Clicks pharmacy closes stores amid outrage over racist hair ad

South African pharmacy chain Clicks closed its stores Wednesday after a racist advertisement on its website sparked violent protests.

Clicks made the decision amid outrage over the ad for shampoo brand TRESemmé, which labeled images of black women’s hair “frizzy & dull” while describing white women’s hair as “fine & flat” and “normal.”

Clicks apologized for running the ad and removed it from its website after it was posted on Friday. The chain said an unnamed senior executive responsible for the ordeal had resigned and all employees involved in publishing the ad had been suspended.

But the ad nevertheless led to an online backlash and demonstrations that damaged seven Clicks stores on Monday. One shop in the municipality of Emalahleni was hit with a petrol bomb that caught a shopping cart on fire, according to local news outlet TimesLive.

The protesters were led by the Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left political party that called on the chain to shutter its stores for at least a week.

“White people insult us and then they apologize, they think that’s the end,” said Julius Malema, the party’s leader. “We are no longer going to accept any apology which is not accompanied by justice.”

Clicks initially resisted calls to close stores on Monday, according to a statement on its Twitter account. But CEO Vikesh Ramsunder said the company would “provide counseling and support” to its store staffers during Wednesday’s daylong closure.

Members of the Economic Freedom Front protest outside a branch of drug store chain Clicks in Johannesburg, South Africa.Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

The chain also pledged to replace all TRESemmé products with “locally sourced haircare brands” on its store shelves. The Unilever-owned brand issued its own apology and acknowledged that the ad “promoted racist stereotypes about hair.”

“The campaign set out to celebrate the beauty of all hair types and the range of solutions that TRESemmé offers, but we got it wrong,” TRESemmé, which is owned by Unilever, said in a statement posted to its website. “The images are not in line with the values of our brand, or of Clicks.”

With Post wires

Filed under