Sephora closes US stores for diversity training after racist incident

FILE PHOTO: People enter a Sephora store in Times Square

NEW YORK (Reuters) – LVMH-owned cosmetics chain Sephora said it will close all of its stores, distribution centers and corporate offices in the U.S. for one hour on Wednesday to conduct diversity training for employees.

Black R&B singer SZA said in April that she was racially profiled at a Sephora store in Calabasas, California.

“We have been notified of an incident at our Calabasas store and in addition to contacting SZA directly, we are gathering additional information about the incident to take the appropriate next steps,” Sephora said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We take complaints like this very seriously, racial profiling will not be tolerated at Sephora.”

SZA said a Sephora employee, whom she identified as “Sandy,” called security to make sure the singer wasn’t stealing from the store. “We had a long conversation. Have a blessed day Sandy,” SZA said in a Twitter post.

“While it is true that SZA’s experience occurred before the launch of the ‘We Belong to Something Beautiful’ campaign, the campaign was not the result of this tweet,” Sephora said in a statement on Monday, adding that the campaign was already underway be the works for a year.

The plan to close stores and other offices for the hour-long “inclusivity workshop” with its 16,000 employees has been in development for over six months, Sephora said.

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH is based in Paris.

SZA was quoted in an interview with US digital publisher Refinery29 last year as saying she previously worked in the skincare department at a Sephora store.

“You are part of the Sephora family and we are committed to making every member of our community feel welcome and included in our stores,” Sephora said in a response to the singer’s post at the time.

SZA is a Grammy nominee who also collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on the song “All the Stars” for the blockbuster film “Black Panther.”

Following SZA’s tweet following the incident, Google reviews for the Calabasas store skyrocketed, with many users criticizing Sephora over the incident.

Barbadian singer Rihanna unveiled her new fashion brand with LVMH last month, a rare move by the French group to create a label from scratch as it capitalizes on rising demand for celebrity collaborations in the luxury world.

Sephora’s workshops come about a year after Starbucks closed 8,000 stores across the United States for anti-bias training after a Philadelphia cafe manager’s call to police led to the arrest of two black men who were targeting a friend waited.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)