South Africa’s Clicks Group has said it will remove all TRESemme products from its shelves after an advertisement posted on the retailer’s website was accused of being racist.
The advertisement, commissioned by the TRESemme hair company and carried on the Clicks pharmacies’ website, compared two photos of Black women’s hair with two photos of white women’s hair, labelling the Black women’s hair “dry and damaged” and “frizzy and dull”, while the white women’s hair labelled was “fine and flat” and “normal”.
The pharmacy retailer removed the advertisement and apologised, as did TRESemme South Africa.
Clicks said all employees responsible for publishing the advertisement have been suspended and it had accepted the resignation of a senior executive.
The advertisement caused an outcry on social media and sparked protests led by far-left opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which demanded stores be shut nationwide for at least a week.
The advertisement also drew criticism from the government with the minister for Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, rejecting Clicks’s apology saying it was “meaningless” and called for the TRESemme products to be removed from its shelves.
Unilever SA, TRESemme’s parent company, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The removal of the products from Clicks’s shelves did not stop South Africans from taking to social media to show their anger.
It is not about hair… or weaves… or about skin lightners…it is about RACISM… each advert being a mini action of aggression against who I am as a black child and leaving a cut and every apology leaving a scar…. we are full of scars… #stopbeingtone-deaf#STOPRACISM
— Yolanda Cuba (@Yolandacuba) September 8, 2020
CLICKS MALL OF AFRICA
Clicks can no longer avoid accountability.
— TYRONE MKANSI (@Tyrone_Mkansi) September 8, 2020
On Tuesday, some Clicks stores in South Africa remained closed after demonstrators damaged seven shops the previous day.
“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.
On Tuesday, courts blocked the EFF from preventing the opening of Clicks stores and intimidating employees and customers, local news broadcaster eNCA reported.
EFF denied the report, claiming they will continue their protests until Friday.
It should be clear to Clicks that the court has not declared the protest illegal and accordingly, the lawful and peaceful protests continue until Friday. #clicksmustfall
— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) September 8, 2020
It is unclear what effect 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 pandemic.
Makers of consumer packaged goods have reconsidered their marketing following global protests against racial injustice. Several brands have scrapped Black advertising mascots.