Adding his voice to the ongoing Clicks controversy, Action SA leader Herman Mashaba told All4Women that: “It’s actually beyond imagination, really very unfortunate that a big organisation like that can come out with such an insulting, demeaning marketing approach.”
The retail pharmacy group cemented itself in the news headlines and corridor conversations after an advert on its website described Afro hair as “dry & damaged” while white hair was described as “normal”.
The company’s name started climbing trends lists on social media, catching the attention of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, who added fuel to the hashtag #ClicksMustFall.
On Monday, Malema and the red berets descended on Clicks pharmacies across the country. While Malema insisted that the party had only supported ‘peaceful’ protests, at least 37 stores were negatively affected by protest action, including the petrol bombing of a Witbank store.
Videos on social networks and media outlets showed tense scenes as Clicks customers and employees were ordered to leave the premises. At each store that the EFF went to, a chain and lock were hanging by the time the “ground forces” left.
Mashaba condemned the shutdown
He believes the situation could have been handled better by both the Clicks group and the EFF.
Speaking to All4Women, he said: “We cannot, at a time when our country is facing these massive job losses, the economy contracting at 51%, and we are in the midst of Covid-19 which is affecting the entire world, and we want to subject more and more of our people to poverty?!”
In a press statement, Mashaba suggested alternatives to the disorderly behaviour.
“The majority of South Africans would view the necessary recourse to those adverts as residing with institutions like the SAHRC and Equality Court, both of which have considerable powers and a good track record for holding offenders to account.”
Mashaba believes the president has been painfully absent from discussions about the Clicks incident and EFF’s response.
Founder of Black Like Me
Mashaba, as founder of the Black Like Me hair and beauty product ranges, is familiar with the intricacies of doing business with big corporates. He welcomed the decision by Clicks to give shelf space to local hair and beauty product manufacturers as part of its remedial measures.
However, he warned that small businesses should learn to “walk before they run”.
“I see a lot of entrepreneurs tend to really make a mistake of wanting to go for national distribution when there is no demand for your product. So you’ve got to be very careful for Clicks to list your products when there’s no demand for it.”
Mashaba advised business owners to put in the work in creating demand for the product before venturing into the national supply chain.
Speaking to All4Women of his own efforts to distribute Black Like Me products in his early days, he said: “We were going from township to village to village establishing black distributors. Over years, because of the demand, it was easy. All these big companies started contacting and calling on us. We had that advantage because we created the demand.”
He explained: “If your product doesn’t move off-shelf, unfortunately no business anywhere in the world will keep a product on-shelf that does not move.”
“Build the base, like we did. Go from one place to the other, create a demand for the product. Once you’ve got the demand for the product, then it becomes easy for you.”
The events of the past week have led to Clicks and Checkers removing TRESemmé products from their shelves. TRESemmé is the manufacturer behind the offensive product marketing material. Like Clicks, they have also released a statement apologising for the adverts.