South Africa
H&M will have to ‘invest in building bridges’
after racial blunder‚ says communication
13 January 2018 – 17:49 By Khanyi Ndabeni
The company apologised on its Twitter account and in a statement posted on their website
admitted they got it wrong and were deeply sorry.
Image: Reuters
Swedish multinational clothing-retail company H&M would have to "invest in building bridges"
after its blunder involving a racially offensive hoodie‚ says inter-cultural communication expert
Jette Kristiansen.
Kristiansen‚ who is based in Cape Town but is a guest lecturer at Southern Jutland University in
Denmark‚ said customers needed to be respected.
"Customers these days are not just people who bring in money‚ but people who want to be
respected. They (H&M) need to spend more money on understanding their customers and also
think of their black staff who will have to go to work after what has just happened‚" said
EFF supporters stormed into several H&M stores in Gauteng on Saturday‚ days after the company
withdrew sales of a green hoodie with the inscription "coolest monkey in the jungle" after
complaints that the ad featuring a black child triggered racism accusations.
Shops in Sandton‚ Menlyn Park and on the East Rand were forced to close after party supporters
trashed the stores.
The company apologised on its Twitter account and in a statement posted on their website
admitted they got it wrong and were deeply sorry.
H&M spokesman Amelia-May Woudtra issued a statement later on Saturday saying they were
aware of the property damage inside several of their South African stores.
"What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers. We have temporarily
closed our stores in South Africa. None of our staff or customers have been injured. We continue
to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again. "We

strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form‚ deliberate or accidental‚ are simply
unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged
product and image."
Police spokesman Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police had to intervene and disperse a crowd
using rubber bullets when protesters entered the H&M shop in East Rand Mall and stole several
In Menlyn‚ protesters threw clothing around but nothing had been reported stolen.
“The shops in all other areas are reported to have been closed and police are monitoring the
situation. No arrests have been effected so far‚” said Dlamini.
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi could not be reached on his cell phone‚ but tweeted
that the party would visit every racist institution to ensure there were consequences for any
denigration of the black race.
“H&M is not the last one … The time of apologies for racism is over; there must be consequences to
anti-black racism‚ period‚” said Ndlozi on Twitter.
This is not the first time the retail giant has come under fire in South Africa. It had to deal with a
public relations disaster at the opening of its first SA store‚ at the Cape Town Waterfront‚ in 2015‚
after members of the public queried why there were no pictures of black models in its window.
The company responded that its marketing plan was one which intended to convey a positive
image – implying black models were not in line with this image‚ which caused a storm of protest.
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