South Africa

H&M shuts South African stores after protests and vandalism following ‘monkey’ advert

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 2:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 8:21am

H&M went into damage-control mode over the weekend after a controversial advertisement sparked protests in South Africa, leading to some outlets being trashed.

The Swedish clothes retailer, whose full title is Hennes & Mauritz AB, had sparked outrage after it published an online ad that featured a black child wearing a hoodie with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle.”

“H&M is aware of the recent events inside several of our South African stores,” the company said in a statement on its website. “What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers”, is said, adding that it had “temporarily closed our stores in South Africa.”

The Stockholm-based company apologised last week after the photo led to a social media storm and prompted Canadian artist The Weeknd to end his collaboration with its stores.

H&M, which said it agreed with those who were upset by the image, pulled the garment in question from its racks.

Over the weekend, the company took further steps to reject all forms of racial slander.

“We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable,” H&M said.

“We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”

Two South African H&M outlets, one in Johannesburg and one in Pretoria, were trashed in an anti-racism protest by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party on Saturday, broadcaster eNCA reported, showing pictures of mannequins and clothes scattered on the floor.

H&M said none of its staff or customers were injured in the protests and that it continues “to monitor the situation closely.”

It will reopen the stores “as soon as the situation is safe again,” it said.

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H&M has 17 stores in South Africa, with third-quarter sales in the country accounting for 0.3 per cent of the company’s total revenue.

While the retailer declined to comment further, referring only to the statement it released on Saturday, at least two of its stores in South Africa had reopened for business on Monday.