VAAL – Clicks shop at Vaal Mall closed its doors on Monday as demanded by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who are protesting against a racially offensive advertisement was published on its website last week.
The Vereeniging branch opened in the morning but closed in the afternoon in fear of attacks by EFF members.
The health and beauty retailer which has found itself in the middle of an EFF storm, says at least 37 stores in five provinces have been affected by the protests.
The retailer faced a barrage of criticism on social media after it published a promotional TRESemme campaign on its website which referred to black women’s hair as damaged, dry and dull, comparing it with images of white women’s hair which was described as was fine, flat and normal.
At the weekend, the EFF leadership mobilised its members to shut down Clicks stores for a week and called on the retailer to announce the names of those responsible for the advert.
The retailer also approached the courts in a bid to interdict the EFF from protesting, but their court bid was dismissed with costs.
Clicks said it would be taking “precautionary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our customers and our employees”.
Clicks said there were protests at 37 stores across the country – in KZN, Gauteng, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Clicks said there was direct damage to seven stores, including the Saveways store in Witbank and the Cycad store in Polokwane.
“Clicks strongly condemns violence of any kind or intimidation of staff and its customers.
“Clicks will take legal action against perpetrators and those seeking to incite violence or harm our people and our stores,” the retailer said on Monday.
In an open letter on Monday morning, Clicks chief executive Vikesh Ramsunder said the retailer had suspended employees who were responsible for the ad.
“Already, the negligent employees have been suspended, and we have engaged the supplier, who has now also issued an apology.
“This incident has highlighted the need to audit all of our third-party (and our own) promotional material for any implicit or explicit bias as well as the need for diversity and inclusivity training for all of our head office employees. This will be urgently implemented,” said the CEO.
Meanwhile, Clicks said its stores would be open this week, despite persistent calls by the EFF for the retailer to shut its doors until Saturday.
“Clicks provides a much-needed health-care service to South Africans. Stores will remain open for trading and contingency plans have been put in place to ensure the safety of both customers and staff,” it said.
“Clicks has taken full accountability and apologised unreservedly for the advertisement published on its website and has taken immediate action to address all concerns. Clicks will continue to monitor the situation.”