Local hair care businesses want support

Local hair product manufacturers want government and retailers to support them to get and keep their merchandise on shelves. The call comes after outrage at Clicks for promoting a racially offensive TRESemmé ad. The retailer says it will now use that shelf space for local brands. Aviwe Mtila is following this story. #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - The Small Business Development Minister says shelf space created by haircare brand TRESemmé's departure will be filled by local products.

That’s the outcome of talks Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has had with Clicks.

READ: Clicks promises to spend more money with small businesses

Industry players though have received the news with some reservation.

Getting South African hair care products made by entrepreneurs onto the shelves of the big retailers is easier said than done.

READ: TRESemmé apologises for Clicks ad

“The challenges are, first of all, it’s created by me a black woman and I’m in South Africa and they are just looking for a brand that’s already out there," said Duduetsang Phele, founder of Kukura Organic Hair.

"They are not looking at the underlying problem that this product is for a specific kind of hair texture which is a black woman’s hair texture."

Phele is not the only one who is taking Ntshavheni's pronouncement with a pinch of salt.

READ: EFF, Unilever reach agreement over Clicks advert

Tumelo Mpholo has been researching and creating products for African hair types for almost two decades.

She says the problem is not shelf space alone - industry players are suffocated by red tape and also face stubborn retailers who don’t answer fundamental questions about the market.

READ: Small Business Development minister rejects Clicks apology​​​​​​​

“About 80 percent of your customers are African, why is the retail line so small for Afro hair product brands?" Mpholo asked.

"And easily they could say it’s because they’re not selling. How can they sell if they’re not on shelves?"

Many are begging for overall support for the struggling industry.

READ: Clicks drops TRESemmé, senior executive resigns​​​​​​​

“We don’t have the infrastructure to meet the demands of those retailers, even though we want to be there," said Love Kinks founder Sinovuyo Mondliwa.

"So I think now that they’ve decided this, we need some help to produce. Let’s say if I’m making hair products, I need help to make more numbers to meet the standards of these retailers.”

The TRESemmé's saga may have exposed some cultural ignorance among big players in the market but it’s also revealed a lack of support for smaller outfits trying to make a living.