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Welcoming everyone: putting I.D.E.A.s into action for inclusive retail

Event Network’s Amy Isenberg explores how to put Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility commitments into action

Inclusive mannequins at South Carolina Aquarium diversity in retail

Demonstrating a commitment to D.E.I.A. (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, or ‘putting IDEAs into action’, as we say) should encompass all facets of the retail experience – from hiring practices, facility improvements, product assortment and vendor selection.

Representation matters and it is all of the intentional details that, when added up, shift our perspectives and help create the world in which we want to live (and of course, shop).

Why do Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility matter in attractions retail?

A look at recent stats gives an eye-opening look at some uncomfortable realities in the cultural attraction guest experience. It also highlights areas for improvement and continual focus:

PGAV Visitors of Colour 2022

In the recent PGAV Voice of the Visitor 2022 Report, respondents identifying as people of color made up 33% of attraction visitors in 2021. Yet “overall guest satisfaction (ranked on a 5-point scale) among people of color is 4.07 compared to 4.49 for non-Hispanic whites,” according to the survey. 

In fact, “Respondents identifying as Hispanic may have been visiting more attractions and spending more money in 2021, but on average, they reported the second-lowest guest satisfaction score (4.08). The lowest score was found among Multiracial respondents.”

While 33% is a record-setting percentage of attraction visitors, the lower satisfaction levels reported by people of color suggest gaps in overall enjoyment and highlight an opportunity for attractions to make changes in order to ensure a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible experience for all.

Inspired to do more, Event Network is proud to share the strides we are making toward creating a more inclusive, welcoming experience inside the gift shops:

Racially diverse and body-positive mannequins

We’re proud to showcase collections using models that reflect more people in more ways. Inclusive mannequins in a range of skin tones and body types are debuting across our stores. For example, as part of South Carolina Aquarium’s gift shop remodel, the new mannequins are featured in several visual displays. This sends a positive message to all who visit.

Inclusive mannequins South Carolina Aquarium diversity in retail

Celebrating diversity in retail product lines

Working in collaboration with one of our plush suppliers, Event Network advocated updating a mermaid plush collection by introducing a doll in a new skin tone.

Event Network_mermaids_representation diversity in retail

Prior to Event Network’s involvement, young guests could choose from three mermaid options. Each featured light peach skin color and a few variations in hair color – brown, blonde, or red. Recognizing the role that dolls play in children’s imagination and development, we set out to challenge the status quo. This means that more children can see themselves reflected in the magic and wonder of mermaids. 


Dispelling genders stereotypes is another facet of broadening our perspectives, particularly in the science and STEM arena. By presenting STEM toys as gender-neutral and offering a selection of dolls that include female scientists, young developing minds are able to see that scientific achievement is for everyone.

Supporting diverse businesses and underserved groups

Event Network is moving the needle in our continued effort to uplift underserved communities by partnering with vendors and suppliers from underrepresented groups. We continue to champion diversity in our vendor partnerships and retail product collections. We seize every opportunity to celebrate each other while promoting acceptance and pride across communities. 

This June, to celebrate Pride month Event Network will be launching an exclusive limited-edition collection that highlights taking care of our planet and all who live on it.  The collection will represent love and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. We are very excited to share it with the guests within our partnerships. 

In celebration and support of the community, we have partnered with an LGBTQ+ artist to design the collection. We have also partnered with an LGBTQ+ owned business out of the Pacific Northwest to lead production.

Training team members to assist guests

Accessibility means more than spacious floorplans, ramps, handrails, and automatic doors.  Event Network training resources include a library of content for team members to learn about all kinds of guest needs. 

For instance, training guides educate team members on how to support neurodivergent guests who engage with their surroundings differently. This helps to ensure they have a great experience in the shop.

Special store hours

Retail shops can support partner venues in creating comfortable shopping experiences during dedicated times reserved for guests with special needs. For example, several aquariums open one hour early to allow for noise-sensitive guests to experience the exhibits without all the crowds.

Seattle Aquarium has a long-held tradition of participating in a global DreamNight event. This is where people with a disability or special need and their families are welcome for a free, fun-filled evening. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo shop dedicates several afternoon days during its popular ZooLights event to support inclusive guest needs. Meanwhile, Georgia Aquarium dedicates the first few hours of every day to guests with special needs. It is also the first aquarium to be designated a Certified Autism Center. 

These are just a few examples. Many venues are acknowledging the variety of ways guests explore spaces and take in sensory information. The retail component is an extension of this practice.

A focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in retail

Tackling important tenets such as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility is a big job that requires continual focus. They are values we hold dear, and each step toward advancing them is progress in the right direction. 

Diversity is a strength. Our collective efforts – including the feedback and collaboration from partners, vendors, and guests – are a superpower. We are grateful to our community who help us evolve and grow and remain committed to these enduring values.

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Amy Isenberg, director, marketing and brand management, Even Network

Amy Isenberg

Amy Isenberg is Director of Marketing and Brand Management at Event Network, the leading operator of experiential retail in North America. An avid user of communication tools, platforms, and apps, she still prefers real-life experiences to digital ones.

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