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  • Samantha Steadman

Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges : Retailers Celebrating and Promoting Female Empowerment This International Women’s Day

Updated: Apr 5

As the sun rises on another year of International Women’s Day, we explore the ways retailers are celebrating and encouraging female empowerment by the promotion of female-led brands, tradespeople, entrepreneurs, charities and products throughout their stores. Read on to discover how businesses are breaking down barriers and championing the incredible women who are making strides in the industry as well as commemorating and celebrating the original pioneers who came before them to lay the foundations for remarkable women in retail. Prepare to be inspired, informed and immersed in this narrative of retailers, and women, who are leading the way towards a more inclusive and empowering future.

Cardhu Distillery Celebrates 200 Year Anniversary[1]

Cardhu Distillery is marking it’s 200 Year Anniversary by holding a free event to celebrate the pioneering women of the brand’s past and present, along with the release of a limited-edition bottle created and inspired by the innovative women at its core.

The event taking place over three dates on 8th – 10th March 2024 will include a guided tasting, welcome drink, cocktail masterclass and music from a local artist. There will also be a Q&A with an panel of esteemed experts, including those who distilled their 200 year anniversary dram. The dram is the first of its kind to be matured solely in ex-wine casks. This decision was chosen in order to reflect the nature of defying traditions and pushing boundaries demonstrated by their original trailblazers and founders, Helen and Elizabeth Cumming. Their story begins in 1811, when Helen & her husband leased a small farm on Mannoch Hill in Scotland where, like many of their neighbours, they set up an illicit distillery. While John worked the farm, Helen was in charge of the whisky – she is the first recorded woman in history to work the stills and was also responsible for the product’s distribution. To avoid detection by the authorities, she would disguise the distillery as a bakery and when the officials came around, she would invite them in for tea and to stay the night. Once they were settled, Helen would go into the yard and raise a red flag to give notice to her neighbours to hide their whisky production as well! In 1824, taxes were lowered and the couple were among the first people to purchase an official distilling license. The team were shortly joined by their daughter-in-law, Elizabeth whose sharp intellect and keen understanding for numbers helped to grow the company into the success it is today.[2]

The packaging for the anniversary dram features the iconic image of Helen Cumming waving her red flag and the bright reds and golds of the box and bottle mimic the deep colour of the wine-cask whisky which is sure to be a favourite among whisky connoisseurs and collectors alike.

Roselyn Burnett, Cardhu Distillery’s home manager and speaker at the event said, “Cardhu has a history of pioneering women at its forefront, something unheard of when the distillery began 200 years ago. It took innovation and courage to go against the grain in the way the Cumming family did, and with this in our heritage it was only right we did something bold to celebrate such an anniversary.”

The anniversary event will take place over three days, to find out more or book tickets, please click here.

By Women Built Take Over at Whole Foods Market UK[3]

In a five week takeover, which commenced on 28th February 2024, brands founded by women will be taking centre stage at Whole Foods Market UK in an exciting and exclusive collaboration with consumer movement Buy Women Built, who seek to shine a light on female entrepreneurs across the industry.

Buy Women Built will take over all seven stores across London to highlight 55 women-built brands stocked by the chain. Consumers will be invited to follow specially designed shelf stickers around the stores to discover women-led brands, samples and exclusive discounts. The takeover will extend to an aisle on Deliveroo which will allow Whole Foods Market customers to try Buy Women Built brands at home. The takeover is taking place to show consumers that one of the best ways to empower and support women is simply to buy from them!

Sahar Hashemi OBE, Founder of Buy Women Built and formerly Coffee Republic and Skinny Candy states, “Consumers don’t realise how many of the brands they know and already buy in Whole Foods Market are actually female founded. There’s no better time than IWD to inspire female entrepreneurs by showing and celebrating the women behind some of the biggest, powerhouse businesses in the UK available in amazing retailers like Whole Foods Market.”

Whole Foods Market flagship store in Kensington High Street will be transformed into a magnificent Hall of Fame with their shop window fronts featuring images of the female founders behind the brands. Entrepreneurs and Founders taking part in the takeover are equally delighted with the collab – Danielle Close, Founder of My Skin Feels comments, “Bringing all these female founders together is amazing and the weirdest thing is, I was driving past Whole Foods Market on Wednesday and I said to myself, one day I am going to be in these windows.”

