Spotlight on Diversity: Anne Marie Kehoe of Walmart
As Walmart’s Head of Toys, Kehoe Shares Why Products and Packaging Need to Be Reflective of Today’s Diverse Consumers
August 6, 2019 | To appeal to today’s consumers, diversity and inclusion needs to be a priority in the toy ecosystem – not only for manufacturers but for retailers as well, according to Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president of toys.
Toy News Tuesday caught up with Kehoe, who is also a member of The Toy Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, to learn how toy companies and sellers can work together to further diversity in the industry and in the products that are sold to millions of children across the world each year. Here’s what she had to say….
Q: What role can retailers play in influencing product development?
Kehoe: Retailers can help guide the product mix by challenging the paradigms of what’s available. I challenge my team to continually search for innovation that will reach kids with different interests and abilities, to ensure our products and packaging show diversity, and to ask questions of our suppliers to ensure our assortment is meeting the needs of our customers.
Q: How does Walmart curate product offerings reflective of the diverse communities it serves?
Kehoe: It starts with our associates. Our team needs to reflect the communities and customers we serve. Different cultures, life experiences, and interests are all important things to have at the table when making decisions about our assortment. Not only are we looking at our assortment holistically across all of Walmart, we are also tailoring our assortment of items at the store level to ensure we are representative of the communities we serve.
Q: It was mentioned you suggested “new to industry” training. What kind of training program would enhance a buyer’s ability to recognize and curate a more diverse product mix for store shelves?
Kehoe: It’s been my experience that retailers and suppliers place individuals in roles because of their skill set and ability to do the job. But these individuals may know nothing about the toy community – they may not have spent time around kids, may have never heard of play patterns, etc. At the same time experts continue to tell us how important play is to a child’s development, and toys have an important role in fostering and encouraging play. So, I see a huge opportunity for The Toy Association to offer industry-specific training for these newcomers to help them better understand what “play” is all about for kids and why it’s important.
Q: Can you elaborate on the diversity training programs available to Walmart employees?
Kehoe: We offer a number of different Inclusive Leadership Education trainings both in-person and online, focused on both broad topics of D&I as well as specific segments such as gender, race, disability, and sexual orientation/gender identity.
Q: Why was it important for you to join The Toy Association’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee? What do you hope to accomplish as part of the Committee?
Kehoe: Diversity and inclusion is important to Walmart and to our customers, so it only seemed natural for me to serve on the Committee, representing Walmart. It’s imperative to me that my team is working with diverse and inclusive suppliers to ensure we have the best representation, which in turns leads to the right assortment for our customers. Likewise, on the Committee, I want to help ensure the overall industry is reflective of today’s consumers.
Q: How can The Toy Association and Walmart support each other in our mutual effort to build a strong, diverse, and inclusive workforce poised to create, market, and sell product that best reflects the communities served?
Kehoe: The Toy Association and Walmart can support one another by raising awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion throughout the toy community. To have a significant and lasting impact, it needs to be a priority for all retailers and suppliers. We need to find a way to integrate it into everything we do so it becomes like second nature. A lot is happening in this space, but it’s important to continue asking ourselves if we are doing enough.
Members interested in joining or learning more about any of The Toy Association’s Committees may contact Bernadette Boyle, director of member services.