The United Nations Foundation announced today that top global brands H&M and Banana Republic are once again partnering with UN Free & Equal for Pride Month this June to raise awareness and funds in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) equality worldwide. H&M will donate $100,000 to the global campaign this year, while Banana Republic will donate $60,000 this Pride Month.
“Pride connects directly to our core values and encapsulates our social vision to enable everyone at H&M and beyond to live the life they want, express who they are and to be the best of themselves”, says Pascal Brun, Global Sustainability Manager, H&M.
Both H&M and Banana Republic have long supported UN Free & Equal, a global campaign of the United Nations Human Rights Office that strives to advance equal rights and fair treatment for LGBTI people around the world. With this year’s contributions, H&M has now donated a total of $850,000, while Banana Republic has donated $240,000 to date through partnerships with UN Free & Equal.
“Inclusion has always been part of Banana Republic’s DNA and we are proud to partner with UN Free & Equal again this year to support their mission for LGBTI equality and human rights,” said Ana Andjelic, CBO of Banana Republic. “The past year has shown it is more important than ever to fight for equality and celebrate opportunity for all.”
Pride celebrations this year are taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – a global crisis that has further exposed and exacerbated inequities and underscored the urgency of protecting the rights of LGBTI people.
“Every person – no matter who they are, where they live, or whom they love – deserves to live freely and authentically with full equality,” said Elizabeth Cousens, President & CEO of the UN Foundation. “The UN Foundation is proud to support UN Free & Equal in the fight for global LGBTI equality, and is grateful to both H&M and Banana Republic for their continued partnership.”
Now in its eighth year, the UN Free & Equal campaign aims to win respect, recognition, and acceptance for the human rights of LGBTI people around the world. The campaign reaches parents, students, teachers, journalists, and policymakers, especially in countries where LGBTI communities face hostility and hardship and aims to cultivate new allies in the fight for equality. It has campaigned in more than 30 countries so far, with 12 full-scale national campaigns currently active.
“LGBTI people remain among those who are most often left behind due to exclusion, discrimination and violence, and this has been further exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Young LGBTI people in particular face disproportionate levels of family rejection, bullying online and offline, homelessness and restrictions on access to information,” said Michael van Gelderen, LGBTI lead at UN Human Rights.
In support of LGBTI youth, UN Free & Equal recently launched a campaign with the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth calling on allies to support young LGBTI people in creating a fearless future where all young people are safe, loved and empowered to thrive – regardless of who they are or whom they love. The campaign, which is made possible by the generous support of corporate and Government donors, kicked off on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and will run through International Youth Day on August 12.
To learn more about the UN Free & Equal campaign, visit here.
H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ) was founded in Sweden in 1947 and is quoted on Nasdaq Stockholm. H&M’s business idea is to offer fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way. In addition to H&M, the group includes the brands COS, Monki, Weekday, & Other Stories, H&M HOME and ARKET as well as Afound. The H&M group has 53 online markets and approximately 4,950 stores in 74 markets including franchise markets. In 2020, net sales were SEK 187 billion. The number of employees amounts to approximately 153,000. For further information, visit here.
About Banana Republic
Banana Republic is a global apparel and accessories brand committed to building a better tomorrow for people and the planet. Designed with purpose for those who share a passion for life with no boundaries, Banana Republic is redefining luxury by using the finest materials with the latest fabric innovations to create timeless, modern, and versatile clothing, eyewear, jewelry, shoes, handbags, and fragrances. Founded in 1978 in San Francisco, Banana Republic connects with customers online and in company-operated and franchise retail locations globally. For more information, please visit here.
About United Nations Foundation
The UN Foundation is an independent charitable organization created to be a strategic partner for the United Nations to address humanity’s greatest challenges, build initiatives across sectors to solve problems at scale, and drive global progress. Learn more here.
About UN Free & Equal
The UN Free & Equal campaign is an unprecedented global public information campaign aimed at promoting equal rights and fair treatment of LGBTI people. It was launched by the United Nations Human Rights Office in July 2013 and has since reached hundreds of millions of people globally through traditional and social media as well as generated a stream of widely shared materials – including powerful videos, impactful graphics and plain-language fact sheets. For more information please visit here.
Preparing For Memorial Day Weekend and The Start of Summer With Party Expert Meredith Staggers
With Memorial Day approaching, it’s finally time to celebrate the unofficial start to summer. From family gatherings and entertaining friends, how are you going to prepare for the long weekend?
