Pride becoming big business

By Gemma Warner, Senior Account Manager

As World Pride in New York marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Pride celebrations and events closer to home are growing bigger than ever with London, Brighton and Manchester all becoming major sponsorship opportunities for corporate companies.

Whether you think the “corporate hijacking” is acceptable or even a thing in the first place, there has been a lot of support from both large corporations and independent retailers on the high street this year – begging the question “what is the right thing for businesses to do?”.

There is no doubt that many businesses support the LGBTQ+ community in various ways, with much not publicised. With our HQ being based just two minutes from Oxford Street, a lunch-time walk evidences the hugely diverse community in London; from shoppers, tourists, office and retail workers to retailers and many different types of businesses. As do many events, Pride gives these businesses the opportunity to link to the community as well develop new ranges and sell associated products.

So does this mean they are not genuine and don’t actually support the cause?

It’s always going to be a controversial decision; many companies have taken part and felt the wrath of public feedback. But what is the other option? Don’t get involved and appear not to care at all?

Amidst the rainbow vinyl’s on the High Street there were a lot of big retailers, blue chips and brands sponsoring Pride in London this year – the likes of Tesco, Barclays, Amazon, P&G, Facebook, L’Oreal, Deliveroo and Revlon to more local support from TFL and City of Westminster to name a few.

So whilst you can argue about their motivation, retailers would be daft not to get involved in Pride and treat it like a major calendar event. Figures released this week by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG show that UK like-for-like retail sales fell by 1.6% in June and in-store sales of non-food items, fell by 4.3% on a total basis and by 4.1% on a like-for-like basis. Last June sales were driven by a heat wave and the World Cup. Using Pride as a sales driver makes economic sense – especially when London transforms in to a carnival atmosphere with all major shopping streets pedestrianised with the million plus visitors to the capital.

However, away from the politically correct lens of the do’s and don’ts of any businesses motivation for taking part, it’s interesting to see how retailers up and down London’s major shopping areas have taken the spirit of Pride creatively.

Oxford Street has been a plethora of rainbow for a good few weeks and our team have been out snapping Pride store pics and I have picked what I think are the good and the could have done better.

The Good

Feeling part of something, being involved and invested is important to shoppers. To make a difference though, it doesn’t always have to be a massive thing. A small interaction can transform a retail experience.  Take TopShop for example; their Pride Vinyl’s rain down the windows on to the street and shoppers are drawn in to investigate the Ballie Ballerson Ballpit. Once in-store you are invited to jump in and become part of the window display.

You couldn’t miss the Pride vinyl’s and who can resist a sneaky peek in store to find out what the ball pit is all about. Great work.


I thought M&S, an iconic retailer on the high street, who are often called out as being “behind the times” also did a fantastic job of their window and bringing to life their #MyMarksPride programme – linking the store to their social platforms.

On closer investigation, the coloured hearts featured names of people from across their business and the names of their loved ones – bringing colleagues and customers closer together. The window was used to make a statement about M&S and their culture, rather than promoting products for commercial gain.

Three also stood out with their alternative approach with a butterfly rainbow heart (if there is such a thing!). On the Pride In London day itself, Three created some in-store activities, promoted through its social media channels, to create a destination of celebration on a day when many people on the streets of London are there to celebrate rather than upgrade their mobile contract. A way of rewarding existing customers and making them an attractive network to join for perspective customers.

A few others who kept it simple yet effective: EE, Debenhams, Gap, Primark and Wasabi all used the Pride rainbow symbol to show their support.

Debenhams looped in with a local LGBTQ+ charity at each location where they’ve supported Pride, with all proceeds from in store activities going to them. As a potential shopper walking past, there is no “hook” to go inside and see what they’re up to for yourself. Is this a missed opportunity to drive footfall whilst doing some good?

Could do better…

Sorry Zara, HSBC and Urban Outfitters, you are on my “could have done better” list!

I don’t think Zara made the best of the colour pallet; the colours felt muted and a little dated in comparison with other retailers. It just didn’t scream joy, fun, love and happiness. A difficult decision for brand marketers; keep to the guidelines or break free for a one off event?

HSBC didn’t have much to work with on window space but I felt their vinyl’s were too busy and lost the power of the message, albeit they kept in the style of their other brand comms.

Urban Outfitters attempted to take the simple and understated approach, but I don’t think they carried it off. Their window lacks the normal vibrancy emanated from the store.

And finally who in the high street took Pride in their logo?

O2 & TopShop - simple and effective.

H&M had a different take on the clean lines of the rainbow:

And my personal favourite is Disney. The ears had to get in on the action and I think this speaks volumes! A simple approach but one that would be sure to secure plenty of uploads on to social media.

Looking forward to 2020

It is certain that this year’s Pride events have been embraced by retailers and corporations more than ever. Inspiration and trends have been taken from across the pond in America, where ‘Pride Month’ in June (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month), has become big business and has been equally challenged by “corporate hijacking”.

Let’s hope Pride 2020 brings us as much excitement and that businesses become engaged earlier and retailers look to create experiences to excite and entice the shopper!


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