B&Q Pledge to Fund More Female Trade Apprentices[4]

B&Q TradePoint, the leading home improvement retailer’s trade brand is continuing their journey to breaking gender barriers in the trade profession, addressing the undeniable trade skills gap and pushing for greater representation of women in the industry.

A recent report by Kingfisher reported that just 2% of the 900,000 tradespeople in the UK are women and with the UK at risk of losing £98 billion in growth by 2030 due a shortage of skilled tradespeople, there couldn’t be a better time for a rallying cry for female tradespeople and a push for inclusivity and more opportunities for women in trade.

To drive awareness of the gender imbalance in trade and to help inspire future tradeswomen, B&Q is working with influencer Alex Lawson (@casalawson). She says, “I was very fortunate growing up to have fantastic role models in my life, both male and female – however I appreciate not everybody is this fortunate. I am delighted to be working with B&Q to help raise awareness of the fantastic opportunities in the trade sector and to help close the gap. I believe we have to do more to make young people aware of the vast range of opportunities available to them, and ensure these young people understand that further learning isn’t only available through traditional university courses.”

Having already fully funded 60 apprentices across 45 businesses, including those in carpentry, scaffolding, painting and decorating, plumbing and electrics, B&Q has another £650,000 to fully fund around 120 more apprentices. Through in depth research, the brand is seeking to uncover the barriers preventing women from entering the trade professions and how the industries can better target and recruit this untapped workforce and attract as many women as possible into the sector.

Amélie Gallicahan-Todd, Supply & Logistics Director and Inclusivity Lead at B&Q commented on the push: It’s evident that there is a significant disparity between the increasing interest and participation of women in DIY and their representation in the trade sector. As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we want to attract more women into the trade professions through our funding of trade apprentices and research into the barriers preventing more women from becoming trade professionals. Our aim is to help create a more equitable future for women in the trade sector.”

John Lewis Rebrands[5]

This International Women’s Day, celebrated department store John Lewis is rebranding as John Lewis & Sisters and inviting designers, producers and emerging women-led brands to present their ideas and products to be stocked in their stores for Christmas. The brand is changing their name on social media from 8th-10th March to reflect the campaign and is calling for women to use the website hub to share their talents, stories and ideas with buyers.

Any women-led brand is eligible to put themselves forward and details on how to apply can be found on the business’s International Women’s Day hub. Shortlisted companies will then move onto a second pitch-style round before the final line up is selected, with the finalists having the opportunity to become a stockist in John Lewis stores for the Christmas period.

John Lewis Partnership Customer Director Charlotte Lock said, “For 160 years, women creators and makers and been at the heart of John Lewis – from era defining designers to our incredible partners. We’re still partnering with incredible makers and are looking for the next generation, by inviting talented female business owners to come and help us shape the future of the John Lewis brand.”

The brand have also created a vibrant collage celebrating all the women that have shaped the brand for the past 160 years, featuring makers of the past, present and future including Sarah Lewis and make up specialist Charlotte Tilbury. Lock comments, “Our beautiful collage to mark International Women’s Day and the campaign launch celebrates everything our woman collaborators – past and present – have achieved. The bold, striking colours of the campaign reflect the strength, energy and boldness which is central to the John Lewis brand.”

An exclusive live art installation with take place in the windows of the Oxford Street store this morning and in the Peter Jones stores in Sloane Square in the afternoon, along with live events, experiences, offers and treats for shoppers in all John Lewis stores throughout the day. On top of this, John Lewis are actively supporting The Prince’s Trust #ChangeAGirlsLife campaign donating £25 of women’s fashion rental from 4th-10th March, providing support to help improve the futures of young women through employment, education or setting up their own businesses.

To find out more about John Lewis & Sisters and how to apply by visiting their International Women’s Day hub.

As we wrap up this exploration into the transformative initiatives shaping the retail sphere this International Women’s Day, one resounding theme is clear – the future of commerce is not merely transactional, it’s transformational. These inspiring tales of female-led brands taking centre stage, the push for inclusivity in the trade sector and inspiring journeys of women entrepreneurs vying for a coveted space on top department store shelves paint a vivid picture of an industry evolving and cementing their commitment to creating a lasting impact beyond profit margins.

International Women’s Day is not merely a moment, it’s a movement leading the way to a retail landscape that reflects the diversity and strength of the women it seeks to celebrate, where every purchase holds the promise of further progress and female empowerment.

Happy International Womens Day!


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