Macy’s Wins Over Underserved Market: Black Sororities

“We know when we see our stuff,” said Baker-Woods, who at one point resorted to painting t-shirts in hard-to-find hues for sorority events.

Special HBCU’s media

An executive for the retailer had trouble finding dresses in her sorority’s colors, so she helped create a line that’s projected to hit $10 million in sales this year.

Inside a Macy’s a few months ago, Cenetta Baker-Woods discovered something that made her immediately call her sorority sisters.

Holding up her phone’s video camera in the Charlotte, North Carolina, store, the 32-year-old showed fellow members of Zeta Phi Beta, a historically Black organization, racks of $90 dresses in unmistakable color combos that she knew were designed specifically for them.

Baker-Woods was right, having stumbled across a new strategy by Macy’s to win over Black sororities in a partnership with clothing maker Kasper Group. Members of these organizations maintain strong ties well after college through conventions and chapter events and have a consistent need for dressier attire in their group’s colors. But finding a frock in a pattern like royal blue and white (Zeta Phi Beta’s colors) can be difficult.

“We know when we see our stuff,” said Baker-Woods, who at one point resorted to painting t-shirts in hard-to-find hues for sorority events. “I know now where to look.”

Annette Wilson crop
Annette Wilson, a 66-year-old retiree living in Grand Ridge, Florida, has bought three sorority-themed dresses this year from Macy’s. “They make a statement,” said the Sigma Gamma Rho member.
Source: Annette Wilson

Macy’s expects this business to hit $10 million in sales this year, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gennette said in a recent interview. While that’s tiny compared to the $25 billion in revenue America’s largest department store chain generated last year, it’s helping it connect with middle-aged women — a core demographic for the retailer. Zeta Phi Beta says it has more than 125,000 members.

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