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Retailers reluctant to say if TRESemme brand will land on their shelves again after racist hair gaffe

Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu/African News Agency (ANA)

Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 11, 2020


Johannesburg - Several retailers such as Clicks, Shoprite/Checkers, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Dischem and Makro this week announced they would remove TRESemme products from their shelves after the hair brand produced a racist ad.

Aside from Clicks, who have delisted the TRESemme brand, it remains unclear if the rest of the retailers will allow the TRESemme brand to be sold at their shops after they publicly ‘removed’ or ‘withdrew’ the brand after a racist advert which caused social media outrage.

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The hair advert, which was first spotted last Friday, led to an uproar of social media and subsequent shutdowns of Clicks stores by members of the EFF, who said the advert had impaired the dignity of black women.

In the advert which was published on the Clicks website but had been produced by Unilever hair brand, TRESemme, black women’s hair was described as frizzy, dull, dry and damaged.

IOL sent Clicks, Shoprite/Checkers, Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Dischem two questions to provide clarity on the matter.

The questions were:

1. Is the retailer permanently or temporarily removing TRESemme products from shelves?

2. The EFF and Unilever reached an agreement to withdraw TRESemme products for sale at all stores for 10 days. Will TRESemme products be making a return to the retailer’s shelves at the end of this 10 day period which EFF and Unilever agreed upon?

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Said Clicks: “As per the media statement on 8 September, Clicks has delisted and removed all TRESemmé products from shelf from Clicks stores in southern Africa,” they said on Friday.

The September 8 statement also said Clicks would be delisting and removing TRESemmé products and would be replacing them with local haircare brands, in partnership with the Department of Small Business and Enterprise and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Shoprite/Checkers Group did not respond.

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At Pick n Pay, the reply was vague and the retailer would only say: “The supplier has since voluntarily withdrawn the products”.

A follow up e-mail yielded no response.

Woolworths said they were still engaging with Unilever.

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“Woolworths has withdrawn the brand from sale. We are currently engaging with Unilever on the way forward,” a spokesperson said.

Dischem said they were monitoring the situation: “Please note that the products have been removed from the shelves and we are monitoring the situation”.

Late on Friday, Unilever admitted that the advert was racist and unreservedly apologised for it. It said staff would take part in ‘Unconscious Bias’ training and would be setting up a diversity and inclusion advisory board.

The company said it was also in the process of reviewing all its marketing material.


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