H&M is known for selling affordable and chic clothes around the globe, but with so many stores in different locales, you’d think the company would know how to provide great customer service. However, after the retailer was called out on Twitter for not having images of Black models hanging in its stores in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, the company showed how not to handle criticism.
@hmsouthafrica I was at your CT store.Most, if not all your posters in store have no black models.Please work on that to appeal to everyone.
— Tlalane Letlhaku (@Tlaly_Branch) November 2, 2015
Perplexed by the company’s responses, other Twitter users asked H&M South Africa to explain.
@hmsouthafrica Sooo…. White models convey a positive image & black models dont? Wow
— Abelungu banamanga (@Khuze_Elikhulu) November 5, 2015
@hmsouthafrica and black models will not achieve that? Conveying a positive image?
— Sober Lobster (@LonaLisa_Smile) November 5, 2015
@hmsouthafrica so please explain how advertising with black models conveys a “negative image”?
— …. (@GdeLaPasture) November 5, 2015
After listing off the models of color they’ve used in the past to attempt to counter the narrative that they didn’t feel Black models conveyed a “positive image,” H&M South Africa apologized for it clumsy, and some say offensive, response.
H&M regrets the response to a social media message that was recently aired and wishes to clarify the intention. pic.twitter.com/IybEBotudU
— hmsouthafrica (@hmsouthafrica) November 5, 2015
The PR dustup happened just days before H&M opens another store in the Sandton section of Johannesburg. While it’s unclear if that store will have adverts with Black models, it’s clear H&M needs to do a better job of making sure their stores reflect the local community.