer. According to a recent Yelp report, searches for Black-owned businesses increased by a massive 7,043% from May 25 to July 10, increasing from about 35,000 searches to over 2.5 million searches compared to the same time last year.
As for a counter-protest, few people are making a conscious effort to stop shopping Black in response to the movement — only 4% of survey respondents say they have bought less often from Black-owned businesses in the last two months.
Americans who attended a protest or made a donation are more likely to shop at Black-owned businesses
No surprise here: Americans who have supported the BLM movement in other ways are more likely to have started shopping more at Black-owned businesses.
Close to half the people who’ve attended a rally or protest say there’s been an uptick in their spending; 48% of people who donated in response to the BLM movement say they are also shopping more often at Black-owned businesses, and 49% of those who attended a rally or protest said the same.
Younger Americans are more likely to have shopped more at Black-owned businesses
Young adults are leading the charge when it comes to shopping Black — 24% of those 18 to 34 say they have been shopping at Black-owned businesses more often in the last two months. Of the 45 to 54 age group, just 14% are shopping more at Black businesses, followed by 7% of people over 55.
It’s most common for older adults to be unsure about whether their shopping habits have changed. Forty-eight percent of people 45 to 54 and 56% of the 55+ crowd do not know if they’ve shopped more or less at Black-owned businesses in the last two months.
How you can support Black-owned businesses
Black business owners still face barriers when opening up shop and keeping doors open. Research shows that Black business owners are less likely to get approved for funding. And Black entrepreneurs are three times more likely to avoid applying for small business loans altogether because they fear denial.
Federal Reserve data from 2019 shows that Black non-employee businesses are more likely to operate at a loss, and 76% report experiencing financial challenges. Unfortunately, the pandemic has thrown one more budgeting obstacle in the way. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, African American businesses have suffered the most significant loss as a result of COVID-19. The number of Black-owned businesses dropped 41% from February to April. And some businesses that are still open may be forced to pass the cost of the pandemic onto customers with COVID-19 surcharges.
Supporting those who have managed to stay in business is one way you can help stop this trend. Here are a few ways to support Black-owned businesses and business owners when you're planning how to spend and how to manage your money:
- Scope out the Black businesses in your town: Yelp, in partnership with My Black Receipt, has recently launched a searchable “Black-owned” tag on the site that companies can add to their profile. You can also follow social media profiles that list and promote Black businesses, such as WeBuyBlack and Official Black Wall Street.
- Seek out Black creatives: If you need a small business or freelancer who offers consulting, design, writing, or other creative work, consider Black talent. The Writers of Color account on Twitter can connect you with thousands of wordsmiths. The website, social media handle, and hashtag #blkcreatives is another Black community where you can share job opportunities and resources.
- Purchase from Black authors: The BLM protests have inspired many to learn about Black history and the Black American experience. You can continue to support Black authors by buying their books and shopping at Black-owned bookstores. The African American Literature Book Club shares a nationwide list of Black-owned bookstores. Some Black-owned stores you can even shop online, such as Frugal Bookstore and Brave and Kind Books.
- Mentor a Black small business owner: Letting a Black business owner pick your brain may be as valuable as opening your wallet. In addition to bringing light to racial injustice, the recent BLM movement protests have drawn attention to inequality in other areas, including unequal compensation for people of color. Mentoring others could look like sharing business contacts, pricing strategy, or pointers for building business credit so people can confidently apply for and obtain business funding.
FinanceBuzz surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older on July 11, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, and income.