Meredith Staggers, founder & owner of Cake & Confetti, shares how she is preparing for MDW get-togethers, along with her affordable home décor picks and best practices on partying inside and outside the home, which includes notable DIY projects and entertaining ideas, to kick off BBQ season in style.
With Memorial Day this weekend, Meredith Staggers has provided some tips below, to create fun and unique looks to spruce up any party.
Let’s start with an affordable home décor pick, like an easy tablespace idea. You may be tempted to decorate with traditional flag decor, but I challenge you to think outside the box a little bit! Pattern mixing adds interest to the table and definitely doesn’t have to be complicated.
Stick to a color scheme. I love choosing two or three colors and mixing patterns within those colors. For holidays like Memorial Day and July 4th, use red, white and blue but instead of flags or stripes, I suggest adding some gingham and other fun patterns!
Add in layers. I love the texture the jute placemat adds here and instead of putting the blue plates directly on the placemat, I added a slightly larger white plate between the two. It helps make the patterned plate stand out!
Buy disposable utensils, napkins and inexpensive pieces from places like Home Goods or Tuesday Morning. For summer hosting I like to stick to things I can throw away for easy clean up. I picked up these gingham napkins and gold plastic utensils for a few dollars. Inexpensive items like this allow you to mix and match patterns without committing too much!
For sustainability purposes, I always have reusable cotton napkins and find that cleaning them with Arm & Hammer Odor Blasters after each party gets the job done and leaves them feeling like new!
You cannot throw a good party without creative food ideas for you guests. Since I have a lot on my plate (literally), I like to simply dress up store-bought sugar cookies, and cupcakes with fruit and sprinkles! This takes the time out of cooking your own baked goods. However, it adds a little something extra than just using the basic store bought ones. By adding fruit and sprinkles to my deserts it gives it more of a personal touch.
Next up is my personal favorite The Dash Popcorn Maker. I suggest making DIY popcorn cones with patriotic paper. It is so fun and easy, and the kids absolutely love it!
Finally, I like to put out personal snack boards. I fill them with sweet and savory snacks that kids and adults go crazy for and it changes up from the normal cheese board.
We’re doing our best to use this time at home to create new traditions- and by celebrating with family and having your kids cook or set up with you is something that helps my family create these precious moments! My daughter Piper loves to help me in the kitchen, so whenever I let her lend a hand she is always thrilled!
After working in the marketing and event planning industry for three years, Meredith decided to launch Cake & Confetti (named after two of her party must-haves) with the support of her amazing second-half, Trent. Since 2013, the business has evolved from party planning to a multi-faceted styling boutique and blog.
Customer Service Tips Every Boutique Retailer Should Try
By: Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!
Supplied makes it easier for small boutique owners around the world to access high-quality, affordable wholesale boutique items, whether to stock their physical store or IG shop.
Do you remember the last time you had a truly fantastic customer service experience?
Maybe a cashier complimented your earrings, or maybe the person at the drive-thru unexpectedly threw an extra taco in for free. Or maybe you were just really vibin’ with the enthusiasm you could hear at the other end of the customer support line. Whatever it was, chances are it made you more excited to return and support that company with your business in the future.
Now… think back to the last time you had an awful customer service experience.
Was someone being unnecessarily difficult while you were trying to return a sweater, you’d bought a week ago? Or did someone leave you on hold for hours and hours? Or maybe someone just would NOT honor your coupon, even though you received it in an email yesterday?
Whatever that bad experience was… I’d be willing to bet it made you a whole lot less likely to go back anytime soon.
As Vince Lombardi famously said, “It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.” One poor customer service experience could cause you to lose all of a valuable customer’s future business.
If you haven’t been making great customer service a major priority in your boutique lately, now is the time to change that.
Read on to learn 25 powerful (but easy!) customer service tips every retailer should try implementing in their business.
(If you’ve hired someone else as the main customer service rep for your boutique business, send this article along to them as a reminder!)
Top 25 Customer Service Tips
Focus on the customer in front of you
As a boutique owner, you’ve constantly got about a zillion and one thing that need your time and attention. But when it’s a customer you’re dealing with, zero in on them and their needs. Nobody likes feeling unimportant – make sure you give them your undivided attention while they’re talking to you, whether it’s over the phone, in person, or in your site’s live chat.
