South African retailer Clicks shuts its doors and removes TRESemmé products from shelves over racist advert

TANISHA HEIBERG

SOUTH Africa’s Clicks Group has shut its doors after two days of protests by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters and would use the time for the counselling of workers who bore the brunt of the demonstrations.

Clicks non-executive director Nkululeko Gobodo said in a radio interview that while Clicks understood that people were angry because of a racist advert on one of the products sold at its stores, the company was concerned about the trauma endured by the staff.

Earlier, Clicks announced that it will remove TRESemmé products, a Unilever Plc brand, from its shelves after an advertisement posted on the drug retailer’s website was accused of being racist, the company has announced.

The advert by TRESemmé, which was posted on Clicks’ website on Friday, showed an image of African black hair which it described as “frizzy and dull”, while an example of white hair was referred to as “normal”.

Clicks removed the advert and apologised, as did TRESemmé South Africa.

Clicks said all employees responsible for publishing the advertisement have been suspended and it had accepted the resignation of the senior executive responsible.

The advert caused an outcry on social media and sparked protests led by hard-left opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which demanded that stores be shut for at least a week.

The advert also drew criticism from government with the Minister for Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, rejecting Click’s apology saying it was “meaningless” and called for the TRESemme products to be removed from its shelves.

Unilever did not respond to requests for comment.

On Tuesday some Clicks stores around the country remained closed after demonstrators damaged seven shops the previous day.

The company planned to close all stores on Wednesday to provide counselling and support to staff.

“We recognise this event has had a significant impact on our people and our customers and we have taken a decision to close our stores for a day on Wednesday 9 September,” Clicks CEO Vikesh Ramsunder said in a statement.

Courts on Tuesday blocked the EFF from preventing the opening of Clicks stores and intimidating employees and customers, eNCA television reported.

It is unclear what impact store closures would have on the company, which has already warned that trading would be tough for the rest of its financial year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Makers of consumer packaged goods have reconsidered their marketing following global protests against racial injustice. Several brands have scrapped Black advertising mascots.- Thomson Reuters Foundation.