Chances are, you’ve been in the exact same situation your customer’s in right now – whether they’re trying to figure out what size shoe to purchase or they’re trying to initiate a return for something that didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped. Do your best to see the situation from their perspective. You’ll be able to provide a better customer experience if you’re in touch with their needs and emotions.
Make an extra effort
Work tirelessly to solve your customer’s problems. If a customer wants a certain size that’s out of stock, double-check your inventory, let them know when they can expect that item to come back, offer them alternatives, or give them a discount code for their trouble. Your customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them.
Customer service isn’t just about making your customer feel valued while you’re speaking to them – it’s also about providing a great all-around customer experience. Do a quick audit of your website and make sure it’s user-friendly. Is it easy to check out? Browse new arrivals? Search for specific items? Purchase using the payment method they prefer? If not, set aside some time to make some adjustments.
Identify their needs
There might be all sorts of things you could be doing to provide a better customer experience that you don’t even realize yet. Put together a short survey to send out to your customers about the checkout process and their past customer service experiences. It’ll show you what’s going well and what you could improve.
Use their name
Simple, but effective. Whenever a customer reaches out to you, take note of their name and use it. It’ll give your communications a more personal touch. (Don’t forget to introduce yourself by name, too!) Bonus points if you remember other personal details about them for next time.
Yes, even if you’re not talking to the customer in person! Make an effort to be friendly and positive, even if you’re just sitting at your desk at home – you can totally hear a smile through the phone, and it makes a difference.
If you could spend $5 to secure a customer who’s loyal to you for life… would you do it? Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When a customer reaches out to you, your priority is to make them happy – offering free shipping or accepting a late return can do just the trick. And that’s not just common sense – research shows that accepting someone’s generosity makes you feel indebted to them, which can translate to return business.
Don’t say “I don’t know”
Sure, you’re not gonna immediately have the answers to every single one of your customers’ questions… but it’s kinda your job to know. So, when you tell a customer “I don’t know,” what they hear is “I don’t care.” Not exactly the message you’d like to get across when you’re on the phone with a customer! Practice saying “Let me check on that for you” instead.
Acknowledging your customer’s birthdays is a surefire way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Ask your customers for your birthday as they sign up for your mailing list, then send them an email with a promo code for a free gift or a discount right before their special day.
Be clear about your policies
Your customers aren’t mind-readers – if you don’t let them know, they have no idea about how long shipping should take, where you ship to, or under what circumstances you accept returns. Be sure your shipping and returns policies are clearly stated on your website to avoid confusion. It’ll answer some questions before they’re ever even asked!
Honor your promises
Your customers need to know that they can trust your boutique to deliver the value it promises. Stick to the shipping and return policies you have listed on your website (unless you choose to go above and beyond them, of course!) Honor coupons and discount codes for as long as you said you would. Post any giveaway winners publicly in your stories. Trust is key!
Acknowledge frequent customers…
Let your return customers know how much you appreciate them! Whether you throw a quick handwritten thank-you note into their next order or you offer a discount code that’s good for their next purchase, it’ll definitely make them want to keep coming back.
But make sure new customers feel the love, too!
It’s a big leap to order from a company you’ve never purchased anything from before – make sure new customers feel super welcome. Acknowledge new customers by offering free shipping on their first order, sending a promo code when they sign up for your mailing list, or even sending a quick thank-you email for taking a chance on your shop.
Running a business is tough, and sometimes extenuating circumstances make it even tougher. Be open with your customers about the hurdles you’re currently going through, especially if it will affect shipping times or restock dates.
We all make mistakes – especially when we’re doing huge, crazy difficult things like running a business. If you’ve made a mistake on a customer’s order, own your error, sincerely apologize, and do whatever it takes to make things right. It’s much more professional than shrugging off responsibility or blaming someone else. (Bonus points if you reach out and own up to it before the customer even notices!)
Make it easy to get in touch
Have you ever sent an email to a company’s customer service team… and then never heard anything back? Yeah, that’s the worst. Don’t be that company. Let your customers know the best way to reach you, whether it’s through Instagram DMs, email, or over the phone. If you want to go the extra mile, include a live chat feature on your website that’s available 24/7. (Also, word of advice: if you have a contact form on your website, make sure to check it every so often!)
Offer self-help customer service
If your customers can find their own answers to their questions, it makes their lives easier AND your life easier. Include a comprehensive FAQ page on your website that answers common questions about shipping, sales, returns, and more. For more complicated questions, you might want to write up an entire blog post to give your customers more information. Just be sure your customers still know that they can reach out to you with any questions they can’t find the answers to.
Plan for the holidays
Here’s a hot tip: over the holidays, things get BUSY. Even if you usually don’t have very many people blowing up your inbox about shipping questions, there’s a very good chance you will during the holidays. Make sure you’re prepared with multiple customer service reps helping respond to questions (if need be) and detailed holiday shipping info displayed on your website and social media pages.
Make it a goal to respond to all customer emails within 48 hours whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, customers want to feel like their concerns and questions are a top priority. As for Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, and comments, try and get in a habit of responding to those right when you see them. (Your customers will like that and so will the algorithm!)
Hire the right people
If you’ve only recently opened your boutique business, you might be the only person your customers ever interact with. But as you grow and add more people to your team, make sure they’re people who are kind, friendly, and pleasant to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but a positive attitude can make all the difference.
Pretend you’re at the dinner table with your strict aunt – say lots of pleases and thank yous. Not only is it common courtesy, but it’s also good business. It’ll also help you still sound friendly and polite even when you’re communicating via messenger or text.
Set clear expectations
Sorry, but you’re not superwoman. When your customers approach you asking when they can buy an item you aren’t planning on restocking, or when they ask if you can make sure the package, they just ordered gets to them by tomorrow, sometimes you just can’t give them the answer they were hoping for. Be realistic in your responses and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Setting clear expectations is also helpful in responding to emails – sending an automated email letting a customer know when they can expect a response is also helpful, even if they were initially hoping for a reply right away.
There isn’t a robot at the other end of all of those incoming customer emails – it’s bright, bubbly, sparkly you! Don’t be afraid to infuse your communications with your genuine personality. Strike up a conversation with a customer on the phone, ask about their day, say “top of the morning to ya” instead of “hello” when you feel like it. It’ll help forge a relationship with your customers!
Have you ever asked a waiter what you should order, only for them to respond, “I love everything on the menu equally!” Yeah, that’s not helpful – don’t be like that guy. When your customers ask for your opinion, politely give it. You’re the real expert on the products you carry – use your insider knowledge to guide your customers to the right decision for them.
California Wines Livestream & Video Series Celebrates Down to Earth Month in April
Facebook Live & Instagram Events Share Tips on Enjoying Sustainably Grown & Produced Wines
For “Down to Earth Month” in April, California Wines is celebrating the state’s global leadership in sustainable winegrowing with a series of fun and informative virtual events and videos on Facebook Live and Instagram. Throughout April, the free livestream events and videos will present a variety of discussions, cooking demonstrations, and virtual wine tastings focused on sustainability.
Hosts for the Facebook Live events include Napa Valley sommelier Amanda McCrossin of SommVivant and Aida Mollenkamp, Food Network personality and founder of Salt & Wind Travel.
Videos shared on the California Wines Instagram channel will demonstrate recipes, how to pair and enjoy California wines, and what makes a wine sustainable. Programs will feature food and beverage influencers, including Meg van der Kruik of This Mess Is Ours, Jerry James Stone of the Jerry JamesStone blog, Britney Brown Chamberlain of Britney Breaks Bread, and Sarah Gim of The Delicious Life.
April 1 – What Is Sustainable Wine? It’s time to clear up the confusion around what defines sustainability! Participants will learn what sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices are and get the inside story on California’s sustainable certification programs, including the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) program.
April 8 – What Are Biodynamic and Organic Wines, and How Are They Sustainable? Explore the differences between organic and biodynamic practices and learn how they fit into the sustainability equation.
April 15 – Why Is There a Chicken in the Vineyard? Chickens, sheep, and goats don’t just look adorable in California vineyards—each has an important job to do. Learn how animals are helping California vintners in their sustainable farming efforts.
April 22 – How to Look for Sustainable Wines Finding sustainable wines is easy—if you know what to look for. Participants will learn about the sustainable certifications, logos, and terms to look for on wine labels.
April 29 – How California Is a Leader in Sustainable Wines & Sustainable Farming California is not only a world leader in sustainable winemaking and winegrowing practices, but producers also embrace sustainability in dairy and other agricultural areas. Learn about California’s innovative farming practices and how the state leads in sustainable wine and food.
IGTV Videos: Tuesdays 10 am PST
Every Tuesday in April, videos from well-known food and beverage influencers will be shared on the California Wines Instagram channel, each demonstrating a recipe inspired by the Wine Country Table cookbook paired with sustainably made wines from California. Recipes and information about sustainability will be shared on each influencer’s website and social media platforms.
April 6 – Meg van der Kruik of This Mess Is Ours
April 13: – Jerry James Stone of the Jerry James Stone blog
April 20 – Britney Brown Chamberlain of Britney Breaks Bread
Over the course of mid-November, the annual five-day festival, Diwali, took place from November 12th to November 16th. Known as the festival of lights, for those who follow Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, major religions in South Asia, this is one of the most important religious festivals of the year. It lasts the aforementioned five days, from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of the lunar month Karttika. (the corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar usually fall in late October and November).
Diwali as a festival has deep meaning within the communities it is celebrated. Its name comes from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning “row of lights.” In turn, the lighting of Diwali candles is an essential part of the celebration. The festival generally symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. In this context, light symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, while darkness is a symbol for all negative forces including wickedness, destruction, violence, lust, envy, injustice, greed, oppression and suffering. The third day of Diwali is celebrated on Saturday, November 14, 2020. While it is widely celebrated by a vast proportion of the world’s population, precisely how Diwali is celebrated varies by culture.
Across, South Asia, different regions celebrate different deities first and foremost with the festival. Among Hindus the most widespread custom is the lighting of diyas (small earthenware lamps filled with oil) on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal the goddess Kali is worshipped with the event. In North India the festival additionally celebrates the royal homecoming of Rama to the city of Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the 10-headed king of the demons, thus connecting the festival with the holiday of Dussehra. In South India the festival marks Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. The celebration of Diwali offers just a glimpse into how culture varies across South Asia.
Homes of those who celebrate reflect the importance of the day. Many begin the holiday with a deep cleaning of their home, from top to bottom. Floors inside and out are covered with rangoli, consisting of elaborate designs made of colored rice, sand, or flower petals. The doors and windows of houses are kept open in the hope that Lakshmi will find her way inside and bless the residents with wealth and success. Other ways Diwali is celebrated include visiting loved ones, exchanging gifts, wearing new clothes, feasting, feeding the poor, and setting off fireworks. Delicious food is a large part of the celebration. Yet how this holiday is specifically celebrated this year has been affected by the ongoing global pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19.
Before Diwali even took place, experts warned of the danger of gathering for the event, in the vein of warnings being made for the coming holidays of Christmas and Hannukah for Christian and Jewish populations of the world. International lockdowns in places like Europe have put a damper on the plans of many. Yet many are finding ways around the restriction of movement and celebration; many are planning calls with families across different continents, in which there will be singing, games, and tasty foods shared through screens. Some say it has even brought them closer as a family.
Like many holidays, Diwali assuredly looks different this year. Yet the resilience displayed by those celebrating, to find a way to connect with family and friends during this special spiritual time, again reflects some of the best of human ingenuity during the coronavirus pandemic.
D’USSE Cognacshould be top-of-mind for the Fourth of July holiday. Below is the cocktail recipe for a refreshing summer sipper that’s perfect to make this Independence Day weekend, called the D’USSE Watermelon Spritz.
1.5 parts D’USSE VSOP
0.5 part Aperol
2 parts fresh watermelon juice
0.5 part simple syrup
0.5 part fresh lemon juice
1 part Sparkling Wine
Watermelon ball skewer & orange peel
Add D’USSE, Aperol, watermelon juice, simple syrup and lemon juice into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an ice filled wine glass. Top with Sparkling Wine. Garnish with a watermelon ball skewer and orange peel.
Puerto Rico is regarded as the “Rum Capital of the World,” and rightfully so! The U.S. territory has been distilling rum for centuries, stemming from the start of its sugarcane production under the ruling of Spain.
With National Rum Day around the corner, on Wednesday August 16th, what better way to celebrate than with delicious rum cocktails, straight from the island? Puerto Rico requires no passport and provides an authentic rum experience that simply can’t be found elsewhere, making for an ideal weekend getaway, filled with cocktails, culture and history!
Below is a distillery tour option and selection of cocktails from rum companies on the Island.
Puerto Rico | Rum Experiences
· Bacardi – The largest premium rum distillery in the world, Casa Bacardí features historical tours, mixology classes and tastings.